Negative thrust

James Lileks, who’s had to take a lot of trips in those horrid aluminum tubes of death, probably won’t be won over by incidents like this:

Speaking of Frontier: worst website in the history of aviation, and that includes YTMND sites that show the Hindenburg exploding. Once you’ve checked in, a pop-up window offers you seats with more legroom. I declined. Next page loads: you have no assigned seats. You can get one at the airport or restart the check-in process. What a load of steaming codswaddle. Who designs a website that requires people to restart the entire process to perform the basic function of the purpose of using the website?

I mean, does upper management of the airline use the site? Of course not. Their staff does it for them. And if it’s hard for staff, well, they’re staff, and that’s why they’re there. If some conscientious member of Staff tells the boss that the website is ugly, old, and barely functional — just like some bosses, come to think of it — then perhaps the boss makes a note to bring it up in a meeting, whereupon someone will be tasked to form an exploratory committee, which will bring in all the stakeholders, and move forwards the end goal of arranging a mission statement, after which they can start to look for vendors to build the website. By then people are ordering mobile molecular-transmission units from Uber via a patch they wear on the underside of their earlobe.

Then again, it’s not just the online experience:

It’s an awful airline. They don’t nickle-and-dime you, though, I’ll grant them that. They twenty-and-fifty you.

They can get you to Oklahoma City, though, if you don’t mind a side trip down the Kessel Run.

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It needs to be 20% thirstier

Lisa has a Prius named Rainbow Dash, and it was perfectly fine until she moved out of Ponyville:

Whereas the Prius used to be perfectly fine for the usually slow traffic on Highway 101 then sleepy Route 37 up to Sonoma, now I’m doing the two hour plus drive up north on what must be the scariest freeway in Northern California. I start out on a quick spur of the 880 which local cops call Blood Alley because of all the accidents. Then I switch to the 680 where I seem to have a life-flashing-before-my-eyes event on every run. The problem is the huge number of trucks and tractor trailers on this road. Which means I, in my little fiberglass sardine can, am sharing road space with massive eight tired rigs at least ten times my size. In the Prius’s defense, let me say that it has fabulous visibility with a large windshield, super large (for its size) rear view mirrors and almost a 180 degree view to the rear through a large rear hatchback window and side windows. Let me tell you, you need that visibility. Because NOBODY can see a Prius. Even Subaru station wagons can’t see the Prius. So if you can’t get out of harm’s way, no one else is going to prevent that accident. And how bad would that accident be? Well, judging from the damage done at low speeds on my recent roadtrip, I don’t even want to contemplate what that car would look like after a 65-70 MPH impact. Although I’m all about the great gas mileage, I’m starting to wonder how much that will matter to me after I’m splattered on a concrete shoulder by a merging big rig.

The problem, of course, is that something taller and easier to see is likely to drink a whole lot more go-juice than a Prius:

I’ve spent more than a decade in Priusland. I’m nearly fainting at the gas mileage that the average car gets. Are you people really driving around thinking 30 or 35 MPG is good gas mileage?

In eight years and change, Gwendolyn has only twice returned as much as 30 mpg, and both times they were back East, where 93-octane fuel is more common than it is here in the Quarter-Mile-High City. Then again, she’s a solid highway cruiser, if not particularly tall, and her Blinding White paint may or may not enhance her visibility. (Rarity? But of course, darling.)

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From the “It could be worse” files

Vinny, via Tatyana, speculates on the impact of Ebola on the country in general and on New York City in particular:

Ebola outbreak creates havoc in our major cities, doctors and nurses flee for safety, and local population ends up tending for itself. This is what is now happening in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. Economic impact will be more substantial than the number of people actually sick with Ebola, and it will be a nightmare living in a major metropolitan area. Food supplies will run short and you can forget about going to the emergency room in case you break something, develop an asthma attack, or even have chest pains. If what you have is less likely to kill you than visiting an emergency room teeming with Ebola victims, then you best stay home. I think about 1000 victims in NYC will create such a scene. If you consider that the virus doubles its victims every 3 weeks and that we are now bringing about one new carrier each week to the U.S. (about ½ will go to NY JFK and Newark airports), we are anywhere from 30 to 12 weeks from such a hellish possibility if the virus continues to invade the human population at its current rate. Still this scenario remains limited to causing most of its damage in 2014 and 2015, with life returning to normal afterwards.

Ranking “best case” to “worst case” one to six, this is number three.

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You can’t get much more inauspicious

A few days back, I quoted both Bill Quick and @SwiftOnSecurity on the future of CurrentC, billed as a rival to ApplePay. Neither was what you’d call favorably impressed. But CurrentC has now taken the first step towards becoming a Real Payments Company. They’ve been hacked:

CurrentC, which is a mobile payment system backed by the Mercantile Exchange (MCX), sent out an email to its pilot users stating that an unauthorized third party had obtained email addresses of some of its users, the MCX confirmed to CNBC in an email statement.

“Within the last 36 hours, we learned that unauthorized third parties obtained the e-mail addresses of some of our CurrentC pilot program participants and individuals who had expressed interest in the app. Many of these email addresses are dummy accounts used for testing purposes only. The CurrentC app itself was not affected.”

This does not mean, of course, that no one will ever break into ApplePay; but when you’re trying to sign up clients, this is not the sort of wording you want on your prospectus.

(Via Matthew Green.)

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Far from upper crust

If you ask me, if you need this instruction, you’re too dumb to be eating pizza, or indeed anything else:

Open box before eating pizza

(Found by SnoopyTheGoon.)

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Welcome to 5-7-9

Not the mall store for “junior” sizes, but an unfortunate circumstance facing the Oklahoma City Thunder: five games in seven days with only nine players. To make matters worse — how could they be worse? — this stretch begins with a back-to-back on the West Coast. And as we all know, Portland’s hospitality, at least on their home court, is decidedly limited. Still, you play ’em as they come, and the OKC starting five was Westbrook, Roberson, Jones, Ibaka and Adams. Through three quarters, this sort of worked, with the Trail Blazers occasionally taking a small lead but the Thunder battling back: the final frame started with OKC up 77-75.

Then the Blazers ran 8-0 in just over two minutes, and things unwound. With 8:40 left, Russell Westbrook returned; three minutes later, he’d managed to go 1-4, and Portland was up 10. Quipped Royce Young: “If anything, I think Scott Brooks’ biggest mistake is not playing Kevin Durant a single minute tonight. I mean, what’s he thinking?” The Blazers were up 16 before Brooks waved the white flag, and the PDXers gave the starters, departing at 2:20, a standing O. They’d earned it. Portland 106, Oklahoma City 89, a nineteen-point shift in twelve minutes flat.

Of the OKC starters, Perry Jones perhaps came off the worst: he couldn’t play defense, but he couldn’t shoot either (1-9, 3 points). And while Westbrook still wound up with 38 points, it was distressingly evident that he’d have to do it alone: only Serge Ibaka (10 points, four blocks) and reserve forward Lance Thomas (7-10, 14 points) presented any offense. Meanwhile, all five Portland starters, plus sixth man Chris Kaman, hit double figures: LaMarcus Aldridge checked in with 27 (10-19), and Wesley Matthews added 22 (8-12). Telltale Statistic for the night: the Blazers, 2-15 from three-point land in the first half, went 9-14 in the second, with six coming in the fourth quarter while the Thunder were quieted to a low moan.

And just like that, it’s off to Los Angeles, to play the good team at the Staples Center. The Clippers, I suspect, will be even tougher.

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Almost rhymes with “vomit”

I have to admit, while I was sitting there watching Neil and Buzz traipsing about on the moon, it never would have occurred to me to ask what it smelled like, and if it had, well, given long-established family propensities, there inevitably would have been a response redolent of cheese, and green cheese at that. And being still a teenager, I’d probably have laughed at it.

Now this sort of question doesn’t seem so funny anymore, especially when there’s an actual answer:

A European spacecraft orbiting a distant comet has finally answered a question we’ve all been wondering: What does a comet smell like?

“It stinks,” says Kathrin Altwegg, a researcher at the University of Bern in Switzerland who runs an instrument called ROSINA that picked up the odor.

The European Space Agency has posted a full rundown of the comet’s BO on its website. The mix includes ammonia (NH3), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), formaldehyde (CH2O) and methanol (CH3OH).

Like the doo-doo room with the reek replete, as Frank Zappa once said.

Of course, anyone visiting the comet would be wearing a spacesuit (on top of that, the sense of smell is notoriously numb in space). Nevertheless, taking a whiff of this comet would be like sharing a horse barn with a drunk and a dozen rotten eggs.

The comet is currently hurtling towards the sun, which at least means it won’t be picking up any stray odors from Uranus. (You knew that was coming, right?)

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That’s not a knife

But it says it is:

Deputy shoots man with knife

I dunno. Maybe a bayonet worked its way loose?

(From Bad Newspaper via Miss Cellania.)

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This made me weepy

I can deal with cold, and I can deal with dark, but the combination of dark and cold wears on me after a while, and for “a while” read “two days at most.” It’s this damn brain chemistry, maybe:

Scientists say they have identified the underlying reason why some people are prone to the winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

People with Sad have an unhelpful way of controlling the “happy” brain signalling compound serotonin during winter months, brain scans reveal.

As the nights draw in, production of a transporter protein ramps up in Sad, lowering available serotonin.

Apparently this is proper British usage, to capitalize (sorry: “capitalise”) only the first letter of the abbreviation. But it certainly reinforces the idea of, um, Sadness.

Lead researcher, Dr Brenda Mc Mahon, said: “We believe that we have found the dial the brain turns when it has to adjust serotonin to the changing seasons.

“The serotonin transporter (SERT) carries serotonin back into the nerve cells where it is not active — so the higher the SERT activity, the lower the activity of serotonin. Sunlight keeps this setting naturally low, but when the nights grow longer during the autumn, the SERT levels increase, resulting in diminishing active serotonin levels.

“Many individuals are not really affected by Sad, and we have found that these people don’t have this increase in SERT activity, so their active serotonin levels remain high throughout the winter.”

Mc Mahon is part of the Neurobiology Research Unit at the University of Copenhagen.

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T-Motionless

T-Mobile apparently has been asleep at the switch for the past few days. Sunday night they sent me the usual “your bill is ready” email, and this morning they sent me two text messages to that effect. This is pretty much the usual thing — well, one text message — except for this: the bill came out a week and a half ago. I’d already checked their Web site and put the payment through my bank’s online gizmo Friday night, before receiving any of their advisories.

And right on schedule, they sent me a third text today, this one to tell me that the payment was duly posted. It still wouldn’t have been late had I dawdled — the due date is generally around the 7th — but I’m the sort of person who duns creditors for not sending their bills in a timely manner. If it happens again next month, they will hear from me.

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Bear don’t care

New York state having successfully, so to speak, banned “tiger selfies,” it’s time for other governmental bodies to go and do as likewise as possible. Forest Service, that’s your cue:

We’ve officially arrived at the point where people need to be told taking ‘selfies’ with bears is a bad idea.

That’s according to officials with the U.S. Forest Service in charge of maintaining the popular Taylor Creek Visitor Center in South Lake Tahoe.

The creek is the site of a spectacular annual run of kokanee salmon, which also attracts hungry bears. And lately it’s also attracting lots of smart phone-wielding photographers desperate for unique social media profile photos.

Really, that should be “smartphone-wielding,” or maybe “smart-phone wielding,” but definitely not “smart phone-wielding.”

(Via Consumerist.)

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And other places she’s not

Since that South American Dusty Springfield cover went over pretty well, I’m tossing up another British Invasion tune with a south-of-the-border accent. Los Shain’s got together in 1963 in Peru, survived for five years, and then resurfaced for a series of concerts in 2005 as Los Nuevos Shain’s. The two mainstays of the band were vocalist Gerardo Manuel and guitarist Pico Ego Aguirre; Manuel isn’t heard on this track, but you get plenty of Aguirre, and licks from Lynn Stricklin on the Farfisa organ.

No, I don’t know why the apostrophe is where it is.

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Just a little bit flowery

Celine, the Shoe Girl, will every now and then show us something from her closet, or, in this case, a pair she actually designed:

Celine Ouaknine design for Betsey Johnson

This is, she reports, “one of the last pairs of shoes I designed for @xobetseyjohnson before Steve Madden bought her out and took over,” which would have been about 2010. She really enjoyed that gig, too:

Working with Betsey Johnson as her shoe designer was one of the best experiences of my life. It was a perfect fit! I got to make shoes with flowers and bows and over the top cuteness, and I was so happy doing that.

Over the top? Well, maybe over the top of the foot. I think it’s swell.

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Translation airier

There are enough examples of this phenomenon, I think, to declare a metalaw about it:

Given that there are a couple of thousand somewhat-widely-spoken languages, and (say) 500 somewhat embarrassing words or short phrases in each one of them, there’s a pretty good chance that any randomly-chosen brand name will turn out to be uncomfortably close in sound to something that means “snot” or “trashcan” or whatever in at least one of them.

One example given, from a reader:

I used to live in Moscow, where everyone has long been amused that Ikea chose to name a line of wine glasses “svalka”. свалка can either mean a garbage dump or a dumpster.

Although “svalka” means “coolness” in Swedish.

From my own archives, 2003:

The Buick LaCrosse sedan/sport/utility/whatever vehicle, replacement for the aged Regal, will be sold in Canada, but not with that name.

To us, “lacrosse” is a sport played on a field with sticks. To the Québécois, apparently, it’s a solo act, practiced often in the bathroom, rumored to cause hair growth on one’s palms and/or blindness.

So it was the “Allure” through 2010 or so, when Buick decided the hell with it, this is the LaCrosse, and we’re going to sell it that way. And come to think of it, the Regal didn’t stay dead, either.

(Via Nancy Friedman.)

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Toast of many towns

The microphone loved Melba Moore even more than the camera did, and the camera definitely had a crush on her. Here’s the 45 sleeve from her 1986 single “Falling”:

Falling by Melba Moore on Capitol B-5651

A #1 R&B hit, “Falling” missed the pop charts by a hair. By ’86 she’d been recording for seventeen years; Mercury, her first label, tried lots of things, including the obligatory live album and a pop/rock setting of Bizet’s Carmen, but she didn’t really hit big until she switched to Buddah, in 1975. “Falling” was cut for Capitol in 1986. There’s no actual video here, but the song sounds great:

Also in 1986 came the debut of the situation comedy Melba. Unfortunately, CBS scheduled the first episode for the 28th of January, which turned out to be the day of the Challenger disaster, and hurriedly shelved the series. (The other five episodes appeared as summer filler.)

On the evidence of this picture, from last year’s opening night of Motown: The Musical, the camera hasn’t ever gotten over her:

Melba Moore at Motown: The Musical, April 2013

Happy 69th, Melba. (It’s tomorrow, actually.)

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Up with chowing down

“The second day of a diet,” observed Jackie Gleason, “is always easier than the first. By the second day you’re off it.”

The Great One never was one for taking his own advice: in the spring and summer of 1969, he went on a super-strict diet and lost about 100 pounds, only to discover that a skinny Ralph Kramden is not a funny Ralph Kramden. Ratings declined, and CBS, looking for any and all excuses to make over its lineup, canceled Gleason’s TV show.

Forty-five years later, we know much more about dieting than we did in Gleason’s time, and what we know is this:

[H]ealthiest diet isn’t a specific diet at all. It’s the absence of a diet.

This is not a sudden, world-changing, mind-altering finding. It is not well suited to a blaring news headline. It is not share fodder on social media. What it is, however, is a realization that surfaced gradually and methodically: Science will never conclusively prove that a single diet is the best diet.

You want to live longer, you say?

The University of California-Irvine’s 90+ Study has tracked thousands of Americans who’ve made it to age 90 and beyond, yielding an unprecedented wealth of information about their lifestyle habits. For lead investigators Claudia Kawas and Maria Corrada, the most surprising finding they made is that most participants didn’t seem to be too concerned with their health. Generally, the 90-year-olds said they didn’t really keep to a restrictive diet. Nor did they abstain from alcohol, quite the opposite actually! The researchers found that up two drinks a day — no matter the type — was associated with a 10-15% reduced risk of death. They also discovered other things that might disturb ardent dieters. Vitamin supplements did not affect lifespan in any way, and being a little overweight starting in middle age positively affected longevity.

This will not, of course, cause the promoters and the haranguists to back off: as Upton Sinclair once noted, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

(Via Cold Fury.)

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