Don’t want to go on the cart

Sears would like you to know that they’re not dead yet:

For what it’s worth, Felicia Day says that picture of her is about eight years old.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Low-yield incendiary device

It was, in fact, a teensy wedge of potato that somehow had glued itself to the underside of the back burner, presumably last week since I hadn’t used that burner since then. I duly set a very large pan of water back there to boil for pasta, waited about 90 seconds, and the smell rapidly overtook me. No problem identifying the source: the flames around the bottom of the pan gave it away. I withdrew the pan, turned off the burner, poked around with a wooden implement until the offending tuber was out of range, then resumed.

The stench remained, of course. I shut down the air conditioner, popped open several windows, and cranked up the attic fan. Win: it cleared the scent in three minutes flat. Lose: humidity inside climbed from just under 50 percent to just over 70.

The punchline here is that I used the A/C downtime to change out the filter, there being few instances of downtime of this sort generally available in July, and I admit it: I was a lot more panicky about getting that damned filter into place than I was about flames shooting out from under a pan.

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Stalk radio

Eventually you learn that there’s a reason you can’t find a woman like that:

So there I was, sitting on my fat patoot and not really working while I thought about how hard it is to write satire anymore, what with the times getting too weird for any one person to keep up with, when I heard Rick Springfield singing “Jessie’s Girl” on a kid’s radio or phone or whatever it is kids use to listen to music these days. The song first came out, if I remember this correctly, when Ronald Reagan was getting out of the hospital after the assassination attempt back in 1981 and I am pretty sure that I haven’t heard it since then. Listening to it now, however, gave me the same sense of profound creepiness that hearing it in 1981 did. It didn’t occur to me in 1981 that there was such a musical genre as stalker rock — I was much younger then, of course, and so I didn’t know any better — and in those halcyon days we all knew less about the strange drives that motivated Australian obsessives to lust for the girl friends of their best buddies, even with the best efforts of Phil Donahue to keep us all up to date with the latest fashions in neuroticism. But stalker rock it is, along with that song about Jenny and her phone number and an entry from the 1960’s, the Vogues’ “Turn around, look at me,” and it does make me wonder if any of these guys ever got over getting not dumped by their not girl friends.

Springfield, I think we may safely assume, didn’t:

It’s 6 o’clock in your little town, baby
As you get ready to go out for the night
Some pretty stranger’s gonna take you down,
But I can’t make that feel alright
I was in love with the ghost in you
You were my apparition
It doesn’t matter if it goes the way you want it to
Cause life’s a suicide mission

Of course, the apotheosis of stalkery is “Every Breath You Take” by the Police, which some people still think is a love song.

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Which is where it bytes you

There might be more software in a new car than there is in a cheap commodity PC. (Brand-name makers tend to lard the machines up with crapware.) Given the slightest bit of connectivity, this was inevitable:

Though I hadn’t touched the dashboard, the vents in the Jeep Cherokee started blasting cold air at the maximum setting, chilling the sweat on my back through the in-seat climate control system. Next the radio switched to the local hip hop station and began blaring Skee-lo at full volume. I spun the control knob left and hit the power button, to no avail. Then the windshield wipers turned on, and wiper fluid blurred the glass.

And then things got worse:

As the two hackers remotely toyed with the air-conditioning, radio, and windshield wipers, I mentally congratulated myself on my courage under pressure. That’s when they cut the transmission.

Immediately my accelerator stopped working. As I frantically pressed the pedal and watched the RPMs climb, the Jeep lost half its speed, then slowed to a crawl. This occurred just as I reached a long overpass, with no shoulder to offer an escape. The experiment had ceased to be fun.

Yes, there were two. He knew this because he’d arranged this test with them, to look for vulnerabilities in Fiat Chrysler’s Uconnect system. Used to be, someone had to tap a physical port in the car to hack it. Not anymore.

As it happens, Fiat Chrysler (1) is not amused and (2) has issued a patch:

Under no circumstances does FCA condone or believe it’s appropriate to disclose “how-to information” that would potentially encourage, or help enable hackers to gain unauthorized and unlawful access to vehicle systems.

FCA has a dedicated team from System Quality Engineering focused on identifying and implementing software best practices across FCA globally. The team’s responsibilities include development and implementation of cybersecurity standards for all vehicle content, including on-board and remote services.

As such, FCA released a software update that offers customers improved vehicle electronic security and communications system enhancements. The Company monitors and tests the information systems of all of its products to identify and eliminate vulnerabilities in the ordinary course of business.

Still, all software has holes. Just ask Microsoft.

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Followed by twenty years of groveling

News Item: The parent company of Ashley Madison, a matchmaking website for cheating spouses, says it was hacked and that the personal information of some of its users was posted online.

Yep.

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Watch how you hug that tree

Tree Hugger from My Little Pony: Friendship is MagicAfter all these years, I retain a sort of sentimental fondness for hippie chicks, not because I had any physical or emotional connection to them — certainly none of them ever had any reason to look my way — but because I saw them as making a concerted effort to improve, to the extent possible, their immediate environments, in several senses of the word; and, by extension, maybe to make the world a slightly better place, without any of the blatant cynicism or neofascist tendencies exhibited by today’s cracktivists. Guys of the species, on the other hand, tended to invite my suspicion: I wondered just how many of them were feigning the lifestyle just to get next to the chicks.

That said, this bunch is really bumming me out:

Activists at the University of California at Berkeley got naked on Saturday to show their love for nearby trees that authorities are planning to cut own.

About 50 people showed up at a grove of eucalyptus trees on the campus of UC-Berkeley, stripped off their clothes, and began to intimately interact with the trees in the grove for the benefit of photographer Jack Gescheidt.

There’s a lot to be said for protecting trees, and I tend to mourn at their demise. But the epidermis on your average coddled college student is no match for tree bark, and a lot of these characters are going to end up with body art of the involuntary kind: scratches and scrapes and scars.

(Do not ask why I would know this.)

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Big Shot Becky

Becky Hammon’s #25 jersey is proudly displayed at Colorado State’s Moby Arena. Weirdly, she went undrafted by the WNBA, but managed to get signed by the New York Liberty, which installed her as the second-string point guard. Eventually she worked herself into the starting lineup, and in 2007 she was dealt to the San Antonio Stars.

Becky Hammon as a San Antonio Star

In 2013, she tore an ACL and spent a year in rehab; during that time she looked for a coaching gig, and found one in San Antonio — with the NBA’s Spurs, on Gregg Popovich’s staff of assistants. Said Pop at her hiring:

I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic, and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.

Becky Hammon as a San Antonio Spurs coach

This past season’s Spurs finished 55-27 and took the Clippers to seven games in the playoffs before bowing out. This summer, Pop dispatched Hammon to coach the Spurs’ summer-league team in Salt Lake City. They finished 1-2, in a three-way tie for second. (The Jazz won all three of their games to claim the championship.) Undaunted, the Spurs proceeded to the Las Vegas summer-league extravaganza (24 teams!) and won that one.

Oh, and here’s Hammon subtly suggesting that one of the opposing players just might have taken one too many steps:

Okay, maybe not so subtly.

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It’s bleeding demised

It was, however, quite impossible to nail to the perch:

To celebrate the achievements of the Monty Python crew, UKTV channel Gold — which will air the final performance of the [Python] reunion on Sunday — contracted with sculptor Iain Prendergast to create a 50-foot fiberglass version of the famous “Norwegian Blue” parrot. The parrot, which is famous for being dead from the moment it was sold, was placed on Monday at Potters Fields Park in South London, near Tower Bridge. This is both a fine reminder to tune in on Sunday to the broadcast and an outstanding opportunity to inspire countless visitors to declare in increasingly frantic tones that “This parrot is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet its maker! This is a late parrot! It’s a stiff!”

Actual picture at the link. We’re assuming that the Choir Invisible would in fact be available for comment if they weren’t also inaudible.

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Meanwhile, phish are dying

This may seem impossible, but apparently it’s true:

For the first time in 12 years, spam made up less than 50 percent of all email.

According to Symantec’s latest monthly threat report, only 49.7 percent of email sent this June was spam. While still a pretty dang high percentage, it’s the lowest since September 2003.

Better tools like enhanced spam filters and more frequent prosecution of spam producers have helped cut down on spam. But for those of us who grew up with the internet and got the occasional laugh out of spam’s unintentional and bizarre poetry, this is a mildly bittersweet fadeout.

One data point doth not a trend make. Call me in thirty days and we’ll talk.

(Via Fark.)

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Drifting together

Charleston, West Virginia has been a two-newspaper town, kinda sorta. But it’s becoming less so:

The Charleston Gazette and Charleston Daily Mail have been your local source for news for more than a century.

The two newspapers operated independently for readers and advertisers until Jan. 1, 1958, when the owners merged the business, advertising, circulation and production departments into a single corporation.

The standard Joint Operating Agreement, common in many cities in an effort to keep two papers going. But this is where things change:

Beginning [Sunday], the two newspapers are combining newsroom functions with the exception of editorial page content.

That’s right, two editorial pages, presumably facing one another, with the Gazette on the left and the Daily Mail on the right, reflecting their positions on the political spectrum.

So: still a two-newspaper town? Not with one edition a day, I think. Then again, they’ve published a jointly-produced single edition on weekends for several years, and since both papers were morning papers, the last six people on earth who preferred afternoon editions will not be further affected. Besides, it’s a single ownership, albeit with one strange twist along the way:

On January 20, 2010, the Daily Gazette Company and the Justice Department settled relative to violations in the purchase of the Daily Mail and the Daily Gazette Company’s management of it. Under the terms of the settlement, the previous owner, the Media News Group, will hold a perpetual option to re-purchase 20% of the paper, will have two of five seats on the management board, and will determine the size of the budget for its news staff and choose its editorial content. Daily Gazette will be required to seek government permission to cease publication of the Daily Mail and the intellectual property of the paper will pass to the Media News Group should it ever be shut down.

So complete consolidation may still be a long way off.

(Via Andrew Brown.)

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Recordings received

I’ve snagged these three albums from iTunes in the past couple of months, and it’s about time I told you about them.

The So Flows Sessions by Patrick O'HearnPatrick O’Hearn: The So Flows Sessions (2006)

In 2001, Patrick O’Hearn released an album called So Flows the Current. This was the first time O’Hearn had put out an album by himself, without a label backing him; it was quiet, meditative, and impeccably produced. At least seventeen tracks were recorded, nine of which made it to the album. Five years later, eight more tracks surfaced as The So Flows Sessions, and it deserves better, I think, than to be dismissed as just outtakes from its predecessor; it’s subtle without being boring, quiet without being mere background music. O’Hearn has been a fixture in so-called “new-age” radio ever since I discovered the existence of “new-age” radio, and it still amazes me that he got there by way of Frank Zappa and Missing Persons.

 

A Posteriori by EnigmaEnigma: A Posteriori (2006)

You remember Enigma. In 1990, Michael Cretu and a small band of collaborators released MCMXC a.D., which produced the mighty hit single “Sadeness (Part I),” a dance number overlaid with Gregorian chant destined for the middle of the Top Ten. A Posteriori — “After the fact” — is the sixth Enigma album; while echoes of the earlier work resound here and there, the tone is decidedly different: less thump, more techno, and references that suggest a galactic disaster in the making. Two singles were released: “Hello and Welcome,” which was remixed before the album appeared, and “Goodbye Milky Way,” which more or less gives away the game.

 

Dark Matter by SPC ECOSPC ECO: Dark Matter (2015)

SPC ECO — pronounced, I am told, “space echo” — really ought to be characterized as darkwave, this being their second album with “dark” in the title; but they’re a bit too downtempo, and there’s somehow enough murk in the mix to suggest both the flow of dreampop and the golden days of shoegaze. It helps that Dean Garcia plays every instrument in the book and a few only in the appendix, and Rose Berlin (Dean’s daughter) makes wonderfully ethereal vocal noises, though in the first couple of tracks she seems a bit overly processed. No singles have yet been released, though either “Playing Games” or “I Won’t Be Heard” would seem to have stand-alone potential. But to be honest, nothing here is quite so dreamy/sprightly as this track from their previous album.

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Triumphantly so

In 1959, the US found itself awash in foreign cars. Volkswagen, which had set up shop in 1949, dominated the market with its Beetles, but France was selling a fair number of Renaults, Toyota had tentatively dipped a toe into the Stateside milieu with the Toyopet Crown, and the British seemed to be everywhere: my father, in fact, put up some presumably modest sum for a Ford Anglia from beautiful downtown Dagenham. In general, economy was the name of the game, and this Triumph advertisement from 1959 makes darn sure you know that:

Print ad for '59 Triumph

There were no real fuel-economy rules in those days, but 40 mpg doesn’t seem too far out of reach, providing you weren’t doing things like climbing hills in San Francisco. The engine was dinky by American standards: a 948-cc (58 cubic inches, wow!) overhead-valve inline four, pumping out 37 hp, competitive with the Beetle’s flat four. I was amused by this bit: “It will travel up to 60,000 miles without a major overhaul — often 100,000.” Today, needing an overhaul at 60k is the sign of Heavy Citrus, but back then, things wore out a whole lot faster.

Still, the funniest part, at least to me, is that it’s not really a Triumph. This is actually a ’59 Standard Ten sedan, given a Triumph badge because those Yanks know the name, having bought several Triumph TR-series sports cars in the decade. And if you saw “Triumph” and thought “sports-car engine,” who could blame you? The TR3A of that era had an engine twice as big with nearly three times the ponies.

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The glucose is clear

I’m not quite sure I understand this promotion:

Actually, that’s only half a gallon, but it still sounds a bit strange.

(Via Dawn Summers.)

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Warm! What is it good for?

There’s a certain irony in writing this while a Heat Advisory is boiling away outside, but what the hell:

Look, warm is better than cold. Plants grow better. Food is more abundant. Plus being cold sucks, just ask anyone who has not yet moved south for the winter. I say we fire up those coal plants, drive the heck out of your SUVs, bring back Freon. Each of us should strive to have a carbon footprint the size of Bigfoot. We all know what happens if it gets too cold.

I figure carbon-based life forms with a morbid fear of carbon are sufficiently self-loathing to make themselves perfect candidates for Voluntary Human Extinction.

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How little things change

Just an historical note, or a point in the cycle we’re bound to repeat?

The Whigs collapsed in 1856, and the Democrats in 1860, because neither represented the views of the majority of Americans. American politics had been all about slavery since at least the 1830s, but both parties studiously avoided it. You could vote for the Whigs, who stood for nothing but not being Democrats, or you could vote for the Democrats, who were pro-slavery but wouldn’t admit it under torture. The Dems were better at coalition building — some things never change — and were able to cobble together the “Hard Shell,” “Soft Shell,” “Barnburner,” etc. factions together for one election longer than the Whigs were, but when faced with a legitimate protest party, they too collapsed. Their vote split several different ways, Lincoln won the White House, and I forget what happened next.

Today’s Republican leadership, in case you hadn’t noticed, stands for nothing but not being Democrats. And anyone paying attention knows the Democrats’ poster child: it’s a nonwhite female college student who will do anything to not get pregnant, but she won’t do that. (Or rather, she won’t not do that.) I can’t wait for the grownups to start running the playground again.

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