Don’t read the side panel

On processed foods, that’s usually where they put the ingredient list, and you probably don’t want to read the ingredient list, at least not before dinner:

I’ve started checking ingredient labels, looking for the evil polysorbate 80. I heated up a frozen Red Baron Pepperoni Pizza for lunch and there was ingredient list was printed on the side, but it may as well have been a written in hieroglyphics. I wasn’t going to try and puzzle it out, so I pulled one off of their website. It’s fairly horrendous, but it doesn’t appear to contain any of the dreaded emulsifiers and certainly no polysorbate 80.

It did contain (under “dough conditioner”) something called L-cysteine hydrochloride, about which you might want to know:

Cysteine is required by sheep to produce wool: It is an essential amino acid that must be taken in from their feed. As a consequence, during drought conditions, sheep produce less wool; however, transgenic sheep that can make their own cysteine have been developed.

Reminds me of the flap over the common ingredient in yoga mats and McRibs.

As for the dreaded polysorbate 80, well, there’s always 20, 40, 60 and 65.

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Gleaming, sinuous curvature

There are, admittedly, stories hung on flimsier premises than this:

Christie Aackerlund doesn’t need help with anything. So when the world’s biggest technology company offers to fly her to a remote location and investigate an alien artifact, all by herself, she’s all like “I’ll do it!” But the artifact isn’t what it seems, and soon an overly helpful giant living paperclip is getting her all bent out of shape.

Yes, children, it’s smutty Clippy fanfic, and it’s a mere $2.99 for your hungry, gasping Kindle. Author Leonard Delaney has also written Taken by the Tetris Blocks.

(Via Daily Pundit.)

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Beyond documentation

A story in the form of a comment:

I don’t doubt that in the least.

(With thanks to @SwiftOnSecurity.)

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I’ve mentioned before that in the 1980s I was a customer of MCI Mail, one of the commercial email pioneers. (Actually, I was two customers of MCI Mail, with an account for myself and another for a pseudonym.) And at half a buck for each message, plus $35 a year for a mailbox, spamming was too expensive to undertake.

I don’t know if Warren Meyer was ever on MCI Mail, but he’s been pointing out the same sort of thing for many years:

Long ago I proposed that (and I am not sure how to do this technically) emails should cost $0.001, or a tenth of a cent, to send. For you and I, say if we sent 200 emails a day (an email copied to 5 people would be 5 emails for this purpose) it would cost us 20 cents a day or about $75 a year, not much more than we pay for security software and updates. But if you could make it work, spam would be reduced drastically. No way there is any profit in sending an email for $.001 for an expected return of $.0002.

Now Meyer runs a business, so you may safely assume he sends a lot more email than I do; in fact, my Sent Items folder contains 9,000 items — but it goes back to 1997. By this time, I’d left MCI, else I’d have been out several thousand dollars before they folded the system in 2003.

The key, of course, is “if you could make it work”:

I have no idea in the current structure of the Internet how one would even do this. The charge would have to come from the receiving end, somehow refusing to deliver it if it does not get payment information.

I’d guess that the receiving end would have to subscribe to some sort of service to intercept incoming mail, and presumably there’d be some sort of feature with which you could whitelist friends and (some) relatives. So this scheme would likely not put any money in your pocket — but the idea of putting spammers out of business remains high on my list of desiderata.

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Truly madly deep

Oklahoma City has received 13.6 inches of snow this winter, about 60 percent above normal; it’s been a pain in the neck, and a few other joints for us arthritic types, but to anyone in the Midwest or New England or the Rockies, any complaints from this quarter are risible at best.

Then again, even they can be trumped:

Snow news is good news, unless you live in Capracotta. The Italian village may have just set a record for the most snow ever to fall in 24 hours.

A storm on March 5 dumped just over 100.8 inches (or 8 feet, 4 inches) of snow there in 18 hours, reports the Italian weather website Meteoweb. The snowfall inundated the city and left some in the region without power and water.

What’s most remarkable about this, to me anyway, is that Capracotta (“cooked goat”) is nowhere near the mountains of northern Italy, but down south — albeit at an elevation of 4600 feet. About a thousand people live there.

The record is (of course) pending verification.

And if I feel like grumbling about our piddling 8-inch annual average, I can always direct my attention to Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado, which averages 500 inches or so and once hit 838, um, about 60 percent above normal.

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Spots unchanged

Germans, like Americans, are currently dealing with an epidemic of measles, and most of them, like most of us, know where it comes from. There are, of course, exceptions:

A German biologist who offered €100,000 to anyone who could prove that measles is a virus has been ordered by a court to pay up.

Stefan Lanka, who believes the illness is psychosomatic, made the pledge four years ago on his website. The reward was later claimed by German doctor David Barden, who gathered evidence from various medical studies. Mr Lanka dismissed the findings. But the court in the town of Ravensburg ruled that the proof was sufficient.

Lanka paid up, but he’s sticking to his guns:

“It is a psychosomatic illness,” he told regional paper Suedkurier. “People become ill after traumatic separations.”

I’d become ill after being separated from a hundred grand, though I’m pretty sure whatever illness I’d contracted would not be contagious — unlike measles.

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Quote of the week

An observation by incurable romantic Jack Baruth:

Being a woman, as far as I can tell, is like walking around Chicago at night wearing a 10-ounce Credit Suisse gold bar on a necklace. Some of the people you will meet will want to buy your bar from you at a fair price. Others will want a bargain. Still others want it for free. Last and worst, you have the people who will simply take it from you through measures ranging from misdirection to naked force. Ask yourself how long you could last under pressure like that, then you’ll have some sympathy of your own. It’s a remarkable gift to be unwanted in this world, to go about your business alone and unremarked-upon. Women, particularly women, don’t get that gift. They have only pressure to yield, mighty and unrelenting as the column of dark water above the Challenger Deep, until the moment that they lose their looks and become utterly invisible to everyone.

In these times, this is perhaps the only meaningful example of so-called “male privilege” from which we are likely to benefit more than theoretically: we can be ignored. I’m thinking maybe I should appreciate it more.

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Not entirely toothless

And yet another starting lineup tonight: Serge Ibaka complained, though probably not loudly, of a sore knee, giving Mitch McGary a chance, and Kyle Singler was swapped out for Dion Waiters. (If Scott Brooks has learned anything during this annus horribilis, it’s how to mix up the rotation.) Weirdly, Singler seems to score more as a reserve, and in these Durantless days, we had the unusual sensation of four Thunder starters in double figures. (No, not Roberson. Get real.) The Timberwolves, on the other hand, were more or less intact, though Ricky Rubio tweaked his ankle in the second half and did not return, and Kevin Garnett did not appear at all. And through the third quarter, the Wolves made a game of it. Came the fourth quarter, and the Thunder woke up from dreaming about Chicago on Sunday; Russell Westbrook, who’d had a so-so night, scored 15 in the fourth after 14 in the first three, not to mention 12 assists and 10 rebounds. (Can you say “triple-double”? Sure you can.) Waiters and McGary picked up 12 points each, and Enes Kanter had a stirring 23 points and 15 rebounds. The final was 113-99, with the last three OKC points coming from the recently appendixless Steve Novak; it’s 3-0 for the Thunder over the Wolves this season.

Still, some of those Wolves did some pretty remarkable things. Hotly hyped rookie forward Andrew Wiggins lived up to his billing, collecting 19 points, more than half of them from the foul line. Sophomore center Gorgui Dieng hauled in 14 rebounds while scoring 21. And Kevin Martin was in decent form, knocking down 14. The Minnesota reserves came up with 30 points, 17 of which came from Justin Hamilton. And we do have to play these guys once more this season: in the finale on the 15th of April, a date which will live in infamy for other reasons.

But Sunday, there’s Chicago at high noon, and you can’t get much more ominous than that, unless you have to get on the plane to Dallas right afterwards, which the Thunder do. Dallas, for its part, spent this evening stomping the Clippers.

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Continuing uncoverage

General Motors is cutting back on some new-car warranties:

Instead of GM’s five-year or 100,000-mile powertrain coverage on Chevrolet and GMC vehicles, the company will now offer either five years or 60,000 [miles] starting with 2016 models, reports the Wall Street Journal.

GM’s two-year free maintenance program including oil changes and tire rotations on the house will now be limited to two service visits instead of four, with changes going into effect for 2016 model year Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles.

The basic warranty — the one that covers most of your non-powertrain items — will apparently remain unchanged at three years/36,000 miles.

The General explains:

“We talked to our customers and learned that free scheduled maintenance and warranty coverage don’t rank high as a reason to purchase a vehicle among buyers of nonluxury brands,” the company said in a statement. “We will reinvest the savings we will realize into other retail programs that our customers have told us they value more than these.”

That giggling you hear is the reaction of your nearest Hyundai and/or Kia dealer.

GM’s ostensible luxury brand, Cadillac, has a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty; the 5/100 package was changed to 6/70 starting in model year 2013.

For what it’s worth, the basic Bugatti Veyron warranty is for two years, though the Super Sport variant bumped it up to three. Not that it matters, of course, since the entire production run has now been sold, and I doubt any of the 450 buyers were overly concerned with warranty issues.

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Sherawat’s news

With Mallika Sherawat, there’s always something going on besides the fact that, well, she looks like Mallika Sherawat:

Mallika Sherawat promo picture

Worthy wallpaper, yes. But she’s embroiled in yet another scandal:

In rare consonance, lawmakers in Rajasthan have come together across party lines to demand a ban on a Bollywood film called Dirty Politics. Its poster features actress Mallika Sherawat, in very few clothes, sitting in front of the Rajasthan Vidhan Sabha or assembly building.

On the poster, Ms Sherawat strikes a bold pose atop an ambassador car with a red beacon, much like government vehicles used by politicians and bureaucrats.

The lawmakers say the poster attacks the dignity of the House. Raising the issue in the assembly today, Congress leader Rameshwar Dudi said, “The picture of the Vidhan Sabha behind Mallika Sherawat is wrong and in bad taste.”

The offending image:

Dirty Politics poster featuring Mallika Sherawat

The Patna High Court had, in fact, banned the film, though the ban was lifted the next day:

Patna High Court had banned the release of Dirty Politics due to some objectionable scenes in the film. As a government lawyer reported, the court heard a petition that sough a ban on the release of the film. The petitioner had informed the court that the film shows Mallika Sherawat draped in the national flag of India, hence disrespecting the flag. Following this, a division bench at the court then ordered the authorities to stop the release of the movie until the objectionable were removed from it. The court had issued a notice to Central Board of Film Certification on this matter.

Which image was, of course, adapted for the poster. Nonetheless, the film was released Friday with Certificate A, for adults only, including a song titled “Ghaghara,” the video of which looks like this:

No word yet on a Stateside release.

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New frontiers in customer service

The second of two emails received from

Meh here again, about that mistake we made with your order. You bought the two-pack of Eveready Compact LED Area Lights we offered on February 23 and we sent you an Insteon Wireless IP Camera instead. Uh, yeah, sorry about that.

As we said, we’ll be sending out the lamps today.

Now, we hate to lay this hassle on you. But about that camera, well, we need your help in correcting our expensive screwup. If you could do us one of these two favors, you’d really be hauling our fat out of the fire:

1) Return the camera to us, at our expense, of course. We’re still working out a way to minimize the effort required on your part but it should consist of a link to a shipping label that you’ll print out, slap on the box and throw it back in the mailbox with the flag up. We’ll let you know more later this week.

2) Buy the camera, which we’ll sell to you at a punitive discount to teach ourselves a lesson. We hope that by taking our lumps and offering the Insteon wireless video camera for $20 instead of the $34 we sold it for before, you or someone you know can find a silver lining in this mess. If you’re interested, go here to make it official: [link redacted]

Believe us, we weren’t trying to win some award for the world’s dumbest viral marketing campaign, although if we were, this would certainly be in the running. We’re chalking it up to a very costly lesson on the difference between one camera and two lamps.

Stay tuned and stay mediocre –

According to their price check as of the date offered (17 February), one of these cameras sells for $68.99 at Amazon. And it’s mine now.

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Sphynx on trial

A few months back, we showed you a preview of the new Sphynx razor for women. Marianne Mychaskiw, assistant beauty editor at InStyle, has now tried it out, and reports:

I wasn’t traveling anywhere and have failed at hitting the gym since before the holidays, but decided to take the Sphynx on a spin from my couch during a routine viewing of Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion. I began by misting the entirety of my lower leg with water, then worked the soap, which contains all-natural ingredients, over the top to form a lather. The product designers kind of thought of everything: a series of seven holes along either side of the device help the interior to completely dry, and the flat edge along the bottom allows the razor to sit straight up on the bathroom counter. Once you get used to the feeling of holding a rounded razor in your hand, it’s pretty much smooth sailing (pun intended) from there. Coming from the slim shape of the Venus razor, I had a little trouble with this part — and have the battle wound to prove it — but got the hang of it within a few minutes.

Conclusion: on par with similar products, with an edge (pun intended) in convenience. But:

Make sure to rotate the interior to either the soap or water spritzer before closing it with the cap. I failed to do this, and almost hurt myself when uncapping the product to find I accidentally left it twisted on the blade attachment. Do not be like me.

So noted. I admit that I can’t really imagine, say, Taylor Swift dealing with one of these contraptions, but then she’s covered for forty mil if something goes wrong.

Addendum: And something occasionally does, though in this case it’s the cat’s fault.

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The quality of trollage is very strained

Let’s have a look, shall we?

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Why am I cursed?

Now what kind of horrible life experience is this individual having to endure?

It’s bad enough that I was born into a middle class family, and have an average size penis, but I never get what I want. I never get the pretty girl, or will be rich. I feel like all I do is fight for the scraps in life, like a *****-ing dog. Meanwhile people like Jay z is living my dreams. I want a hooker like Beyoncé or a model like Tom Brady’s wife. I want riches and power, and a large penis. Why must God bless some and leave the rest of us out in the cold looking through the windows of the rich. I held my phone up to the sky and said God let my phone ring with some good news and nothing happened.

This is why it’s a good thing I’m not God: I’d have hit the sorry bastard with a lightning bolt.

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Really really less filling

The new American nightmare is The Incredible Shrinking Beer:

I’ve been drinking Stella Artois lately, but tonight I noticed that they have reduced the size of their bottles from 12 ounces to 11. I was suspicious when the 22 ounce bottles started showing up. Now my suspicions are confirmed. The anti-fun people are still trying to put the screws to us, one ounce at a time.

They can pitch it as having 8 percent fewer calories, I suppose.

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Superfluous control

Once upon a time, you might have had a heater in your car. Today’s motor vehicles have ever-fancier climate-control systems, and most automakers try not to mess with your head when they design ’em. And then there’s BMW’s dual-zone system:

I have dual-zone automatic climate control. This is a hallmark feature of many upscale and wanna-be upscale vehicles. You set one side to 74. You set the other side to 69. You press “AUTO.” And then the air blows out at the perfect temperature to create a 74-degree experience on one side, and a 69-degree experience on the other side, and everyone is happy.

So far, so good. But then there’s this one useless control mounted just below the center vents:

It turns out that this has no effect on the actual air temperature. In order to affect the actual air temperature, you have to change the switch to BLUE or RED, depending on what type of air you want to be released from the vents, even after you’ve already set the temperature.

Now, here’s why this pisses me off: because this DEFEATS THE ENTIRE PURPOSE OF AUTOMATIC CLIMATE CONTROL. When I set my climate control in the first place, I’m telling the system exactly what temperature I want. So why is the entire climate control system at the mercy of some all-knowing switch that decides whether to blow hot air or cold air? Newsflash, climate control system: if I choose “84” for the climate control temperature, and it’s 2 degrees outside, I’m going to want HOT AIR, regardless of whether the freaking switch is on blue or red.

Even the goofball system Nissan invented for the second-generation I30 and its Maxima sister comprehends this logic: I leave it on 74 year-round, and the machine does whatever it thinks is necessary to create 74, even if its thinking seems inscrutable at times. So I never have to endure this:

Say it’s the middle of winter and somehow the switch accidentally gets turned to “BLUE,” which means cold. Here’s what happens: even though I have the temperature set at 75 degrees and automatic, the air that blows out isn’t warm. The air that comes out is cold, because that’s the random orientation of some STUPID SWITCH that completely overrides every single setting in my climate control system.

I am forced to conclude that the Germans simply think they’re smarter than us.

And that “switch”? It’s actually a knurled wheel, which in the grand scheme of things means — probably nothing.

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Guarded optimism

They’re barely a year apart, and in this photo, seemingly barely an inch apart:

Liam and Allison keep watch

Allison is four; Liam is almost three. Awfully close together, you think? Just look at them.

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