Count every star

I subscribe to Consumer Reports. The magazine. Not the Web site, and definitely not the smartphone app. This is, I suspect, because I have only so much patience for “buying advice,” even from the pros, which puts me at odds with much of the world:

Today we live in the era of the JD Power rating, the Amazon stars and comments next to every product, and the Equifax background check that includes a lifetime’s worth of medical history. Even prostitutes need favorable reviews from the Internet in order to make real money. For a while, it was possible for women to get a pre-game preview on their Tinder hookups. Who doesn’t check Urbanspoon or Yelp before making a dinner reservation? (The answer is: me, because I only eat at Wendy’s and Ruth’s Chris.) It’s not excellence that’s being sought out in this cultural obsession with track record and customer satisfaction; it’s safety.

And frankly, the idea of rating something, say, 3½ stars out of five seems ludicrous to me: I grew up with Dick Clark and “Rate-a-Record” and a 35 to 98 scale. Now that’s precision.


Unlicensed inspector

A couple years ago, a friend of mine went to a nude beach for the first time. She thought it was wonderful, though she suspected one chap a few yards down the beach of being something of a perv.

In fact, the clothing-free community is not overly fond of pervs, or visiting pervs anyway:

Angry nudists chased down and surrounded a man they believed was secretly filming them in a naked citizens’ arrest at Adelaide’s Maslin Beach.

Police were called to the iconic nudist beach, south of Adelaide, after naked beachgoers chased down the man who was allegedly using a hidden camera concealed inside a blue esky.

George, who has been bathing unclad at Maslin Beach for the past eight years, said he was hanging out with friends on Sunday, December 21, when they noticed the man positioning his esky towards a couple.

“A couple of my friends noticed this guy rearranging his esky and one of them said ‘are there holes in the esky’ … one woman walked past and saw a video camera set up inside,” he said. “It had this wooden setup inside where he could put this little handicam and it had three or four holes where he could position this wooden frame and put the camera inside to line up with the hole.”

Now that’s pervy. Pervacious, even. (An esky, a genericized Australian brand, is one of those large rectangular picnic coolers.)

What could this fellow be wanting? To George, it was at least somewhat obvious:

“A few people have seen him before and one couple said that he had been known to upload film to a website, so it’s not just for his personal use apparently,” he said. “It’s on a website that you need a credit card to access — I’m not going to pay $30 just to see if my own arse is on there.”

Police paid the man a visit, but were unable to determine whether he was in fact photographing nudists, and let him go with a warning.

(Via Nudiarist.)


Double O nothing

There’s a lot of yammering going on about the possibility of Idris Elba as Bond, James Bond, and while I’d argue that he’s more capable of being a memorable Bond than some of the characters shoved into that role over the years, there’s still that Creator’s Intent business:

Lefties, #VaginaVigilantes, and other envious wussies hate the original, true James Bond, which was based as much as possible on the original character created by Ian Fleming. Why? Because that James Bond is the archetypical white male patriarch, feared by evildoers, lusted after by beautiful women, hyper-capable, suave, sophisticated, and perfectly at home in his white, patriarchal skin.

They hate that, and have been trying to change it since near the very beginning of Bond’s on-screen existence.

Now I’m one of the guys who used to call for Morgan Freeman to play Abraham Lincoln, simply because no one else had that level of gravitas except maybe Daniel Day-Lewis, and DDL has done it already. Besides, Lincoln’s Creator wouldn’t be turning over in His grave.

So I’m forced to imagine what Jim Henson might have thought if, some night, the role of Kermit were to be played by an elk. (I’m sorry: Anne Elk.)


How mechanics can afford boats

It’s not reasonable to expect a contemporary driver to be able to rebuild an automatic transmission. (I’ve written an actual FAQ covering two units, and I don’t think I could rebuild them.) Still, there is such a thing as Too Dumb To Drive:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: If my break lights stay on when the car is off does that mean the battery is being used?

I’m tempted to tell her something like “No, it’s running off Wi-Fi,” and then wait for her to show up again with a complaint about how much batteries cost.

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A new lease on life

Microsoft Office 97, says Wikipedia, was born on 19 November 1996. Will it ever die? Redmond says it already has. Users, not so much:

We celebrated my dad’s 79th birthday Sunday.

Recently, his computer began acting flaky and my brother found him a new laptop to use. We just needed to find Microsoft Office for him to finish the transition.

New Office 2013 licensing is, of course, a pain in the epiglottis. What to do?

Fortunately, he saves stuff. Like the Office 97 CD and brick of a manual from back in the 20th century. And it loaded fine.

The road goes ever on. (And so, apparently, does Clippy.)

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Noodle used

I have a medium-size stockpot, used mostly for boiling water into which pasta will be dumped. The diameter of this pot is approximately 0.3 inch less than the length of typical spaghetti-like substances. In days of old, I would break the rods in two in an effort to get them to fit. The trouble with that, of course, is that you can’t actually break them in two: invariably a third piece is formed, and sometimes a fourth. Unable to explain this phenomenon, I started pushing one end of the handful of spaghetti against the bottom of the pot while the water was boiling, and when the rods bent enough, following through with the rest. The results were slightly less satisfactory at precisely al dente, but it was better, I thought, than dealing with segments of random length, given my tendency to roll the stuff onto the fork.

At long last, there’s an explanation for where that third piece comes from:

Maybe I should just get a bigger pot and be done with it.

(Via Sploid.)

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Stuck on replay

My working definition of a classic-rock station was, and is, one that plays BTO’s “Takin’ Care of Business” unironically. This is just one of forty songs that, says Yeoman Lowbrow, have been ruined by American classic-rock radio:

Can any of you out there even remember how you felt when you first heard “Stairway to Heaven”? It’s been played so many times by classic rock stations that I can’t bear to hear it any more… I take that back. I no longer hate it; instead it has become almost a “non song” — no surprises, every note tired and stale.

Of course, it has the advantage of being eight minutes long, giving the DJ, assuming there is a DJ, a chance to go to the john, or to do, um, other things.

The tragedy is that this has happened to so many other brilliant songs which have been literally played to death over the decades. Sadly, it doesn’t have to be this way. Oftentimes, these artists have huge catalogs of songs to choose from, but the stations pick the same shit over and over. Why? Will people turn away if they hear a song they aren’t instantly familiar with?

I understand, you can’t just play obscure B-sides and expect big audiences. But would it kill these classic rock stations to slip in Steely Dan’s “Any Major Dude” instead of “Do It Again”?

Heck, I’d settle for “Bodhisattva.”

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Wear them at night

From the “Are you telling me this is a real ad?” files:

Advertisement for Helen Keller sunglasses

Yes, it is:

Deliberate irony or innocuous oversight? Neither, apparently. A Chinese company now marketing Helen Keller-brand sunglasses said it found inspiration in Keller’s personal traits (rather than her blindness), the Wall Street Journal reports.

Still, though, it’s a bold (and perhaps questionable) move, especially considering the company’s motto: “You see the world, the world sees you.”

A slogan hammered home in the first commercial for the brand, which appeared in early 2012:

Google Shopping didn’t send me any US sources for the Keller specs. Quelle surprise.

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No flights there

“The mental space of a long drive,” writes Ann Althouse, “is a very different place”:

I don’t have a fear of flying. I hate the conditions of disorder and complexity and indignity. I don’t want to be treated that way.

And I have a car.

A car gives me flexibility about when to leave. I can pick good weather days, or give up on the whole trip at the last minute if I want. With a car, I have control and freedom. Yeah, it probably takes longer, but I am a free citizen in the United States of America.

If I drive to Kansas City — about six hours if I allow myself some time to dawdle — I’ll be slightly tired, and I’ll almost definitely have to avail myself of the porcelain facility. But if I fly to Kansas City, about four and a half hours counting check-in, baggage retrieval, and the long haul back to civilization, MCI being located halfway to Des Moines fercrissake, I’ll be growly and uncommunicative, except for the growls, and I’ll eventually collapse in a heap.

“You can’t get there by plane,” says Althouse. And if you could, you probably wouldn’t want to. I know I wouldn’t.

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Meanwhile on Channel 37

The FCC will not give you a construction permit for a television station on channel 37; that particular frequency band (608-614 MHz) is reserved for radioastronomy use, and has been since the early 1960s.

This is not to say that no one has ever applied for one:

[T]he only one who ever received a construction permit for channel 37 … was Eurith Dickenson “Dee” Rivers Jr., son of the former governor (1937-1941) of Georgia, hence the call letters for his WGOV/950. Rivers was one of the early filers when the FCC began accepting post-freeze applications in July, 1952, and received one of 19 CP grants (the most ever issued on a single day) on February 26, 1953. The senior Rivers was also interested in UHF broadcasting; he was 50% owner of the CP for WMIE-TV/27 Miami FL, which was used by George B. Storer to put WGBS-TV/23 on the air at the end of 1954.

Dee Rivers had enough of a commitment to television that he took co-owned WGOV-FM/92.5 off the air and surrendered its license one month after receiving the WGOV-TV permit, on March 23, and successfully petitioned the FCC in 1954 to change the channel 23 allocation at nearby Fitzgerald GA to channel 53 in order to eliminate spacing “taboos” that hindered his ability to find a usable transmitter site. Despite those efforts, he surrendered the WGOV-TV CP on November 9, 1954 after missing several announced start-up dates. At the time, Rivers told the Commission he was surrendering the permit “because it was not economically feasible to operate an independent non-network UHF station in Valdosta” (unfortunately, a not uncommon conclusion drawn by many early permittees).

There were applicants between the time of Rivers’ withdrawal and 1963, when the FCC issued a ten-year moratorium — later made permanent by treaty — on applications for channel 37, but none were granted construction permits.

Other channels have gone empty over the years. The FCC has never allocated channels 75, 76, 78 and 82 to anywhere at all, and following the reallocation of channels 52 and up to other broadcast services, they presumably never will.


Strange search-engine queries (465)

In some cultures, we’re in the midst of a holiday season; in others, not so much. (Me, I rather look forward to Equestria’s Summer Sun Celebration, which normally occurs around our June 21st, for certain values of “our.”) If you are, or if you aren’t, I hope your days are going well.

france nuyen marlon brando:  From the days when Hollywood romances might have meant something.

2001 mazda 626 transmission recall:  I don’t recall any such recall.

Boys/men petticoated through the ages:  One hopes it ends around the age of nine.

xcx roman numeral:  Not likely: this is -10+100+10 = 100, which is more easily written as C. (As in Charli.)

the invisible woman 1983 online:  I was starting to get online myself in those days, and I don’t remember seeing her.   Um, nice mubis.

hold transmission ford telstar 1997:  Not a chance. That sucker weighs hundreds of pounds, even empty.

Slang Words No Longer Used:  Yeah, but were I to use them, they’d no longer be “no longer used.”

“I’m not quite as dumb as I seem” line from a song?  This again? How long has this been going on?

santa claus monopoly:  If you’re thinking of making a grievance of it, hold that thought until the next Festivus.

inseam actress is here at xxx video download:  I’m guessing she’s, um, sorta tall?

you wont get rid of me that easily:  But it will still be worth the effort in the long run.

seasons greasings:  And a happy new gear.

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And Cuban earns a cigar

The Thunder got in trouble early, to the extent that Lance Thomas got to play for a minute or so in the first quarter so that Scott Brooks could express his dismay at the regular rotation players. Dallas jumped out to a 33-26 first-quarter lead, and OKC made no progress in the second. Then came the third, in which the Thunder racked up 30 points and held the Mavs to 17. Dallas, of course, wasn’t going to let that fly, and opened the fourth with an 11-2 run; with 1:57 left, the Mavs were up one, 106-105, and something scary happened to Monta Ellis. (He was able to walk away on that sprained ankle, but did not return.) Still, what made the difference is that Dirk, big bad Dirk, played most of the fourth quarter with five fouls and hit everything in sight, while Dallas defensemen kept Russell Westbrook in check. With 12 seconds left, it was Dallas by five, and, well, Zach Lowe said it best:

And after an exchange of buckets, that’s how it ended: Dallas 112, Oklahoma City 107, and once again the Thunder fail to climb to .500.

The Westbrook line is instructive: nine rebounds, nine assists, five fouls, five turnovers, and 18 points — on 6-23 shooting. To the extent possible, his teammates compensated: Reggie Jackson, 10-17 for 21, and Serge Ibaka, 11-14 for 26. And Serge had 10 rebounds, though no blocks. There was some noise on Twitter to the effect that Steven Adams (11 points, six boards) was not the ideal matchup for Nowitzki, but I’m not convinced there is such a thing as the ideal matchup for Dirk, who cashed in a game-high 30 points, ten of them in the fourth quarter. Dirk also hit all 12 of his free throws, which points you to the Telltate Statistic: the Thunder hit 12 free throws, but missed nine more.

But, as always, the Mavs had more than Dirk. Chandler Parsons pretty much had his way in the first quarter and finished with 26. Ellis, before his injury, had 18. And Tyson Chandler didn’t even have to play: back spasms kept him out, which explains the curious Dallas starting five: Barea and Rondo in the backcourt, Dirk in the middle, Ellis and Parsons up front. Nobody seemed perplexed by any of this, except the Thunder.

This is the next-to-last game of the year; there will be a New Year’s Eve match against the Suns at the Peake, and then comes dear, drear, dreadful January.


Mails of the unexpected

Generally, you get Christmas cards from the people who always send you Christmas cards. The loan officer who set me up with my current mortgage, whom I’d probably have remembered for purely superficial reasons anyway, has sent me a card every year since 2003.

I was not expecting a card from singer Sabrina Lentini, whose previous EP I’d bought, and whose next EP is made possible by an indiegogo campaign that I’d backed. Apparently she addressed all these by hand: the shapes of the letters are sufficiently irregular to suggest so, and mine, at least, is non-lavishly festooned with a seasonal but nonetheless stock Forever stamp from the Postal Service. (The Santa Ana, California, post office did come up with a Santa image for the cancellation.)

I doubt she sent one of these to every one of her 2,473 Facebook fans. The seventy or so backers of the EP? That I’d believe.


You serfs have no right to do that

And we’re going to sue you for voting against our revenue measure:

Three towns in Missouri joined together to sue the the residents of St. Charles [County] who voted to ban red light cameras. St. Peters, Lake Saint Louis and O’Fallon are asking a county circuit court judge to overturn the charter amendment banning automated enforcement adopted in November with the support of 73 percent of voters. City leaders argue that the 69,469 residents who voted for the measure had no business limiting the right of local politicians to use automated ticketing machines.

“The charter amendment invades the legislative jurisdiction of cities in contravention of state policy, and conflicts with the authority specifically delegated to cities by the state to address their specific needs including traffic and enforcement of traffic regulations,” attorney Matthew J. Fairless wrote in the cities’ complaint.

The suit alleges the charter amendment will result in “a loss of revenue” and, therefore, each of the cities has standing to sue. The cities also argue that the Missouri General Assembly gave each city government “exclusive control over all streets, alleys, avenues and public highways within the limits of such city” so that the people who live in the county have no say in the decisions made by political leaders.

Meanwhile, the state has never actually authorized these things, and a case is pending before the state Supreme Court to determine whether they can. Which clearly doesn’t bother at least one of these towns:

St. Peters was the first American city to see a red light camera corruption trial. Former Mayor Shawn Brown was convicted of soliciting a bribe from Redflex Traffic Systems of Australia. He was released from prison in 2008.

Not that this counts as motivation or anything.

(Via Fark.)

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Fourteen and unmad

That was me in 1967, when Donovan unleashed “Mellow Yellow.” Apart from the fact that the record can’t be had (legally, anyway) in stereo, its main distinction has to do with bananas:

Somehow, either in the lyrics or just scuttlebutt, word got around that you were supposed to bake the skins. So I did.

The results were, shall we say, less than enthralling:

So I baked it and then I scraped some of the baked part off and then I ate it. Awful, really awful. And waited for the buzz to begin. And waited and waited. And waited some more. And I was a senior in college at the time. And really dumb.

Of course, if I had a dollar for everything dumb ever done by college seniors, I could probably endow a couple of universities. Still, one of the defining characteristics of Homo sapiens is that individual members of the species sometimes aren’t too damn sapient.

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Disorder confirmation

You know, if I’d actually ordered this, I think I’d have known about it:

Phishing scam disguised as an confirmation

The bad bit of character encoding (in “We’ll”) gives it away, even if you don’t look at the three links, all of which go to the same URL that I have no reason to trust. Besides, Amazon doesn’t collect tax for this state — see “use tax” — and if they did, it wouldn’t be a mere 6.75 percent. (Actually, the state rate is 4.5, but city and county taxes exist, and where I live, it’s a total of 8.375, though none of that is assessed by the county.)

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