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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Nothing on the porch

This showed up in my tweetstream this morning:

For an explanation, we turn to Terry Kroeger, publisher of the Omaha World-Herald and head of Berkshire Hathaway’s Media Group:

Publishing both a morning and afternoon edition is referred to as an “all-day” publishing cycle. That idea lost popularity over the years, and you might find it interesting to know that the Omaha World-Herald, as near as we can tell, is the only remaining “all day” subscription-based newspaper in the world.

So the next sentence is really hard for me to write. We will become an all-morning newspaper, effective March 7.

It’s not hard to understand why:

For years our morning and afternoon editions have been more similar than different. Our newsroom aims to produce a daily print report full of interesting news, analysis and features. Nearly all of those enterprising articles begin in our morning edition. The afternoon paper is updated with all the latest breaking news, as is throughout the day.

In recent years our print readers have voted for their favorite delivery time — preferring mornings over afternoons by two to one. It’s a ratio that has flipped over the past 25 years, when subscriptions to the afternoon paper had dominated our metropolitan-area circulation.

As one of only a handful of people remaining who prefer an afternoon paper — to the extent that I don’t read the morning paper until afternoon — I mourn.

Perish the thought.

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Welcome to New York, sort of

Popsugar writer (and Taylor Swift fan) Samantha Sutton had a brainstorm the other day:

[A]nother thing I admire about this leader of the fiercest girl group ever? Her ability to pull off a plethora of different styles, from cutout jumpsuits to feminine day dresses.

So when I realized that my own wardrobe was filled with similar pieces, I put myself to the test. Would I be able to re-create a few of Ms. Swift’s best looks on my own 5’0″ body then rock them for a week? Well, I tried my best and later snapped some photos in Taylor’s TriBeCa ‘hood in New York for the full effect.

The striped shirt/black shorts look worked pretty well for her, I thought, though this was the most immediate feedback she got:

If there was ever an outfit that screamed Taylor Swift, it would be a black pair of overalls and a white crop top — because that’s exactly what happened when I stepped out wearing them. A random guy on the street jokingly yelled her name at me, which made me blush — and also beam with pride.

Then again, random guys on the street in New York might not always be joking.

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Not at all hiding in plain sight

The “security question,” as an institution, is “superbly moronic,” says Jack Baruth:

[T]here is no reason for the security question to exist. Not the way it’s implemented at most websites. A security question, when used properly, can be helpful. PEER1 and Rackspace, as an example, use security questions to authenticate requests for phone support. The security question, in those cases, is one that you provide. As an example, your Rackspace security question could be, “What’s the pinkest brown?” and the answer could be “867-5309”. It’s a true shared secret. Of course, it’s stored on the Rackspace systems, which means its vulnerable. But as a good way to authenticate a voice on the phone that’s asking you to reboot a server or add a credential, it’s not bad.

The typical security question implementation, however, is not anything like that.

Oh, hell no. Instead, it’s something you’ve probably already posted on Facebook that anyone keen on stealing your identity has already read and filed away for reference.

I admit to having outsmarted myself once, with the requested item being the “name of your high-school sweetheart.” Like rather a lot of women of this era, she has a first and a middle name; unlike most, she was going by the middle name back then. So I plugged in the first name, which I’m pretty sure I’ve never mentioned anywhere, even here on this site. (Don’t mention this: it’s pseudonyms all the way down.) You can guess what happened next, or more precisely after a year or two.

Incidentally, I live in what has been known in the neighborhood as the Brown House. But it’s the pinkest brown you’ve ever seen.

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Taken for a ride

This menacing-looking block appeared on page 4A of the Sunday Oklahoman:

Avoid Ride Sharing Vehicles - Public Is At Risk

Not hard to guess who put this up, I thought, and duly hauled myself over to the Web site in question. I was, of course, correct:

We are an initiative of the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association (TLPA). TLPA has been the leading source of for-hire vehicle industry knowledge since its founding in 1917.

But I was curious as to the pitch they’d make, so I read on:

Whether Uber and Lyft are referred to as “ridesharing” or “Transportation Network Companies,” the simple truth is that these companies provide for-hire transportation services. Understanding the methods by which Uber and Lyft undercut for-hire vehicle safety — via inadequate insurance, background checks and more — requires knowledge of the for-hire transportation industry. “Who’s Driving You?’ explains the safety components Uber and Lyft are evading and why they are vital for the wellbeing of passengers and communities.

There’s a whole page of “rideshare incidents,” linked to various local news sources, although the section that gives me pause is “Imposters”: incidents involving individuals who were posing as Uber (never Lyft) drivers.

In other words, it’s a trade association protecting its turf, as trade associations will do. I’ve ridden in lots of cabs, but never in one of these gig-economy entities, so I can’t tell you what they’re like. But you have to figure the cabbies realize they have competition now, and it’s a fairly safe bet they don’t like it.

Weirdly, at almost the exact moment I finished the first draft, this appeared in my tweetstream:

I know the tweeter in question, and she’s not one to trump up things, so I’m guessing people she knows have stories to tell. “Be careful out there” is always good advice.

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Strange search-engine queries (527)

“Come Monday,” Jimmy Buffett sang, “it’ll be all right.” I’m not so sure. Maybe this sample of search strings might help.

i want my boyfriend back:  In the meantime, though, let’s watch your reputation become tattered.

mr. gander has long been distressed by frequently recurring urges to enter areas of department stores displaying women’s undergarments in order to become sexually aroused. his experience is most indicative of:  Needing a swift kick in the balls.

what do longer periods mean:  Frightened women.

cuttlefish of cthulhu codpiece:  Which will frighten them even more.

suppose that, at an official ticket price of $480, there are 6,000 justin timberlake fans wanting to attend his concert, but only 4,000 ticketed seats are available. which one of the following statements is then true?  C. There are more Justin Timberlake fans than you ever imagined.

saddam hussein body doubles:  Look nothing like Justin Timberlake.

would you like us to send you a daily digest about new articles every day heracles:  Maybe later, after I get these frigging stables cleaned out.

cootie shot:  Provides only temporary immunity from someone who has cooties.

debbie gibson playboy pictorial:  I can assure you, she didn’t have cooties.

you are dispatched to a residence where a middle-aged man was found unconscious in his front yard. there are no witnesses who can tell you what happened. you find him in a prone position; his eyes are closed and he is not moving. your first action should be to:  Get off his lawn. You know the rules.

bee stung lips:  For best results, use genuine bees.

what kind of sexualized, audacious, political, and scatological comedy was considered fit material for translation or publication only in recent times:  The Presidential aspirations of Donald J. Trump.

3.39 inches:  Sorry, we allow only one Trump joke per episode.

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Near a Y intersection

Katies Crotch Road Embden MaineIn almost any place large enough to have local history, which is almost any place, there are things that nobody seems to know, and one of them is why this road is called what it is:

A Maine town that spends hundreds of dollars annually to replace stolen street signs is again asking residents to consider renaming one of the frequent targets: Katie Crotch Road.

The Morning Sentinel reports a referendum to rename Katie Crotch Road to Cadie Road is being considered in Embden in Somerset County.

Residents are sorting out the matter with a vote Friday and a town meeting Saturday.

At the very least, they should decide whether it’s Katie, as it says in the article, or Katies, as it says on the sign, and if the latter, whether there should be an apostrophe. No one seems to know for sure. And a similar measure in 2012 was not approved by voters, to the apparent dismay of local government:

Board of Selectman Chairman Charles Taylor says the thefts occur so frequently that “you would think every dorm room in the state of Maine should have one by now.”

Don’t encourage them, Mr Taylor, sir.

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