Defending the dumbphone

In my new post-austerity budget, I could very likely afford one of those fancy plastic slabs with a more-than-minimal data plan, maybe, but it’s not happening. I hasten to note that this non-event is hardly specific to me. Consider the case of Elisson’s dad:

It was difficult enough to convince him to get a cellphone for emergencies. He and his wife would make the round-trip drive to Florida every year, and eventually they allowed that yes, it would be prudent to be able to get in touch with someone just in case THEIR CAR, GAWD FORBID, WERE TO BREAK DOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING OKEFENOKEE SWAMP. So there was that.

But a smartphone? You know, like all the Kool Kidz are carrying around these days?

No Frickin’ Way.

Motivation for my first cell phone: emergency comms, if needed, along World Tour ’01.

But I haven’t gotten much beyond that yet:

What was it that made smartphones and computers such objects of Fear and Loathing?

I mean, aside from the fact that they suck all the data out of your house and bank account and feed it into giant enterprises run by the government, the Russian Mafia, and Amazon?

And if you work for the feds, add “and Chinese hackers” to the list.

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Ground control

“My neighborhood,” says Quinn Cummings on Instagram, “virtually defies satire”:

Earthing poster in Los Angeles County

Electrons as antioxidants. I don’t remember that from sophomore chemistry. (I did remember that when stuff is oxidized, it loses electrons, but you can’t just shove electrons back at it.) Maybe these free radicals are freer — or more radical — than usual.

Now I wonder if tinfoil is used.

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The truth is even farther out there

What would you call an X-Files/My Little Pony crossover?

Yeah, I thought so.

(Via The Daily Dot.)

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Sub-mechanical Turks

So this pops into the spam bin:

çok yakında sizlerle olmayı umut ediyoruz

It’s not often I get spam in Turkish. The URL being hawked is some security company, and God knows we get lots of spam from security companies of late, speaking all manner of languages, some of which vaguely resemble English. And this Turkish phrase translates as “We hope to be with you very soon” — maybe; since that was the whole of the message, I have no idea what the context would be except for the obvious one, which is “Try our service.”

Note: I have never claimed to be actually fluent in Turkish; historically, I admit to knowing no more than how to count to ten, and how to ask “Where is the toilet?”

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Shining through

Even the deadest product is subject to reanimation at any time:

Note that Pepsi’s arch-rival did its own exhumation, however briefly:

Last year, Coke produced a small amount of its Surge soda exclusively for Amazon and the product sold out almost right away.

Had her budget permitted, Trini might have bought the entire shipment herself.

And you’ll notice Coca-Cola didn’t bother to revive Tab Clear, the official drink of bloggers.

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Earth-shattering news

Six Democrats and a single Republican hope to become mayor of Akron, Ohio. The office has been in turmoil of late — two mayors have resigned in the past two weeks — so it seems that this fellow would be the obvious choice:

Natural Hunka Kaboom, an activist who lives in North Hill, was the first Democratic candidate to officially file. He told WAKR radio that, through dreams, a spiritual body told him that he was going to be the next mayor.

A regular speaker at council meetings, Kaboom made national news a few years ago when he left his duct-tape wrapped walking stick on the third floor of the city’s municipal building with his name, Kaboom, written on the side. The building was evacuated and a bomb squad was called.

What? Oh, no. Like it says, he’s not the Republican.

(Via Nancy Friedman.)

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Haunted, dead or alive

The problem with sticking to a format:

I guess it’s important to know that Sir Christopher died in real time.

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Suddenly we love them

Neatorama had a piece on Largely Forgotten British Invasion acts, and while I recall them all, some of them have done more, in my humble opinion, to earn a space on my record shelf than others. Here’s a story of one such:

On January 1, 1962, Decca Records auditioned two similar bands: the Tremeloes and the Beatles. Decca signed the Tremeloes, mainly because they were from London (unlike the Liverpudlian Beatles), which would make it easier to book them for concerts and TV appearances, all of which taped in London. The band couldn’t gain much of a toehold and would forever be compared to the Beatles, in part because one of their first singles was a cover version of the Isley Brothers’ “Twist and Shout,” which the Beatles had covered a few months earlier.

On the other hand, “Twist and Shout” wasn’t scheduled as a single release, so the Trems got on the British charts first. Other covers followed, and eventually lead singer Brian Poole decided to go solo. The Trems switched from Decca to CBS and started scoring American hits, including this hyper-bouncy Cat Stevens cover:

This might have been the most upbeat song about depression ever recorded; there’s almost enough percussion here for Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich. (This is not quite the 45 version, which fades later and lacks the extended intro — but it’s the same length.)

“Here Comes My Baby” made it to #13 in Billboard. (None of the Brian Poole tracks made it beyond #97.) The next waxing, a cover of the 4 Seasons’ “Silence Is Golden,” just missed the Top Ten. The goofy “Even the Bad Times Are Good” crept into the Top 40, and that was it for 1967. There was one last gasp before oblivion set in, the first of three consecutive Riccardo Del Turco covers:

(Oh, and DDBM&T? They once worked a bullwhip into an arrangment.)

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Maybe they’ll give him a pen

Fiat Chrysler chair Sergio Marchionne is keen to find a merger partner, even if it’s General Motors:

The search, which is coming up blank thus far, is the latest in the CEO’s attempt to find a happy ending for his increasingly desperate romantic tragicomedy film, fearing excess production and duplicate costs in engineering, R&D et al threaten future profitability of the overall industry.

For now, though, FCA’s low profit margins do not make for a good partner with stronger players, while Marchionne’s dealings with GM leave much to be desired. In 2005, he convinced the Detroit automaker to pay $2 billion to not buy Fiat — in hospice care by then — a move which also dissolved a five-year-old partnership to produce engines and transmissions together.

If it’s worth $2 billion not to buy Fiat, what’s it worth not to buy Fiat and Chrysler as a unit?

More recently, Marchionne attempted to woo GM back with an email to CEO Mary Barra suggesting as much. The automaker is transitioning its lineup to global architectures and can build said lineup on a broader scale than FCA. GM is also undergoing an internal consolidation to further boost profits, a plan Barra and others in management won’t allow to be derailed by outside distractions like Marchionne holding up a boombox in front of the RenCen playing Peter Gabriel, hoping GM will say anything but no.

Sooner or later the accountants are going to come for Sergio and ask why he stayed so long with an operation that is clearly not a growth enterprise.

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March’s child is weak of heart

Or so this study would have you believe:

A new algorithm developed by scientists at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) supports previously reported associations between a person’s birth month and overall disease risk, including 16 new links that include nine types of heart disease. The study was published in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association.

Prior studies have suggested a relationship between individual diseases (such as asthma and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]) and birth season, but this is the first large-scale study to compare rates of 1,688 diseases and the birth dates and medical histories of 1.7 million patients treated at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/CUMC from 1985–2013. More than 1,600 associations were eliminated and 39 previously reported links were confirmed, along with 16 new associations that included nine types of heart disease; risk of atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, and mitrial valve disorder was highest in those born in March. Previously, a study on Austrian and Danish patient records found that those born in months with higher heart disease rates (March through June) had earlier mortality rates.

You don’t think conception in the summertime (June through September) might have had something to do with it, do you?

Asthma risk was greatest among those born in July and October babies; this is consistent with an earlier Danish study in which the peak risk was in the months when Denmark’s sunlight levels are similar to New York’s in the July and October period (May and August). Data on ADHD matched those from a Swedish study suggesting that one in 675 ADHD diagnoses are for those born in November.

And if November children were more susceptible to ADHD, wouldn’t you expect at least one, or more, in twelve diagnoses? (Hey, look, a squirrel!)

Just the sheer number of potential ailments is enough to give Bill Quick reason to question the results:

The first red flag is the number of diseases used in the study — 1,688. I suspect that some correlations are inevitable with that large a number, whether there is any actual causal connection at all.

There’s always the astrological connection, and we all know how well that works.

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Fees less simple

About five years ago, American Express, about the last people on earth you’d expect to do such a thing, introduced a refillable debit card with no monthly fee. I saw this as a reasonable way to stash away a few bucks, and got one.

More recently, Amex introduced a new card with just about all the bennies of a “real” Amex card, called Serve. Users of the old card have not migrated en masse to the new one, perhaps because it costs a buck a month, unless you load it via direct deposit or otherwise stash $500 in your account. (The $1 fee does not apply in three states.) So Amex stopped accepting applications for the old card last year. I decided I’d switch, but only when the time was right.

Well, the time is now right: Amex is imposing a $4.95 monthly fee on the old card, starting this fall. I’ve ordered the Serve, and I’ll report on anything weird that happens.

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Another rainfall record has fallen

And this one was pretty dramatic, maybe:

It didn’t take much rain to set a record in Phoenix.

The National Weather Service said Friday the 0.03 inch of rain recorded at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport by 4 p.m. was the largest amount for June 5.

This breaks the old record of, well, nothing:

Meteorologist Chris Kuhlman said that it had never officially rained in the desert city on this date.

“So far we had not anticipated that June would be a wet month, it almost never rains in the month of June in Phoenix,” Kuhlman said.

June average, says Wikipedia, is a feeble 0.02 inch. For the whole month. In July and August, it jumps to just over an inch per month, as monsoon season kicks in.

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Well, it wasn’t ME

If you’ve ever suspected that “infotainment” systems for your car were lagging a bit behind the stuff on your desktop or on your phone, your suspicions have just been justified:

This would be amusing if (1) Oldsmobile still existed and (2) they were still building Vista Cruiser wagons.

Now: is this a reflection of how the actual hardware works, or did this guy format that USB stick on a Vista machine back in the Pleistocene era?

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Somewhere between Bel Air and Fairlane

One day in the early 1990s, I was standing in a shopping-mall parking lot, failing to get Deirdre, my ’84 Mercury Cougar, started. As I glared at the vast underhood space only marginally filled by the crummy Ford Essex V6 of the era — “central fuel injection” (meaning they stuck a single injector in the same old carburetor-era intake) and a pathetic 120 hp — a couple of Chevrolet fans yelled a few mocking phrases at me. I shrugged and went back to persuading Deirdre to stir, which she eventually did.

So I’m at least somewhat sensitive to this issue:

As a child, I was told that it was impolite to mention religion or politics at the dinner table, because such discussions tended to elicit irreconcilable differences between guests who would otherwise be perfectly compatible. Many years later, as an itinerant observer of the Midwestern street racing scene, I learned that there was a dinner topic that combined the worst aspects of religiosity and partisanship in its prospective combatants, and that topic was known to all and sundry as “Ford vs. Chevy.” It’s the third rail of car-guy discourse, and you’ll touch it at your peril. People take this stuff seriously; the bowtie and the blue oval were common tattoos back in the days before every size-12 Millennial female womens-studies graduate and her bewildered, low-testosterone life partner routinely got full ink sleeves as a way to ensure that they were exactly as different as everyone else.

Did you ever notice that all those non-conformists look alike?

For what it’s worth, while I was married, we bought one car: a Chevrolet. Once we split up, she became an ardent Ford fan. (Drives a Five Hundred these days.) Me, I’m in some overwrought Nissan. And for the benefit of any Coke vs. Pepsi warriors: I have five liters (about 302 cubic inches) of Royal Crown Cola in the fridge.

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The usual gang of gearheads

Mad magazine has always poked fun at other periodicals, though issue #534 (August) contains, if I’ve counted correctly, the first — and second! — shots at Car and Driver.

Seriously. In the Fundalini Pages, up front, Jeff Kruse lists five phrases you’ll never see in a C/D review; five pages later, in a parody of the Showtime TV series Ray Donovan, Ray’s “difficult, premium-cable-channel wife” Crabby is reading a copy of Cah and Drivah (Bahsten Edition). (Which now makes me wonder how Beantown ever dealt with former C/D eminence Csaba Csere, who got his engineering degree from MIT.)

Still, I figure in a couple of months, there will be some C/D review which contains the phrase “It hugs the road like a deranged pervert who gets turned on by asphalt,” and there will be no explanation — in which case, I told you so.

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No future for you: priceless

WFMU headlined it this way, and I can’t possibly top that:

But why? The bank’s director of cards explains:

“In launching these cards, we wanted to celebrate Virgin’s heritage and difference. The Sex Pistols challenged convention and the established ways of thinking — just as we are doing today in our quest to shake up UK banking.”

Not too anarchist, one assumes: the cards carry an interest rate of 18.9 percent.

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