That third year is the killer

I’m filling out the renewal for MAD, and while I noticed almost immediately that the magazine’s subscription pitch hasn’t changed in the past two years, the actual pricing contains a trap for the unwary:

  • 1 year (6 issues) — $19.99
  • 2 years (12 issues) — $29.99
  • 3 years (18 issues) — $44.99

They’ll let you have that second year for ten bucks, but the third one costs fifteen? Why, that’s … that’s utterly MAD.

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Looks better from the inside

Says Fillyjonk: “I wouldn’t buy an aggressively ugly car, like the bad old Aztek, even if it was highly rated.” I’m not sure that Pontiac really, truly wanted a mobile eyesore, but the command came down from the General — “Turn this minivan platform into a proper SUV, and don’t spend a lot of money on it” — and the Aztek was the unfortunate result. Buick sold the same basic vehicle as the Rendezvous, and while it didn’t assault the eyes the way the Aztek did, it was still ungainly and ill-proportioned.

That said, in this age of wind-tunnel conformity, automakers have had to come up with styling that separates them from the crowd, and some of those efforts paid negative dividends: the idiot grin on last-generation Mazdas; the “spindle grille” being affixed to current Lexus models; the chrome beak from which Acura is slowly backing away.

Still, some cars are, well, cuter than others: the VW New Beetle (New New Beetle, simply styled “Beetle,” is less cute than its predecessor), the Fiat 500, various Minis. Of course, “cute” suggests “small,” and all these cars are: the only large vehicle I’d think of as cute is the Ford Flex wagon, whose bricklike appearance suggests it was built up from LEGO blocks.

And then there’s the Dodge Neon, introduced in the middle 1990s. It was all about that cute: typical advertising showed the car making eye-to-headlight contact and saying “Hi.” After a decade or so of this, Dodge decided that their next small car would be the very antithesis of cute:

Now that’s aggressively ugly.

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pH 7+

And once again, I drift back to high-school chemistry — with a contemporary bounce:

Meghan Trainor, what hath thou wrought?

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Not Meow Mix

She has no mouth, but she can apparently feed you:

North American fans of the mouth-less Sanrio feline can now rejoice as the first ever Hello Kitty Cafe will finally land on their continent!

Announced in the form of a bright pink food truck at the Hello Kitty Convention held in Los Angeles, fans were elated to learn that Hello Kitty will finally get her own cafe in California! Judging by the extreme cuteness of the pictures released so far, it seems like this cafe will take kawaii to a whole new level!

There’s a placeholder site for now. And didn’t they tell us that Kitty is not in fact a cat?

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No size is Fun Size

Nathan Gunter found this at the local Sprouts:

Alive & Radiant Organic Kandy Kale

I’m having trouble trying to figure out what “holiday” is involved. April 15th, maybe?

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Beyond gossamer

An (almost) actual necklace made out of nothing:

NECLUMI is the first projection-based interactive necklace. We’re posing a question if we’re willing to abandon atoms of gold for the waves of light? At the current stage the whole setup is based on iPhone running custom app and a picoprojector connected via hdmi cable and attached to the wearers chest. Given the rate of miniaturisation of the picoprojector technology and observing the trend of wearables treated more as jewellery and fashion accessories rather than just gadgets, we predict that wearable projection and projection-based jewellery become a reality in a few years. We’re currently committed to create a standalone version of the project and we’re opened for funding and collaboration.

Watch the video at the link. It’s spellbinding, and maybe more than a little scary.

(From Wearable Technologies via Dan Gordon.)

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Chicks unfilleted

If you thought “What Does The Fox Say?” was a bit too, um, cerebral, here’s a Chinese video that makes approximately one zillionth as much sense:

(Via Incredible Things. They didn’t believe it either.)

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Those of us who routinely outsource computer maintenance to younger folks will probably not be too surprised at this:

A boy from Coventry has become the youngest computer specialist in the world.

Ayan Qureshi is now a Microsoft Certified Professional after passing the tech giant’s exam when he was just five years old.

Ayan, now six, whose father is an IT consultant, has set up his own computer network at home.

He told the BBC he found the exam difficult but enjoyable, and hopes to set up a UK-based tech hub one day.

The Fark blurb for this: Five year old boy passes exam to become Microsoft Certified Professional in spite of being younger than most Microsoft bugs. And, I might add, way younger than this one.

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Just get up and leave, Steve

On the 27th of June, a particularly hazardous new flow of lava emerged from Pu’u O’o, a cone in the eastern rift zone of Kilauea, modestly described by Wikipedia as “perhaps the most active volcano on earth.” Last eruption, say sources, was in January 1983 — and is still going on.

It’s possible, I suppose, that residents of Hawaii’s Big Island, which is basically five volcanoes glued together, have gotten jaded about such things. Still, reportage is cautious:

Hawaii County Civil Defense says that several lava breakouts in Pahoa are advancing Friday morning.

These breakouts are located in the area of the cemetery below Apa’a Street; above Apa’a Street in the area west or upslope of the transfer station; and 300 yards upslope of Apa’a Street.

Officials say the breakouts currently do not pose an immediate threat to area residents and will be monitored closely. The breakout near the transfer station has stopped flowing and is not active at this time. There is no burning asphalt at this time and all other burning with other breakouts is limited to vegetation only.

This USGS photo suggests several things:

Lava flow toward Pahoa, Hawaii, November 2014

To me, it suggests “Run for your life.” On Monday, the lava engulfed a house:

The first home has been claimed by the Puna lava flow, just across the street from the Pahoa Transfer Station along Cemetery Road/Apa’a Street.

Hawaii County Civil Defense officials confirm it ignited just before noon, the home was completely destroyed and collapsed around 12:45 p.m. Officials say the property owner was on site when the lava reached the 1,100 square foot home.

Cemetery Road? Excuse me while I facepalm. (Actually, I did that about “no burning asphalt at this time.”)

The next question: Are there, in fact, 50 ways to leave your lava? In the short term, time is on your side: lava speed has been variable, but it hasn’t gotten up to 1,000 feet per week lately. Still, it’s not like you can stuff it back into the volcano, and this eruption has been going on since, well, this:

An accord with Moscow is possible, the Reagan Administration said in response to a detailed Soviet criticism of the American position in the strategic arms talks that was carried in Pravda, the Communist Party newspaper. Administration officials repeated their optimism that an accord could be reached. There are two sets of negotiations in Geneva. One is focused on the medium-range missiles of the two sides in Europe. The other deals with longer-range strategic weapons. Both negotiations are in recess and are scheduled to be resumed later this month.

Moral: Always bet on the forces of nature.

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Crank sensor

Sometimes it’s just hard to watch. Halfway through the fourth quarter, Detroit led Oklahoma City 77-70, a score which suggests the presence of many, many bricks tossed up by both sides. This obviously would not do, and the Thunder put some effort into catching up. With a minute left, it was tied 82-82; the Pistons burned up two timeouts on a single possession, and came up empty when Kyle Singler failed to get a shot past Steven Adams. Reggie Jackson’s fadeaway jumper at the horn proved to be invisible, and overtime ensued. A lot of fumbling in the first couple of minutes, and then Detroit leaned on the loud pedal. In those five minutes, Brandon Jennings outscored the Thunder, 8-7, and the Pistons got their first win ever in the ‘Peake, 96-89.

Were I inclined to look for moral victories, I’d point to the three OKC double-doubles: Jeremy Lamb (24 points — a career high — and 10 rebounds), Reggie Jackson (20 points, 12 assists), and Serge Ibaka (19 points, 10 boards). But here’s the amazing statistic: the Thunder took only six foul shots — and missed five. Remember “close to the worst foul shooting in NBA history”? This was more than 10 percentage points worse.

And really, nobody expected this from Brandon Jennings, who checked into the locker room at halftime with four points. He wound up with 29 on decently efficient 10-18 shooting, including five of eight from far outside. The Detroit frontcourt also performed, with Josh Smith salting away 18 points, Greg Monroe (+30 for the night!) 14, and Andre Drummond nine, albeit with 15 rebounds. The Pistons collected 55 boards, 13 more than the Thunder, and outshot them by about 3 percent. (They were a blah 9-15 from the stripe, but hey: nine points. OKC should try that more often.) Meanwhile, a couple of blocks away, the D-League Blue dropped one to the Maine Red Claws, 111-105. Cold hands all around?

The Houston Rockets, who managed to beat the hapless Sixers by one point tonight, will be here Sunday. Pray for snow.

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Still pretty after all these years

Last time we checked in with Tristan Prettyman, she’d been let out of her major-label contract, for which she blamed me. Still, she keeps working, and right now she’s touring with Eric Hutchinson on what is called the City and Sand Tour. For a surfer girl from Southern California, this makes perfect sense.

Tristan Prettyman at Waikiki

(Parenthetical — obviously — note: Waikiki, seen here, is a sister city to, um, Bixby, Oklahoma. I have no idea how this happened.)

This trip to Hawaii, I should point out, was not actually on the tour: that was, I think, last year. (All these pix are from her Facebook timeline.) This on-stage shot, however, is from the current tour:

Tristan Prettyman on stage

Of course, unless you’re an A-list star, the road can be a tedious and boring place, and there are tedious and boring things that have to be done, like this:

Tristan Prettyman kills time while doing the wash

Her new EP, Back to Home, released independently, is on my Get list. No videos yet, but here’s a take — literally, a take — on “Say Anything,” which you might have heard in the film Safe Haven:

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Sweet spot apparently preserved

I repeat myself verbatim from this date in 2013:

A couple of years ago, I did a piece on The Incredible Shrinking Consumer Reports Buying Guide Issue, which over a five-year period had dropped from 360 to 221 pages. The following year, I noted that the Buying Guide had actually grown to 223 pages.

How big is it now? [#twss] Once again, two hundred twenty-three pages. (As with last year, that last page is devoted to the mandatory Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation.)

This issue is dated 2015, which means that I’m on record as predicting it’s the last hard-copy edition:

By 2015 at the latest, you’ll have to be subscribing to their Web site and/or installing their app to get any of this information. Count on it.

If there actually is a 2016 issue come November ’15, I will recant with vigor.

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Plunging into it once more

About to come upon us, so to speak, is the annual presentation of the Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction award, for which ten nominees were perhaps too easy to find.

And as always, they’re all pretty dire, though this one recommends itself for being (1) consciously overpoetic and (2) not particularly explicit as these things go. From Ben Okri’s The Age of Magic:

She became aware of places in her that could only have been concealed there by a god with a sense of humour. Adrift on warm currents, no longer of this world, she became aware of him gliding into her. He loved her with gentleness and strength, stroking her neck, praising her face with his hands, till she was broken up and began a low rhythmic wail. She was a little overwhelmed with being the adored focus of such power, as he rose and fell. She felt certain now that there was a heaven and that it was here, in her body. The universe was in her and with each movement it unfolded to her.

The complete shortlist is here for your perusal: the winner will be selected on 3 December.

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Hearts strong as horses

It doesn’t happen very often, but now and then Car and Driver will put together a comparison test of the sort that boggles the mind. In the December issue, it’s a comparo between a horse-drawn carriage in New York’s Central Park and the electrified buggy that’s been proposed as its replacement. The new horseless contraption has a couple of advantages, including an 84-hp electric motor — the original carriage has, um, 1 horsepower — and comparatively easy rechargeability. The horse, meanwhile, gets a minimum of five weeks’ pasture time each year by city ordinance. But both vehicles have rigid axles and leaf springs underneath.

C/D, as usual, presented their test results — the carriage with an actual horse, an 11-year-old gelding, was 1.2 seconds faster from 0 to 3 mph — and their conclusion box. For the original horse-drawn carriage:

+ Quaint, quiet, semi-autonomous, pleasantly furry.

Occasional stubbornness, no emissions controls.

= Working horses built civilization. Here’s one of the last that still has a job.

In terms of experience, the old-fashioned buggy outpointed the new one, 51-36:

Having two brains at the controls allows the driver to interact with his customers, face to face; that’s impossible with the eCarriage. A horse just makes it a better tourist experience, even if you’re looking at the back end of it.

And speaking of horse’s asses:

In the long run … NYCLASS [New Yorkers for Clean, Livable and Safe Streets] will likely win this battle, if not because it’s able to get the horses banned, but because the land under the horses’ stables is so valuable that the stable owners won’t be able to resist selling.

Those stables are located just off the West Side Highway in Hell’s Kitchen, an area of Manhattan that has been rapidly gentrifying of late.

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Damn right they is

Screenshot from the Oklahoman: Personal info breaches is a concern, many say

From this morning’s Oklahoman, page 3C. I couldn’t find the story on NewsOK for some reason, but since it’s an AP wire story, it’s all over the place. Try here.

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Where it all goes (’14)

The property-tax bill has arrived, and the bank will cut them a check on the 30th out of my depleted escrow account. Fortunately, while the amount isn’t exactly trivial, it’s smaller than it was last year, the result of stagnant property values and an unexpected decrease in the actual tax rate. As always, the county treasurer has sent along a manifest showing what this sum is being used to fund, and last year’s numbers appear in [brackets]:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $120.39 [$126.58]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $462.53 [$478.05]
  • Metro Tech Center: $120.39 [$122.50]
  • Oklahoma County general: $90.78 [$94.52]
  • Countywide school levy: $32.26 [$32.77]
  • County Health Department: $20.18 [$20.50]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $40.52 [$41.16]
  • Total: $887.04 [$915.88]

This year’s millage is 113.84, down from last year’s 115.70. (Record millage: 117.58, 2011.)

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