Canned coins

The classic Tootsie Roll bank can still be had, though the most recent version is only four inches tall, exemplifying what Consumerist calls the Grocery Shrink Ray. My own version, once possessed by a sibling, is around forty years old and stands a full seven inches tall. As an experiment, I’ve been feeding it nothing but pennies for the last few years, and at some point last week, it would accept no more.

There once was a time when I’d wrap all those coins. This is no longer that time. Saturday morning I hauled the little tube off to the bank, eliciting a grin from the teller, who apparently was familiar with the breed. We dumped the contents into a proper bank bag, I tagged it with one of my deposit slips, and I was advised that it would be a day or two before the cash vault downtown was able to credit it. Not a problem, said I; it’s not like I’m utterly dependent on this, oh, five-fifty or so.

Apparently the cash vault got to it late on Tuesday; Wednesday I observed that a credit was posted to the tune of $5.87. Not a bad guess, if I say so myself. I duly moved it to passbook savings, along with fifty bucks I’d somehow managed not to spend in February.

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Those youthful newsrooms

The problem with online versions of newspapers, we are told, is that they can’t bring in the kind of revenue to support the traditional newsrooms. This situation, however, leads to another one, possibly worse: when the buyouts come, the experienced hands are the first hands on the door, and the new kids aren’t quite tuned in to the basic functions:

Even if some kind of online journalism develops that spends time on things like state legislature budget meetings — and no clickbait headline is ever going to make one of those appealing — will there be anyone around who knows how to bulldog the selfless public servants spending our money into saying how it’s being spent? Journalism may be the only profession that’s predicated on being a pain in the ass … to everybody. What happens when the only people who write just know how to do long form first-person celebrity profiles? Or can diagnose fifteen different kinds of patriarchy in a budget press release but can’t ask a coherent question about where the money goes?

This is why the Wall Street Journal has no reason to fear Buzzfeed. Yet.

If Donald Trump had actually run for president in the mid-90s, for example, newsrooms across the country would have salivated over the idea of telling people about his bankruptcies, ridiculous spending habits, whacko political positions, lack of serious thought to his policies and so on. Sam Donaldson would have taken a truckload of No-Doze in order to have been at every Trump public appearance possible and shout question at him until security dragged him outside. Some journalists would have done this because they disliked Trump, of course. But many more would have done it because it was their job to be a pain in the ass and there are fewer asses larger than Donald Trump.

We don’t have that today. We have Hitler comparisons and twenty paragraphs on Trump’s coded racism and dutiful snickering over his implications about the functionality of his genitalia. It’s not that today’s news folk like Trump — although when CBS chair Les Moonves chortles about how good Trump is for his ratings, you may wonder — it’s just that they really don’t know how to go after him on anything of real substance. Years of Bush/McCain/Romney/Palin/Insert Name Here are eeeeevilstoopid! work, combined with supine worship of President Obama’s pants crease, March Madness bracket and supergeniuscoolestever-ness, mean that news outlets that want to seriously investigate the emperor’s wardrobe can’t find the people to do it.

What isn’t being said here, of course, is Glenn Reynolds’ common dismissal: “They’re not journalists. They’re Democratic operatives with bylines.” Not all of them match that description, of course. But inevitably, institutions tend to move leftward, unfortunate consequences of the Gramscian Long March crossed with the Peter Principle.

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You don’t know Jack, yet

Perhaps the world was waiting for an instant-messaging app that’s not all that instant:

[W]ith the ability to instantly send, there’s come an expectation to instantly reply and sometimes the vibration of our phones can feel like an annoying and persistent knock on the door rather than a communicative joy. The idea of patiently waiting for a response to something in a world where we’re all connected has understandably started to fade as slower methods of communication are phased out.

That’s why messaging app Jack is trying to do something a little different by taking the instant out of instant messaging. Jack works by allowing you to send someone a message, image, video clip, or audio clip that they’ll receive instantly but gives you the ability to decide when the recipient can open it, whether it’s one hour, one day, or one year in the future. The recipient can see the time counting down to when they can open their message and the developers hope that this will bring “the pleasure of anticipation” back into communication.

I am pleased to note that behind Jack there really is a Jack.

One thing I’m wondering: can you adjust the time once the message has been sent?

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Random penguin

In 1950, Bugs Bunny, out of the kindness of his rabbit heart, escorted an abandoned penguin all the way to Antarctica, only to discover that the bird actually hailed from Hoboken, New Jersey. As tales go, it was pretty tall, but it’s nothing compared to this real-life caper:

Retired bricklayer and part time fisherman João Pereira de Souza, 71, who lives in an island village just outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, found [a] tiny penguin, covered in oil and close to death, lying on rocks on his local beach in 2011.

João cleaned the oil off the penguin’s feathers and fed him a daily diet of fish to build his strength. He named him Dindim.

After a week, he tried to release the penguin back into the sea. But, the bird wouldn’t leave. “He stayed with me for 11 months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared,” João recalls.

And, just a few months later, Dindim was back. He spotted the fisherman on the beach one day and followed him home.

“Ooh, I’m dyin’!” says João. Maybe.

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Free to fade away

No visuals here, just the cover art. This is track two from Jimmy Webb’s El Mirage album, turned loose on the world in 1977. Just in case someone asks “What’s your favorite George Martin production, other than Beatles material?” — and someone will — this is it. (It’s also his arrangement.)

George Martin in the studio meme: did more with 4 tracks than most do with Pro Tools

(Meme swiped from Tape Op Magazine.)

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Fast-breaking id

After three quarters, the Thunder were up by ten, and the general air seemed to be “Don’t get cocky, kids”; last time these two teams met, less than a week ago, the Thunder were up by seventeen after three quarters, and somehow lost by five. At the time, it seemed like they’d forgotten how to finish a game. Tonight, it looked like they’d learned something: halfway through the fourth, OKC had run that ten-point lead up to 19. This was about the point that the Clippers remembered that earlier in the game they were actually making three-point shots, and decided to go back to them. J. J. Redick promptly snapped off a pair of them, cutting the lead to 13; a minute later, he nailed one more. But the boys from L.A. would make no further progress, and at 2:25 Doc Rivers threw in the towel. The Thunder go up 2-1 in the season series, 120-108, a game in which they never trailed, but a game in which there were a whole lot of ties; the last tie was 75-75, in the middle of the third.

The usual Clipper offensive weapons were deployed competently, for the most part, but starting with that last tie, they started to miss shots, something they hadn’t done for most of the game. The most consistent shooter, in fact, was Jeff Green; Uncle Jeff knocked down 10-13 for a team-high 23. And while J. J. Redick (22 points) was 5-8 on treys, so was Kevin Durant (30 points/12 rebounds). One thing I always wonder about in Clippers/Thunder games is whether Russell Westbrook is consciously trying to show up Chris Paul. In this game, at any rate, CP3, good as he is, was seriously outclassed; Westbrook’s triple-double, 25-11-2019, included a new career high for dimes. The Telltale Statistic, though, doesn’t show on the box score. Oklahoma City had 15 second-chance points. The Clips? Zip.

The Timberwolves will be here Friday night, after which everyone must clamber onto the plane and head for San Antonio. The Spurs haven’t lost at home all season, like another team whose name we won’t mention, lest we jinx the whole scheme.

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Hung up on minor details

Cover of Deliciously Decandent by Fiona MoodleyThe wondrous world of seemingly random retweeting, which of course it isn’t — nothing on Twitter is truly random — landed a promo for this book in my stream, and while I admit to partaking of the occasional romance novel, by which is meant it’s probably no more than a third of what I read, give or take a percentage point here or there, I think this one might be just a hair beyond my specifications. The story goes like this:

He is every woman’s fantasy. He can have any woman but her. He will do anything just to have her in his bed were she belongs.

She is a widow and has a little girl. She cannot afford to be promiscuous but she is drawn to him like a moth to a flame.

When they come together it is explosive. Sparks don’t just fly it dominates. Can he keep her in his bed or will she run away?

Points for noting that promiscuity has its price, if not necessarily in an obvious currency. But how do we know if it’s truly “decandent,” whatever the heck that means?

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The ‘roll goes ever on

Somebody has been handing out fake parking tickets in beautiful downtown Asheville, North Carolina:

Asheville’s Transportation Director says somebody downtown has been giving people fake parking tickets… The fake tickets were for $100, while the city’s normal fine is only $10. The city wants to stop whoever is behind it. The police say they can only charge the person with littering. If a person pays the fine, then the charges get more serious.

And this somebody did a fairly decent job of fakery:

“When someone first glances at the citation it does look official, but there are some key things when you start looking at it,” said [Transportation Director] Putnam.

The ticket is physically larger. It was dated Friday, March 5th when it was the 4th. It had a fake officer ID and made up violation code. The ticket also had a QR code for smart phones to scan. The city’s tickets do not have QR codes.

So what happens if you scan that QR code? This happens.

It’s nice to know that some things never change.

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The tinnest of tin ears

In the best of times, the National Republican Senatorial Committee is not exactly overflowing with clues, and we’re a hell of a long way from the best of times. Yesterday, though, they stepped in it big time:

You’d think someone would have known this: Duckworth lost both of her legs in Iraq.

NRSC pulled the tweet after a few minutes, but the damage was done; screenshots, like so much of the Internet, are forever.

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Magic dirt

Why are some places better to live than others? Maybe it’s something in the soil. Or maybe not.

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Hack this, pal

Who knows what might be lurking in the firmware?

It seems Tesla is set to bump the battery capacity of its Model S sedan up to a hefty 100kWh some time in the near future. We know this thanks to the work of a white-hat hacker and Tesla P85D owner named Jason Hughes. Hughes — who previously turned the battery pack from a wrecked Tesla into a storage array for his solar panels — was poking around in the latest firmware of his Model S (version 2.13.77) and discovered an image of the new car’s badge, the P100D.

In not exactly a humblebrag, Hughes tweeted what he’d found — as an encrypted hash. Said hash was quickly decrypted. Tesla’s response was quick: they rolled Hughes’ firmware back to an earlier version. (“We get sauce too?” asked the gander, plaintively.)

Hughes complained; Elon Musk himself said that he hadn’t asked for the rollback. And Hughes wasn’t particularly put out, since — you knew this was coming, right? — he’d already backed up that newest incremental upgrade.

Damn, but cars are getting complicated.

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The disappearing woodpile

Shortly after the official ice-storm debris had been hauled away by the city, I got the bright idea of having the backyard wood, which consisted of two and a half full (albeit dead) trees plus a stack of limbs slightly shorter than I am, rendered into almost-handy-sized remnants and parked on the curb just in time for the second debris pass. Unfortunately, I got this idea about 24 hours after the second pass was completed, although I didn’t actually read the schedule until two days later. (So much for semper paratus.)

Not to worry, said everyone. The city will pick it up as part of Big Junk, the monthly collection of non-hazardous materials that won’t fit in the official blue bins. Four cubic yards goes free; after that, it’s about $10 per cubic yard. Not a bad deal, all things considered. And then I looked at the expanse of dead-tree stuff, three or four feet high and seemingly 30 feet long, and wondered just how much of this crap they’d be willing to take, and how much it would cost me if they did.

Short version: They took all they could load into the truck, though inevitably some of it dropped out of the giant claw. And the pertinent bill was $20.42, the regular monthly charge for once-a-week trash service; apparently it all fit into four cubic yards.

Or maybe not, said a resident who’s been here longer than I have: “Sometimes,” she said, “they don’t even bother to record these things because it’s more trouble than it’s worth.”

Then again, this is the first month with the New and Improved Water Bill, so I’ll watch for one more month before I declare this matter closed.

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DeBarge traffic

Kristinia DeBarge, twenty-six today, is the daughter of James DeBarge, of that well-known musical family. (James was married, briefly, to Janet Jackson, but this isn’t Janet’s daughter: that marriage was annulled several years before Kristinia’s birth in 1990.) About the time her 2009 album Exposed came out, she looked something like this:

Kristinia DeBarge in 2009

“Goodbye,” the hit single from Exposed, climbed to #15 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and moved enough copies to be certified platinum: despite its kiss-off nature, it’s kind of fun, and it’s powered, so to speak, by Steam:

It’s possible to imagine someone not singing along with the chorus, but it’s not easy.

Kristinia DeBarge in 2014

She hasn’t sustained the success of “Goodbye,” but she’s stayed busy; she’s featured on “Let Go,” a 2014 hit in Scandinavia by Finnish rapper (!) Redrama.

I have no doubt we’ll hear from her again.

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You’ve probably never heard of it

And I imagine there’s only one place on earth you can get it:

Of course, what I wanted to know was how small a batch, inasmuch as my tank holds 70 liters (18.5 gallons).

This operation is, I am reasonably certain, not related to Oakland Petroleum Operating Company, on Yale south of 73rd in Tulsa.

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Not approved by Mayor Mare

Someone following Ted Cruz around before the Iowa caucuses filed this report:

I’ve just jumped from a hay bale to the upper rung of a bleacher seat — it’s the only way I can see Cruz, surrounded by fans, cameras and boom mics. Now I’m looking down, and the Texan with slicked-back hair, a rugged outdoorsman’s jacket and hiking shoes is talking about ponies. “What’s your favorite My Little Pony?” Cruz asks his tiny supporter, a little girl who is wearing a Rainbow Dash beanie. “Twilight,” she says.

“I have two daughters, and they love Twilight,” Cruz says, before adding, with a grin: “My favorite, though, is Applejack. I just think she’s funny.”

You know, sugarcube, that Rarity isn’t going to play so well in Des Moines, or however the buck they pronounce it.

I missed that piece when it first came out, but local political whiz Peter J. Rudy was happy to toss it in my general direction. Of course, I was ready:

Of course, this only extends so far: it wouldn’t matter, for instance, if Mike Huckabee not only could identify all three Dazzlings by name but also knew all the major plot points of My Little Dashie.

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Your mind is mined

The truth is often even worse than you think it is. I quit hanging around once they got whiny about ad blockers and promised, if you turned them off, an “ad-light” experience. It is, of course, nothing of the kind:

The “ad-light experience” employs 38 trackers consuming 83.1 MB of memory. What does the non-light experience look like? For reference, Google Maps’ scripts take 52.7 MB and they actually do something useful.

Well, so do the trackers, if your definition of “useful” stretches enough to include “follows me around like a lost puppy”:

The tracking isn’t done with cookies; those are too easy to delete. Trackers identify you with a browser fingerprint: Your operating system, browser version, time zone, plug-in versions, screen resolution, installed fonts, IP address, and other things you thought were private.

Or if not private, certainly irrelevant, right? Wrong:

The more uniquely-configured your system, the more identifiable you are. (How identifiable? Check here.)

Which I did. Apparently my browser fingerprint is unique among the 130,000 or so that have been tested, and I ought not to be surprised by that.

It doesn’t matter if you use incognito mode and block cookies; that’s just another data point to add to your profile. It’s called a fingerprint because every one is unique. And each time you load a tracker, your fingerprint is captured and the activity is added to your browsing profile.

Hardly seems worth the bother for NSA to monitor me, if the private sector is already gathering this much data.

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