Quote of the week

Two members of Congress who, you might think, ought to know better — until you remember that they’re members of Congress and therefore don’t know anything, better or otherwise — have proposed Federal regulation of photo manipulation. James Lileks says they’re aiming at the wrong target:

This still doesn’t address the real problem, does it? Advertising is the problem. Advertising holds up images of some ideal we cannot achieve, and thus causes aspiration, which ends in misery. Who among us hasn’t watched TV for half an hour, studied the ads like the revelatory playlets they are, then left the house to eat fried chicken, enlist in the Marines, buy a $47,999 car, and ask our doctor whether Vilevria is right for us? It’s all I can do after seeing an Oil of Olay ad to keep from running up to my wife’s drawer of potions, slathering the stuff on my face, and shouting HURRY UP AND DEFY THE RAVAGES OF TIME at my reflection. Ads are not suggestions. These are marching orders beamed directly into our quivering id, and we’ve no defense against them.

So we need to change the entire advertising paradigm: Companies will be permitted to show a picture of the product, and a monotone voice will describe its attributes as determined by an impartial board empowered to strike out any language that suggests that the consumption of this taco has any nominal advantage over the consumption of any other taco. The company will be allowed to assert that the “Mucho Fiero Grande” sauce has a more substantial “kick” than the competitor, based on lab analysis of the capsaicin content measured in Scoville units.

If you have a poor self-image because you don’t compare favorably to what you see in print or on television, you’re wrong; yes, you should have a poor self-image, not because you don’t own this or you don’t look like that, but because you’re credulous enough to think those things matter.

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Yet another 53-minute special

Today Michael Heisley died. Heisley bought the Grizzlies in 2001, and owned them until 2012, when he retired from corporate life. Did this year’s Griz want to win one for their longtime owner? Sure they did. Maybe it was enough to push them, down 12 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, to a 22-9 run over eight minutes and change that erased the Thunder lead and put Memphis up for the first time since early in the second quarter. It was 80-75 Memphis when, once again, the Thunder, and this time I mean Reggie Jackson, put together enough of a run to tie it up with half a minute left: for fans of déjà vu, it was, yet again, overtime. With the Thunder up 88-87, Russell Westbrook missed a shot, retrieved it himself, and then had the ball taken away by Mike Conley; Conley burned up half the 30 seconds remaining, could not get the shot to fall, and Jackson snagged the rebound. Courtney Lee duly fouled Jackson, Jackson sank both free throws to make it 90-87, Conley went for the easy two and got it, Mike Miller duly fouled Jackson, Jackson sank both free throws to make it 92-89, and a Conley trey attempt at the horn fell short. It’s now two games each, with two, maybe three, to go.

Oh: “Jackson.” Say that several times. The sixth man clearly was primus inter pares tonight, scoring a career-high 32 points on 11-16 shooting and 8-8 from the line. Which was a good thing, since neither Westbrook nor Kevin Durant was having a good night, each with 15 points after ghastly marksmanship (KD 5-21, Westbrook 6-24). Durant did collect 13 rebounds, one fewer than Serge Ibaka, whose 14 boards and five blocks might seem to overshadow his 12 points. And while Derek Fisher’s shooting was off, he did hit a personal milestone: 244 career playoff games, tied with Robert Horry on the all-time list.

Three double-doubles among the Griz: Marc Gasol had a team-high 23 points and 11 rebounds, Conley finished with 14 points and 10 assists, and perennial pest Tony Allen came off the bench for 14 points and 13 boards. If Memphis did a good job of keeping Durant out of the lane, and they did, the Thunder shut down Zach Randolph pretty well, holding him to 11 points on 5-14. And if the Griz need something to lament, it’s this: 13-23 from the foul line. (Z-Bo accounted for four of those ten bricks.) For fans of plus/minus, no one was plus-er than Beno Udrih, +9 for the 19 minutes he played.

Game 5 will be in Oklahoma City Tuesday; there will now be a Game 6 in Memphis. And oh, just incidentally: when Michael Heisley bought the Grizzlies, they were in Vancouver; at his initial press conference, he vowed to keep them there, which he did — for the rest of that season, anyway. I’ve seen that routine before, too.

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Not really turning away

Rihanna on the cover of Vogue Brasil May 2014Barbadian singer Rihanna — I mention her origins mostly out of delight at having discovered that there’s a proper demonym for folks from Barbados — is on the cover of Vogue’s Brazilian edition for May. This was perhaps inevitable, given her international sex-symbol status and her tendency to mix up her wardrobe: slightly squarish country singer Miranda Lambert has said that she’s a great admirer of Rihanna’s style, though she adds that “I don’t necessarily get inspired by the whole no-bra thing.”

I don’t really blame Miranda for that. And besides, this is about as whole a no-bra thing as you can get:

Rihanna in Vogue Brasil May 2014 wearing damn near nothing

Rihanna’s 2012 album was titled Unapologetic. She apparently wasn’t kidding.

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The crack of noon

Were I independently wealthy and generally unencumbered, I’d have no problem getting out of bed that late. Unfortunately, I am neither of those things.

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The Misfits will not be pleased

Perhaps you could call it synergy:

Last month, no one thought a Jem and the Holograms movie was possible. This month, it’s already filming and the cast has now been revealed.

Aubrey Peeples, best known for a role on TV’s Nashville, will play Jem. Disney star Stefanie Scott is Jem’s sister Kimber, Aurora Perrineau (Pretty Little Liars) is Shana and Hayley Kiyoko (Lemonade Mouth) is Aja.

Jon M. Chu is directing from a script by Ryan Landels.

Outrageousness is expected to be total.

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Run-flatulent tires extra

The three-wheeler from Elio Motors, due next spring, has some interesting specifications:

Its first vehicle in development is a three-wheeled model (two wheels in front, one in back) with a planned fuel efficiency of 84 mpg (US) (2.8 L/100 km) on the highway and to retail for US$6,800. Standard features would include air conditioning, power windows, and stereo. It would seat two (one in front, one in back) with 3 airbags and a reinforced roll cage. Company executives predict that it will receive a 5-star safety rating. Although it will be fully enclosed like a standard automobile, its three-wheel design falls under US government classifications as a motorcycle. The design features three-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, an inline 3-cylinder, 60 horsepower (45 kW) engine, and front-wheel drive, with a top speed of over 100 mph (160 km/h), accelerating from 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) in about 9.6 seconds.

And it’s more environmentally friendly than cow farts:

One cow produces 242 lbs of methane a year through burps and flatulence. Methane traps 20 times more heat than CO2 over a 100-year period. (SOURCE: Get Green Living) In a year, the average cow will emit 4,840 lbs of CO2 equivalent greenhouses gases. Elio Motors vehicle, driven 20,000 miles, will only emit only 4,500 lbs of CO2.

Hell of a selling point, am I right?

Elio will be building this contraption at the old GM Shreveport Assembly plant, former home of the Chevrolet Colorado and the Hummer H3.

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Easily impressed

Lynn tuned into one of those ubiquitous Nature Shows — this one about Alaskan wildlife — and was perplexed by a statement of presumed certified meteorology:

At one point, talking about the approach of winter, the narrator said, in the usual This Is Seriously Dramatic voice, “The temperature can drop as much as 15 degrees in just a few weeks.” And yes, I’m sure we heard him right. He enunciated very well. He said 15, not 50. We were too stunned to laugh. Fifteen degrees in a few weeks? We do more than that in just one day. In fact, I’ve seen the temp drop 15 degrees in less than an hour. Perhaps he meant the high temperature or the low, or the average. If so he should have said that but still, even if that’s what he meant we can still top it here in Oklahoma. Take yesterday and today, for example. Yesterday’s high was somewhere around 70°F. This morning at 6:30 it was only 40°F. Today’s high is supposed to be 80°. I have no doubt it will get there. How about that Mr. Serious Drama Narrator?

Maybe he was on loan from Canada and was quoting Celsius, in which case we’re talking 27 degrees as we know them.

Then again, caribou probably don’t look at thermometers, so maybe the guy is referring to the overall average, and 15 degrees is a pretty fair drop. Over September, October and November in Oklahoma City, the average drops 34 degrees: about 11 each month, before things start to settle down (and “down” is the key word) in December and January.

And of course, there’s that infamous daily record, set 11 November 1911, with a high of 83 and a low of 17. (It dropped to 14 before sunrise on the 12th.) A sixty-nine-degree drop in 24 hours should impress even Serious Drama Narrators.

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Also, don’t call them “AP”

The Associated Press has announced a running change to its stylebook: beginning the first of May, state names will not be abbreviated in story text, though abbreviations, which may or may not look like Postal Service abbreviations, will still be used in datelines and photo captions.

Prof KRG thinks this is purely arbitrary:

One thing the change certainly will do is make our copy longer. The full name of a state will take more space than the abbreviation, but apparently that is no longer a concern the way it was back in the wire days.

I’m really starting to think the AP is just trying to keep my editing skills sharp by changing their rules on a whim.

Or they stumbled across a software patent for search and replace.

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Suits her

Suzette finds a smidgen of redeeming social value in the inevitable Clinton presidency:

I can think of a blazing bright side right off: I am almost positive that we’ll never see her exposing her 70something bare legs.

The key word, though, is “almost”:

She is a Democrat after all and their prime directive does seem to be the degradation of standards wherever possible.

The YouTube channel known as ShePolitico has a couple of dozen videos (if “videos” describes a series of still photos with occasional zoom) of women in politics, concentrating on their legs (is anyone surprised at this?), and yes, they have a 90-second overview of the Hillarygams, though I must note that, atypically for ShePolitico, there are no drooling close-ups.

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The crapetition

About three years ago, I did a piece on a new-ish Canadian breakfast cereal with the unlikely name of Holy Crap. At the time, I figured the stuff to be more or less sui generis: surely no one else would try to evoke this same, um, organicness.

Into the face of this obviously erroneous conclusion comes a Cranberry Apple Granola called — what else? — Crapola! And it’s actually an older product:

By June of 2007, we were living the country life on our very own off-grid homestead in northern Minnesota. That’s when a silly conversation turned into inspiration for our granola business. One day I said something like “wouldn’t it be funny if we made cranberry apple granola and called it Crapola?” I say lots of things like that, but for some reason this idea actually became a reality. Next thing I knew, a business was born.

Be careful what you say in front of your wife. It could change your life forever.

Oh, yeah, blame the woman.

Nancy Friedman, who knows names, wonders if even two is the limit:

Now that there are two competing “crap” names in the cereal aisle, I suppose it’s only a matter of time before “crap” becomes a generic term. Just imagine: Crap Flakes. Crappy Bran. Craptain Crunch.

I’m holding out for Honey Bunches of Crap.

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Breaking the tongues of ten thousand talkers

This was probably not his 116th dream, but I daresay he’s not unhappy about it either:

Prosecutors in France have dropped charges brought against Bob Dylan by a Croatian community association, for violating anti-discrimination laws in comments he made in a 2012 Rolling Stone cover story.

What Dylan said:

“This country [the US] is just too fucked up about color. It’s a distraction. People at each other’s throats just because they are of a different color. It’s the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back — or any neighborhood back. Or any anything back. Blacks know that some whites didn’t want to give up slavery — that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can’t pretend they don’t know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.”

I suspect the Croats’ butthurt was motivated more by the fact that Dylan didn’t say anything sufficiently untoward about the Serbs.

However, no “hate crime” charge can ever be truly put aside, so:

Instead, the magistrate ruled in favour of indicting Rolling Stone‘s French edition for printing the allegedly racist remarks in the first place.

As Dylan didn’t say, you gotta sue somebody.

(Via Tongue Tied 3.)

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The handle turns further

With 7:43 left in the game, the Thunder were down 17 and apparently dispirited: the bench had been thoroughly outplayed, and nobody really expected much from the starters at this point. Then those starters produced a 10-0 run over three minutes, and suddenly it was a game again, kinda sorta. Within the two-minute mark, the Grizzlies hadn’t scored again, and the Thunder were down only three; within the one-minute mark, it was tied at 81. Tony Allen then knocked down two shots to give Memphis a four-point lead; Russell Westbrook then nailed a trey and drew a foul from Allen, hit the freebie, and it was tied at 85 with :26 left. Mike Conley spent 24 of those seconds looking for a shot, took one, and missed it; Kevin Durant tossed up a brick at the horn, and once again, we had overtime. With Memphis up four with one second left, Westbrook heaved a Hail Mary from beyond center court; somehow Allen fouled him again, and two of three missed free throws later, the last of them presumably deliberate, the Griz pocketed the Game 3 win, 98-95, and went up 2-1 in the series. (Oklahoma City is now 0-3 against Memphis in Game 3s.)

And here’s your Telltale Statistic: the Thunder shot 49 percent from inside the arc — 29-59 — but hit only five of 28 three-point attempts. Both Durant and Westbrook knocked down 30 points, but KD was 10-27 and missed all eight of his treys, and Russell was a comparably bad 9-26, though he did retrieve a game-high 13 rebounds. Did I mention the bench was outplayed? The reserves contributed a total of nine points, or ¾ Beno Udrih. (Allen had 16 to lead all reserves.) The Thunder also managed to miss eight free throws, though they did outrebound the Griz by one.

Five in a row in overtime for Conley, who led the Grizzlies with 20; Zach Randolph had a fairly lousy night shooting (5-20, 16 points) but did collect ten boards. Marc Gasol added fourteen from the middle. The Griz blocked only one shot all night — Kosta Koufos gets credit for that — but arguably, they didn’t need any more than that.

The series continues in Memphis on Saturday night.

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As close to forever as it gets

Jack Handey once explained how it is that swans so often stay with a single mate:

I don’t think it’s that big a deal. First of all, if you’re a swan, you’re probably not going to find a swan that looks much better than the one you’ve got, so why not mate for life?

And roughly 95 percent of them do. But there’s one species that makes swans look comparatively slutty:

In his new book, The Thing with Feathers, Noah Strycker says albatrosses have a knack for coupling. “These globe trotters, who mate for life and are incredibly faithful to their partners, just might have the most intense love affairs of any animal on our planet,” he writes.

The courtship, you may be sure, is methodical and time-consuming:

For a long while they will dance with several partners, but gradually — it can take years to pick the right partner — they will find a particular favorite. Together those two continue to refine their steps, until, having “spent so much time dancing with that specific bird … that pair’s sequence of moves is as unique as a lover’s fingerprint.”

Now they are ready to mate.

It has taken 15 years to decide on a partner, but having decided, albatrosses don’t switch. “It will generally stick faithfully with its mate until one of them dies, which might not be for another fifty years.”

And here’s the part that should embarrass those of us who claim to be higher up on the food chain:

[T]hey don’t see each other that often. When at sea, couples don’t hang together. It’s too easy to get separated. “So even the most committed partners habitually spend months at a time alone, without knowing what their mates are up to.”

They don’t build nests every year. Often, they’ll wait for two. But when the urge is on them, somehow they both manage to return to the nesting site at roughly the same time “almost as if the date were prearranged” and they settle in.

Wholly admirable, especially in view of the fact that you don’t get wafers with them.

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5WTF30

Tam’s wheels (eight of them, anyway) are in the shop, and while she’s tooling around Naptown in a perfectly reasonable, if unexciting, rented econobox, she’s telling this tale:

Last oil change rolled around and I pulled up to the Jiffy Lube (yes, I know how to change it myself, but it’s worth it to me to not have to lie down on gravel) and the whole staff of strapping young men had to stand around while they went to find the only person in the store who could operate a manual transmission, a leathery middle-aged country gal. You would be drummed out of the Subtle Fiction Writer’s Guild for including that scene in a book.

Now I’m wondering. Infiniti has had, since 2003 anyway, exactly one model with a stick shift; I’d be surprised if the local dealership sold more than a single truckload in any given year. What are the chances that any of their service personnel can drive a manual? (I’m betting that the one female on staff can, and probably none of the others.)

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For whom the tolls accumulate

And boy, did they:

[O]ne taxi driver … for nearly two years sneaked through toll plazas by “piggybacking” on the driver in front of him and pocketing payments totaling more than $28,000.

Queens prosecutors on Thursday charged the driver, Rodolfo Sanchez, 69, with grand larceny, theft of service and criminal possession of stolen property for a scheme that began in August 2012 and ended Wednesday at 3:40 p.m.

Keep in mind that they never actually caught Mr Sanchez rushing to get out of the lane before the barrier dropped:

Rather, investigators for the authority noticed that someone using an E-ZPass with no money on it got through at no cost — over and over. Using the tracking data on the E-ZPass, which prosecutors said was reported lost in 2011, the investigators found that it passed over the bridge 1,061 times and through the tunnel a total of 3,071 times.

Toll plaza video connected the E-ZPass, which still emitted a signal, to different cabs that piggybacked through the gates.

After which, it was a simple matter to go through cab-company records. NYC taxi drivers, apparently, are required by law to carry E-ZPass.

(Via Autoblog.)

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A line explained

Longtime readers will recall my brief infatuation with Copernic Desktop Search, which turned into sullen tolerance after version 3 mutated into adware, and slow adware at that. I’d gone back to version 2, which required me to keep it from phoning home for updates via a Registry hack, but it wasn’t about to follow me to Windows 7, so I went looking for a better tool, mostly for work.

What I got was Agent Ransack from Mythicsoft, which is billed as a free “lite” version of FileLocatorPro, an application so old as to have an actual endorsement from John C. Dvorak. It filled the bill admirably, once I got the hang of it. After thirty days, Mythicsoft asked me if I’d like to upgrade my license to Supporter, which probably didn’t buy me any extra functionality, but hey, it’s being used at work, I probably should pay for the darn thing, especially since they were asking only ten bucks.

That was the 9th. Came this notification yesterday:

This notification is just a friendly reminder (not a bill or a second charge) that on Apr 9, 2014, you placed an order from Mythicsoft Store. The charge will appear on your bill as “FS *mythicsoft”. This is just a reminder to help you recognize the charge.

I suppose people have trouble remembering stuff like that — or they charge up so much stuff that they lose track. I am neither. Still:

Our customers have found this notice useful in confirming otherwise unknown credit card charges, as “FS *mythicsoft” may not be easily recognizable on your bill.

Whether this was Mythicsoft’s idea, or FastSpring’s — FS, I’m assuming, is their digital-goods distributor — it was probably a good one.

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