Cuter than kudzu

And just as hard to eradicate, evidently:

With it being so dry the last several years we’ve not wanted to tempt the wrath of the fire department that is right around the corner so it’s been building up and making fertile ground for all manner of weeds and jungley vegetation. And the honeysuckle that I posted a picture of awhile back just kept expanding, taking over everything.

I know from drought. Then again, this year has been unusually wet — 18 inches above normal at the moment — and in soaking conditions, jungle welcomes you.

The next step, of course, is to call the Expert:

I got a landscaper out to assess and estimate. He said that the honeysuckle wasn’t honeysuckle. It was Chinese/Japanese honeysuckle, which the Missouri DNR classifies as an invasive species and mandates the removal thereof. He quoted an insane amount for removal of all vines on the fence, meandering through the yard, razing the jungle and completely leveling the bed at the side of the house with a huge conglomeration of vine, poke weed and ancient bush that had seen better days.

I think I could run up a five-figure landscaping bill without even breathing hard — or opening the gate, even.

And if you ask me, mulberry is pretty invasive; it’s already gotten all kissy-face with the cottonwood out back. (Although it kept the lint this spring down to almost nil, so perhaps dues have been paid.)

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High temerity

One of Monday night’s hit-and-run comment spams originated, it claimed, at something called — well, you look at it:

[domain name redacted] /bot-creation-service-2/recaptcha-ocr-with-60-accuracy-rent-available

I think I’m more annoyed that there was once a Bot Creation Service 1, which had to be, um, upgraded.

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Hanging on

Sometimes life is one damn thing after another; other times it’s several damn things at once.

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Across the Atlantic sea

The Thunder took on the Sixers in Manchester, England (England!), and from the pregame chatter, you’d probably conclude that this didn’t figure to be a hairy competition. Indeed, Kevin Durant took the fourth quarter off, OKC having gotten to an 83-74 lead after three. “Do not take us lightly,” Philadelphia replied during an 11-2 run to start that final frame, tying the game at 85-all. “Can too,” sniffed Reggie Jackson, who scored the Thunder’s next two buckets and assisted on the third; the Sixers never got within two again, and OKC gets to come home 2-0 in the preseason with a 103-99 win.

If Reggie had something to prove, I think he did: he rolled up 29 points on 10-17 from the field and 8-8 from the line, though he and his 3-point shot weren’t on speaking terms. (OKC generally was blah from beyond the arc, hitting a mere six of 22; Philly went 12-30.) Jeremy Lamb piled up more minutes than anyone, starting at the two instead of Thabo Sefolosha; he got seven points, which sounds Thabo-ish, and five turnovers, which doesn’t. And Serge Ibaka recorded the game’s only double-double: 18 points, 11 rebounds. Weirdly, KD didn’t get fouled all night; he got his 21 points on 9-18 shooting. More interesting, perhaps: Steven Adams, starting in the middle, and moving faster than Kendrick Perkins dreams of.

The Philadelphia starters were game, and four of five finished in double figures, but the guy who kept them in the game was sixth man Tony Wroten, who had a team-high 20 points including four of eight treys. Stalwart Evan Turner turned in a 19-point line, marred only by a 5-10 showing at the stripe. (Wroten hit all six of his freebies.) There are those who say this team is destined for the bottom. I have my doubts about that.

And so ends the European experiment for this season. The Thunder will be back at the ‘Peake a week from today, to greet the new-look Nuggets. As though the old-look Nuggets weren’t scary enough.

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It was a slow news day, or something

Top story in the Sunday Oklahoman was the disclosure that one county commissioner and the county assessor owned certain properties that were exempt from property tax, inasmuch as those properties were leased to qualifying nonprofits. Somewhere down in the guts of the article, you could find that yes, this is legal: exemptions are not based on who owns the property, but the use made of it. Scandal-mongering? Someone up the line thought so, and the paper was contrite this morning:

From the publisher …

We have published The Oklahoman 365 days per year for 110 years. Thousands of elements and hundreds of employees come together to bring you news stories, photos, graphics, sports scores, obituaries, advertising and more.

Many judgment calls go into this daily equation, and we are hopeful that more often than not our judgment is sound. But it wasn’t Sunday morning when we gave front-page billing to the story about two elected officials and tax exemptions for property owners who lease to nonprofit entities.

As reported in the story, Oklahoma County Assessor Leonard Sullivan and County Commissioner Ray Vaughn did not violate any laws; the referenced exemptions are legal, and their actions were not particularly newsworthy. Our placement on the first page of Sunday’s edition did not comport with the worthiness of the story and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

This was a poor decision on our part and it is our responsibility to our community, and ourselves, to say so. We are mindful of the Purpose Statement below which we publish every day and intend to live by.

Commissioner Vaughn and Assessor Sullivan have been gracious about the article and have our apologies.

The paper’s Paul Monies posted an image of the page-2A meae culpae to Twitter.

When I read the piece Sunday afternoon, I had exactly one reaction: “Big deal.” Then again, one does not expect much from the Sunday front page.

And this was the link; the article has since been plunked into the memory hole.

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Scan do

You already know what I think about supermarket self-checkout lanes — “Meh” seems to sum it up — but now there seems to be Actual Data to support this conclusion:

In a recent research paper called “Dancing With Robots” [pdf], the economists Frank Levy and Richard Murnane point out that computers replace human workers only when machines meet two key conditions. First, the information necessary to carry out the task must be put in a form that computers can understand, and second, the job must be routine enough that it can be expressed in a series of rules.

Supermarket checkout machines meet the second of these conditions, but they fail on the first. They lack proper information to do the job a human would do. To put it another way: They can’t tell shiitakes from Shinola. Instead of identifying your produce, the machine asks you, the customer, to type in a code for every leafy green in your cart. Many times you’ll have to look up the code in an on-screen directory. If a human checker asked you to remind him what that bunch of the oblong yellow fruit in your basket was, you’d ask to see his boss.

Forty eleven. (Unless it’s organic, then it’s 94011. Yes, I’ve scanned some bananas.)

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Virtuoso serious

The OKC Philharmonic, to promote an upcoming concert, posted this picture of violinist Jennifer Koh to their Facebook page:

Jennifer Koh

(Photo by Juergen Frank.)

Jennifer Koh String Poetic artworkNow I admit that I adore that dress, but this is definitely a few clicks away from the way she usually looks, which is perhaps a bit more soccer-mom-ish than glam. See, for instance, the artwork for String Poetic, a collaboration with pianist Reiko Uchida, which won a Grammy nomination for Best Chamber Music Performance in 2009.

Jennifer Koh will appear with the Phil on the 19th of October; she’ll be playing Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto. Later this month, a new album:

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They didn’t open with a prayer

The Friendly Atheist at Patheos tells of a campaign event he perhaps didn’t expect:

Dr. Ed Shadid, a current Oklahoma City councilman, is running for mayor and has a bit of an uphill climb ahead of him since he’s running against the incumbent, popular Mayor Mick Cornett‎.

It’s worth noting, though, that Shadid is courting the atheist vote. According to a now-deleted Tweet, Chas Stewart of the Oklahoma Atheists Godcast mentioned that Shadid attended one of his group’s events.

Outreach, y’know. And if this race turns out to be close … well, you can see where this is going. Oklahoma Atheists claims about 1500 members, which is not an inconsiderable number by any means.

It doesn’t mean Shadid is an atheist himself, but so far, his visit doesn’t seem to have hurt him. Progress!

Now if only Shadid would stop talking about how he wants to raise property taxes and taking pictures with children wearing shirts with the words “Penis” and “Vagina” on them, he might have a better chance of winning this thing.

Yeah. At the very least, those words belong on pants.

(Via The McCarville Report.)

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Some Brazilian fellow, I suppose

There is yard work, and there is, um, yard work:

Bikini-line trim advertisement

(From Bad Newspaper, which used to be

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Shot in the lowest possible resolution

There is, I suspect, no chance that this will ever become an actual series:

In the company’s first two official sales this development season, Mark Gordon’s Mark Gordon Co. has set up two comedy projects from writer Scott King (The Neighbors) — one at ABC and one at Fox.

The Fox project, Clothing Optional, is about a family who own and operate a wholesome all-inclusive resort but suddenly must put their morality and better judgment on hold when a scandal rocks their hotel and they decide to just go with it and turn the place into a Clothing Optional resort to keep the business afloat.

Scott King could perhaps do this concept justice, but the FCC, assuming they come back to work by next fall, will not be amused.

And I refuse to contemplate the possibility of a crossover episode with, oh, let’s say, New Girl.

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Quibbles and bits

There’s a 2013 Audi Allroad 2.0T in the Motor Trend Garage, signed out to Arthur St. Antoine, and his update in the November issue contains this observation:

I giddily loaded up a memory card with lossless audio files (using both FLAC and ALAC codecs), only to discover that the head unit won’t play files with bit rates higher than 320 kbps.

I stared at this, realized I didn’t know what difference bit rates made in FLAC in the first place, and duly hunted down the FAQ:

With FLAC you do not specify a bitrate like with some lossy codecs. It’s more like specifying a quality with Vorbis or MPC, except with FLAC the quality is always “lossless” and the resulting bitrate is roughly proportional to the amount of information in the original signal. You cannot control the bitrate much and the result can be from around 100% of the input rate (if you are encoding noise), down to almost 0 (encoding silence).

So I went to my small folder of FLAC files and played them through Winamp, which has a semi-reliable bit-rate indicator. The absolute lowest bit rate obtained was 807 kbps.

Curious, I pulled out a wav file from the archives and shot it through the FLAC frontend at the default “quality level” of 6. It came back at 910 kbps.

So instead of sniping at St. Antoine for being picky, I get to grouse at Audi for failing to anticipate this sort of thing.

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Strange search-engine queries (401)

Monday’s child is fair of face, though it hardly seems fair that she should have to face this sort of thing so early in the morning.

andrea myerson documentary who crushed on wendy darling:  Insert “Peter” reference here.

words you don’t hear often:  “The American Congress, the finest legislative body on earth.”

dimentions celebrities:  Generally, larger, or at least wider, than they’d prefer.

see big penis:  Not for celebrities, I hope.

do batou dolphins have blowhole sex:  They will, but it’s an extra fifty fish.

invisible girl reappears:  Yeah, they do that. Eventually.

strict dress code, outlawing of alcohol and drugs, a ban on pork not unlike the Kosher diet common in Judaism, ban of interest charges on loans, and restrictions of art representation:  Generally are not characteristic of individuals seeking to plagiarize their way to a passing grade in their Comparative Religions class.

manny has been a coffee drinker since he started college three years ago. now he realizes that anytime he smells coffee when he enters a nearby starbucks he:  Is about to spend six bucks.

he must see life not as a vale of tears but as a happy time; he must take joy in his work, without regarding it as the end and all of living:  And once in a while, he should stop in at Starbucks for a six-buck coffee.

U must be kidding, right … yahya my selular is Blowbat … i will charge my selular … so sorry yahya I hv to go … see u later:  You can so turn off autocorrect.

kirsten vangsness wears dresses only:  I could swear I saw her in a pair of shoes once.

clopfics in google docs:  Probably, though there are better ways of getting some tail.

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Go, go, Nomorobo!

The Nomorobo anti-telemarketer system, as illustrated here, is now, I am told, online and running. Per their announcement email:

Initially, Nomorobo supports AT&T U-Verse, Cablevision Optimum, SureWest, Verizon FiOS, and Vonage. But don’t worry if you don’t see your carrier listed – new carriers are being added all the time. Sign up [] and you’ll receive an alert when your carrier supports Nomorobo.

A quick, one-time setup activates Nomorobo on your current phone line. Caller ID isn’t required. School closings, doctor’s appointment and prescription reminders, weather advisories and other legal robocalls aren’t blocked.

Telephone Science Corporation
5507-10 Nesconset Hwy #201
Mt Sinai, NY 11766

I am not rushing to sign up just yet: after all, I have had a working call screener for many years, and I’d like to see some real-world results before I do anything.

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Billed for Ted’s excrement adventure

Welcome back, my friends, to the sideshow that never ends:

Although my still-aboveground “temporary” line remains in place and uncut, meaning I have television and internet service, I can no longer watch Turner Classic Movies or baseball playoffs on the Turner Broadcasting System channel. I also can’t watch CNN, Headline News, Boomerang and the Cartoon Network, but I usually didn’t.

As my Cable One communications rep whined to me in an e-mail the other day and the Cable One CEO has been whining on commercials while wearing a stylish regular-guy denim shirt, darned old Turner wanted a tremendous price increase to carry channels with declining ratings. I now probably owe all of you a new keyboard, since charging lots of money for channels nobody watches in order for them to watch the half dozen or so they want is in fact Cable One’s business model.

For “tremendous,” read “nearly 50 percent,” as the whining CEO whined.

On the one hand, I figure it’s a Good Thing that this squabble is occurring out in the open, rather than behind closed doors in the presence of an FCC drone. But it’s a rerun, dammit. We’ve seen this dozens of times before and it always ends the same way: the warring parties kiss and make up, and dollars are hoovered from your pocket to pay for their reunion party.

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Less than one percent

News Item: A 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO racer has become the world’s most expensive car, selling for $52 million. The red competition car … was acquired by an unidentified buyer in a private transaction.

This is a Very Bad Thing, says Jack Baruth, for several reasons, one of which is aggravation of existing class warfare:

It’s hard to argue that there’s no “one percent” in this country or elsewhere when you consider that a) the real-world unemployment rate in America is at near-Great Depression levels and b) somebody just paid fifty-two million bucks for a car. We’ve entered a mirrored funhouse where returning Afghanistan veterans can’t find work and children are going hungry and real-world wages have been worse than stagnant for a decade and above us the Gilded Age party just keeps roaring louder. This sort of thing causes Black Bloc protestors to spring out of the ground and it lends potent ammunition to those who advocate for a forceful redistribution of wealth. It promotes class-warfare rhetoric and excuses extreme behavior and in the end it’s the small businessman with a used F355 who winds up taking the brunt of that resentment when some yahoo boots his store windows in during an “Occupy” protest.

Not that I’m particularly sympathetic to yahoos of any description, but I do have a certain instinct for self-preservation. The other day, I was doing some speculative calculations for the time when, barring catastrophe, I emerge from my current financial travails, and figured that I could, theoretically anyway, belt myself into a Mercedes. Not a big Benz, mind you — nothing over an E-Class, and possibly not even that — but still, there’d be a three-pointed star on its nose, another on its backside, and it suddenly occurred to me: do I want to spend forty-odd hours a week just off Treadmill Avenue, a thoroughfare not known for high levels of social amity, worrying if some drive-by dastard is going to suddenly vent a lifetime’s worth of resentfulness on my daily driver?

No way.

Unless, of course, I can find, or rig up, an anti-intrusion system that is guaranteed to waste the mofo while somehow not damaging the MB-Tex.

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Big girls don’t cry

Not if you give them something nice to wear. Maybe. Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine tried on half a dozen examples of “shapewear,” which are supposed to present the illusion of (comparative) svelteness without exotic technology like metamaterials or computer graphics. Although she ranked this one third, it’s my favorite of the bunch:

Floral print Magi-Sculpt dress by Marisota worn by Sarah Vine

Really, really comfortable on, this one. I loved the pattern too, and the length is great, just below the knee. It has an integrated internal control slip which is not so tight as to be uncomfortable, but sufficiently robust to boost my confidence.

The only downside: too informal for some occasions.

This is how it’s supposed to work:

The £65 price doesn’t seem out of line.

(Via Fark.)

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