Friday’s child

I note in passing that Rebecca Black is sweet sixteen today, and is, as of the last time I looked, the youngest person listed by Wikipedia as having been born on the 21st of June, which, in 1997, was not at all a Wednesday. (Obligatory fanboy reference: They list her as “singer, dancer, actress.”)

And there’s this:

Other noteworthy summer debuts: Jane Russell (1921), Mariette Hartley (1940), Berke Breathed (1957), and Edward Snowden (1983).

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Quote of the week

A picture, we are told, is worth a thousand words. This one might exceed the quota:

This is the one thing Amazon can’t do. (Or can they?)

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The urge to concierge

Each issue of The Atlantic ends with a Big Question of varying import, posed to several individuals presumably known to subscribers. The answers are usually predictable — the only thing I really need to hear from Bill McKibben, for instance, is the answer to “What’s your thermostat setting?” — but sometimes inscrutable. An example of the latter, from Sandra Tsing Loh, in the current (July/August) issue, in which the question is “How and when will the world end?”

The world — or at least my sense of an outside world — will end next year, when Barbara Walters finally goes off the air. I’m just old and cranky enough to not want to deal with any of it anymore when the great diva is no longer around to soothingly concierge my news, or newslike substances.

Being older and crankier than Loh, I’ll happily concede the utility of “newslike substances,” but “concierge” as a verb? Merriam-Webster, at least, is not on board with this particular weirding of the language — yet. (Note that I did not complain that Loh split an infinitive.)

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Ziplessly

The ZIP code in which I live covers an area of 7.7 square miles; more than 20,000 people live here. The Shell station where I usually go requests the five-digit code as a security measure, presumably on the off-chance that I might be carrying a stolen credit card.

Or maybe there’s something else motivating them:

In one of their brochures, direct marketing services company Harte-Hanks describes the GeoCapture service they offer retail businesses as follows: “Users simply capture name from the credit card swipe and request a customer’s ZIP code during the transaction. GeoCapture matches the collected information to a comprehensive consumer database to return an address.” In a promotional brochure [pdf], they claim accuracy rates as high as 100%.

Harte-Hanks used to be in, um, other businesses: they owned several newspapers, the biggest of which was the San Antonio Express-News, which they eventually sold to Rupert Murdoch. (Hearst, which owned the rival Light, subsequently executed the same maneuver they did in San Francisco; they bought the bigger paper and disposed of the old one.) H-H also owned a handful of broadcast stations. No more: about two decades ago, they decided that marketing was the future, and sold off all that Old Media stuff.

There are at least half a dozen guys in town with the same name. How many of them live in this same ZIP code? Right. Maybe I should start buying my gas somewhere else. (Think of it as speaking truth to V-Power.)

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Grid lark

I refuse to take this measure seriously:

Amid growing fears of a massive electromagnetic pulse hit from either a solar flare or a terrorist nuclear bomb, House Republicans … unveiled a plan to save the nation’s electric grid from an attack that could mean lights out for 300 million Americans.

The reason is right there in the title:

Dubbed the Secure High-voltage Infrastructure for Electricity from Lethal Damage Act, the legislation would push the federal government to install grid-saving devices such as surge protectors to protect against an attack.

SHIELD Act? What would Nick Fury say?

Has there ever been a worthwhile law with a cutesy acronym?

(Via Bill Quick, who expects that nothing good will come of it.)

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Pre-remaindered

Anybody, with the possible exception of yours truly, can write a book, or so it seems; we keep hearing these wondrous tales of prodigious success by authors who’ve never been mentioned in The New York Times.

But I remember my bell curves, and for every book that sells gazillions, there are probably several more like this one, which, says the author, has sold zero copies in two years.

This situation also prevails on the musical side: for example, in 2007 there were 13 million downloadable music tracks, and 10 million of them didn’t sell so much as a single copy.

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When it blows

I have generally been a backer of wind power, mostly because I live in a place where there’s a hell of a lot of wind. Not that the 300-mph stuff in an EF5 tornado is of much use, exactly, but average winds in this part of the world are comfortably, or sometimes, yes, uncomfortably, in excess of the minimum required to turn one, or several, of those massive turbines.

Which is not to say that this is the case everywhere:

If there is a God, then He can surely be seen in Devon’s rolling patchwork of fields and flowering hedgerows. It’s a landscape that stirs a pride of country as great as that evoked by our cultural and scientific achievements. As my grandfather would have said, it’s the view that won us the war.

While I admired this magnificent scenery, at no point did I think that it would benefit from the addition of a few 300-foot wind turbines. Yet, there are people living among us who would disagree; people who would like to carpet our countryside with these monstrosities; people who even claim to find them beautiful — a sentiment I find as credible as a Soviet peasant admiring the Tiger tank that had just squashed his grandmother.

Even I am not so easily deluded.

But, as always, there’s subtext, and even sub-subtext:

Wind turbines serve an additional purpose for the Left, similar to that performed by the tower blocks Ceauşescu built in the middle of farmland, or the factories found on the horizon of Soviet rural scenes: they are statements of power. These steel sentinels remind country-dwellers that they are within the gravitational pull of the capital’s dark star, and that if they believe they are free to reject the beliefs of the metropolitan elite, they can think again.

The countryside has long been an object of suspicion for liberal townies, who consider it a viper’s nest of erroneous thought, inhabited by toffs, retired colonels, golf-playing Rotarians and other conservative bogeymen. The propensity of country folk to choose their own values, to observe age-old traditions and to rely on each other to get by puts them in conflict with everything the Left stands for. In the liberal worldview, you’re either one of them, one of their flock, or an enemy of the people whose way of life must be destroyed.

Then again, there aren’t enough dyed-in-the-scratchiest-possible-wool leftists around here to be much of a factor: wind power exists in this neck of the woods because it stands a chance of turning a buck even when the government subsidy, as it eventually must be, is killed off. And besides, I know all about the visual impact of those big nasty Cuisinarts in the sky.

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Perhaps once is not enough

This goes without saying:

Just the same, it was said.

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Unhashed but tagged

“Now Just $1 a day for a 25k Life-Policy,” said the subject line.

Then followed this inexplicable barrel of blather:

I’ll always remember the night you swept me off e654339265b51 fc872b75502d5945d95 my feet. You didn’t have to flaunt what you’ve got by being surrounded by limos and flashing lights, nor did you have to whisper sweet nothings in my ear and make false promises of how great you are, like other restaurants. No, instead you were just you, the definition of New York City sophistication — sleek, refined, and confident. The second I walked inside, I knew I was in love with you. Your spacious, chic atmosphere made me feel elegant (in no way out of place in my fancy black dress) yet comfortable at the same time. And, as soon as our waitress opened with “I think [same damned 32-digit number] champagne is the best way to start almost any occasion — a dinner, a night out, breakfast,” I knew I was in for a great night. Actually, I offered up the breakfast comment, but she laughed and agreed, which made me feel more relaxed than that first glass of [sd32n] champagne. I could go on and on like [sd32n] Shakespeare and count the ways I love you, but really when it comes down to it, there is one thing that absolutely stole my heart — the food. It is rare that I can say this, but every single one of the 8 dishes of the CHEFS TASTING MENU blew me out of the water, not only in terms of presentation, which was the finest presentation I’ve ever laid eyes on, but also in your choice [sd32n] and quality of ingredients (managing to keep things somewhat seasonal, yet metropolitan at the same time), the combination of flavors, and finally, your execution. Of note, the FOIE GRAS with bing [sd32n] cherry chutney, almond, purslane, and celery was smooth, creamy, and rich enough to leave me satisfied with my portion without wanting more. The RED KING SALMON with citrus cured sorrel, olive oil confit with smoked caviar and a Meyer lemon coulis was deliciously light and refreshing. The BABY SQUID made me feel good about eating infants, as it was perfectly cooked [sd32n] and paired with Mediterranean ingredients which complimented the chewy texture of the squid. Finally, and most importantly, the LIBERTY FARMS DUCK BREAST was the best duck I’ve ever tasted — perfectly crisped skin, tender, moist, with a roasted plum to bring out its natural sweetness and a [sd32n] rich reduction that didn’t overshadow the rest of the plate. Daniel, to put it simply, you [sd32n] had me at “hello.” No really, you did, literally, as I actually got the opportunity to say “hello” to Daniel Boulud himself and have a lively 15 minute conversation (in French!) with the celebrity chef after most of the other diners had cleared the restaurant. It was at that moment, at the end of the night, when I knew this had been one of the best dining experiences of my life, rivaled only by the French Laundry. Daniel, how can I ever forget you? My only hope is that I have the opportunity to see you again next year. Until then, you’ll [sd32n] be in my thoughts.

Quite apart from the fact that I never, ever get email that contains the phrase “I love you” and presumably never will, I can’t fathom what that ridiculous 32-digit number is for; I suppose it’s a hash of some sort, but what’s the point of sending me a hash?

And weirder yet, following that block of text is a block starting with <style> and consisting of several hundred presumed tags, but tags that don’t exist in HTML: among them are <Trieste>, <Woonsocket> and <Nerf>. Perhaps they work in NSA’s custom browser.

Daniel Boulud, however, is a real celebrity chef. He would not have been amused by my chicken-strip salad dinner last night.

Disclosure: This is not exactly the 32-digit number that was sent. No sense giving them — whoever “they” are — the idea that they accomplished something.

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From a small room

Last night we checked in with Celine, the Shoe Girl, and she was quite enthusiastic about her new Prada wedges: “Love the shit outta them,” she said.

She apparently wasn’t kidding:

Prada wedge

I won’t even ask who took this shot.

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A life of danger

Dave Schuler has a nice little remembrance of Johnny Rivers, now 70, whom he elevates to the Pantheon:

For my money Rivers is one of the greatest of all rock performers and one of the finest of all rock guitarists, right up there with Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton. Few people today seem to know his name. That’s ironic because so many of them are familiar with his music. Frequently, when they think of a Chuck Berry tune, they’re actually thinking of Johnny Rivers’s rendition of it.

Especially if it’s “Maybellene” or “Memphis,” both of which were big hits for Rivers.

I’ve always wondered if it was Rivers or Chuck Day who did that blistering solo on “Secret Agent Man”; I tend to lean toward Day, who apparently conjured up the riff, but either way, it was a fabulous record, and an obvious inspiration for this celebrated TV theme:

Obligatory pony content: Tara Strong, the voice of Raven on Teen Titans, is the speaking (but not singing) voice of Twilight Sparkle on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

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Meanwhile in the Oranges

Well, one of them, anyway: West Orange, New Jersey, where Jake Freivald runs the obscure local (but not social) site westorange.info, the presence of which apparently so disturbed township attorney Richard Trenk that he dispatched a nastygram to Freivald demanding that the site be closed and the domain surrendered.

Counsel for Freivald responded in a possibly appropriate manner:

I am pro bono counsel to Jake Freivald and write in response to your “cease and desist letter,” dated May 13, 2013, regarding his domain westorange.info. Obviously it was sent in jest, and the world can certainly use more legal satire. Bravo, Mr. Trenk!

Not that we didn’t get the joke … but since Mr. Freivald had not previously encountered a humorous lawyer, he actually thought your letter may have been a serious effort by the Township to protect its legitimate interests. Rest assured, I’ve at least convinced him that it was certainly not some impulsive, ham-fisted attempt to bully a local resident solely because of his well-known political views. After all, as lawyers you and I both know that would be flagrantly unconstitutional and would also, in the words of my 4-year old, make you a big meanie.

After which, it escalates. Mr. Trenk, we may assume, has now been properly initiated into the Streisand Effect.

(Via Fark.)

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Declaration of dependence

What were once curiosities are now necessities. Five years ago, getting email from your car via OnStar was something odd — bloggable, even. Today:

So when OnStar trial runs out on 2013 Chevy & car stops emailing me, how do I tell when to change the oil?

One is tempted to invoke RTFM, but I fear that somebody like this won’t be aware that TFM even exists.

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Formula for success

A fellow on Reddit named AugusttRush turned this up, and after verifying things with his old high-school chemistry textbook, pronounced it good.

Jessica Lee yearbook picture from Garfield High, wherever the hell that is

The Notorious B.I.G. would certainly have approved.

(Via HuffPo.)

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You call this social?

The social media evidently have it in for Rob O’Hara:

When I post new posts on robohara.com, notifications get posted to Facebook (via the FacePress plugin) and Twitter (via WordTwit). When I need to update both Facebook and Twitter at the same time, I’ve been using TweetDeck.

Over the past week FacePress, WordTwit, and TweetDeck have all stopped working. Cheese and rice, man.

It started with TweetDeck, which forced an upgrade and then informed users that the new version no longer supports Facebook. Essentially that means that TweetDeck now only supports Twitter. That’s stupid. If it only supports Twitter, then why would I use TweetDeck? The entire point of TweetDeck was that I could funnel multiple social streams into one single interface. If TweetDeck only supports Twitter, then I’m not sure what purpose it serves. From now on I’ll just go back to using Twitter’s default interface. TweetDeck has been deleted.

The reason TweetDeck did this, of course, is because Twitter bought it and didn’t want to expend any development time supporting someone else’s API, especially Facebook’s. (Early versions of TweetDeck even supported MySpace, fercryingoutloud.)

While troubleshooting TweetDeck, I noticed that my last couple of blog posts didn’t get posted on either Facebook or Twitter. Apparently, over the past week both sites updated their APIs, causing older plugins (like the ones I was running) to stop working. Facebook said, “update your plugin”. I checked the FacePress website and was informed that the plugin hadn’t been updated in three years. Greeeeeeeat. After an hour on Google I found that Jetpack for Facebook offers the same functionality — I just didn’t know it because I’ve been running an older version of Jetpack. After upgrading it, I was able to link robohara.com with Facebook once again.

Now this is out of my wheelhouse, since I’ve worked diligently to keep this site and Facebook as far apart as possible, but allow me to put in a few kind words for Jetpack, which I use on all my sites except this one: it does a whole lot without making you jump through (too many) hoops.

I had to do the same thing with Twitter. WordTwit had to be upgraded and new security keys had to be generated. After going all of that, I realized that Jetpack handles Twitter connections as well as Facebook connections, so after doing all the work to get WordTwit to work again I uninstalled it and added Twitter to Jetpack as well. Sheesh.

I used WordTwit for a while, but ultimately switched to WP to Twitter, mostly because it was better about serving up error messages. And in fact, most of the errors I encounter are due to slipping time stamps — server time here never exactly matches Twitter’s server time — or a failure to rouse the gnomes at bit.ly, rather than anything related to the plugin itself.

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Vertical shear

You know, if I were plummeting ten thousand feet to Certain Death, I might think of stuff like this too: “Five minutes of hanging in midair wondering if perhaps I’m in the middle of reversing my vasectomy through blunt trauma.”

Of course, down here on the ground, what I’m really thinking is “Does that actually work?

I mean, not that I need this procedure done or anything. (Though I’m sure it’s cheaper to jump out of a plane than it is to have a urologist retie the strands.)

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