As smartphones get bigger

Amazingly, so do dumb phones:

What goes around evidently comes around, especially if you have a few thousand sitting in a warehouse somewhere. (Binatone’s history goes back to 1958, so it’s not entirely impossible that they might have made this sort, or at least this shape and size, of phone before.)

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Screaming deal silenced

One of the regular items on my grocery-shopping list has been the sausage biscuit offered by Durant, Oklahoma’s J. C. Potter, a box of six — three sleeves, two to a sleeve — for, lately, $3.99.

When I ran out earlier this month, I hit up the store and found no boxes. However, there was a bag of 24 — 12 sleeves, two to a sleeve — for $7.98. Four times the product for twice the price? Shut up and take my money.

Eventually, though, those ran out, and I decided to buy more. The store, or Mr. Potter, or someone, has evidently come to its senses: the bag is now $11.98. Still thrice the product for twice the price, but not so compelling a deal, especially given the speed with which I must consume these little darbs to beat the pull date. (One can eat only so much sausage and so many biscuits without affecting one’s internal workings.)

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Beautifully thawed

There are three and a half things I greatly admire about singer Idina Menzel: she’s an old-school belter in the classic style; she’s very easy on the eyes without looking like Queen Elsa of Arendelle, her major behind-the-scenes role; and she has an impish sense of humor.

First, some belting:

The best song from Wicked? We report; you decide.

On the purely superficial appearance front:

Idina Menzel in Billboard

Idina Menzel takes a breather

Then there was that moment at the 86th Academy Awards. (She sang “Let It Go” from Frozen, which won the Oscar for Best Original Song.) This was the night when John Travolta utterly bollixed up her name, introducing her as “Adele Dazeem.” Menzel, unruffled, had the Playbill for her then-current Broadway run in If/Then reprinted:

“Nert,” in case you’re wondering, is an anagram of Rent, and you can see what she did with Frozen.

And in the 87th Academy Awards show, Travolta and Menzel got to announce the Best Original Song: Menzel introduced Travolta as “Glom Gazingo.” This is the very definition of “Well played.”

The only downside: she and Taye Diggs, whom she met during Rent, divorced in 2014 after ten years and one child. Upside: she starts her World Tour today, her 44th birthday.

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Pale echoes

Brian Ibbott’s Coverville this past week devoted a set to Procol Harum, and our old friend Roger Green dug into his Procol library, both for the same reason: Gary Brooker, the band’s composer and lead voice, turned 70. Roger observed:

I have three LPs by the group, all from 1972 or earlier. But I had a cassette greatest hits, which I absolutely loved, before it wore out.

This reminded me that one of my favorite Procol tunes, which I have never heard on the radio in my entire life, came from the 1974 album Exotic Birds and Fruit, which barely made it halfway up the Billboard Top 200. There were two songs considered notable: “Nothing But the Truth,” the only single from the LP, and “Butterfly Boys,” which was viewed as a shot at Chrysalis Records, to which Procol was signed at the time. Still, the track I play all the time is this one:

Determining how much “Beyond the Pale” is beyond “A Whiter Shade of Pale” is left as an exercise for the student.

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Convergence ensues

“Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together … mass hysteria!” said Dr. Venkman. But he never envisioned anything like this:

In a memo to employees, IBM notes that starting today all employees (not just some select developers like in the past) can pick from a MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, or a PC when setting up a new or refreshed workstation. The machines will include new software for security, Wi-Fi, and VPN out of the box so employees just have to connect to the internet to get started, according to the memo. IBM notes that it currently has around 15,000 Macs deployed through its BYOD program, but plans to deploy around 50,000 Macbooks by the end of the year. That, according to the memo, would make IBM the biggest “Mac shop” around, and the company said it’s sharing what it learns through the new deployment with Apple as Apple assists through its device enrollment program.

Remember “IBM-compatible”? Me neither.

(Via Jeff Faria.)

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Ken Layne hits the road

Ken Layne once described his career path this way:

Local newspapers, domestic and foreign radio stations, consumer computer guides, television newsrooms, glossy progressive magazines, the cartoon page of college newspapers, Washington wire service desks, expatriate post-Iron Curtain tabloids, sporadic appearances in respectable media, occasional musical endeavors, a few forays into traditional book publishing and a long chain of oddball news and satire websites — that’s how I’ve barely earned a living over the decades.

He did get some coin of the realm from me, for a CD titled Fought Down by Ken Layne and the Corvids. From my review in January 2004:

Ken Layne’s voice [is] sort of what you’d get if you transposed Neil Young down a fifth and purged his every last whining overtone, then overlaid him with Tom Waits-level world-weariness. Fought Down tells stories of people who’ve probably downed a few fifths of their own, and it’s a measure of Layne’s skill that it’s almost impossible to hear these tales without wondering if Layne himself might have left Sacramento on an eastbound freight, or wound up in some broad’s Lincoln Town Car, or heard angry voices that not even a case of Two-Buck Chuck can silence. Lesser hands would have taken these raw materials and forged a few minutes of bathos; Ken Layne makes you think, “Hey, I know that poor son of a bitch.”

A couple of years after that, he took over the Wonkette blog, and enjoyed the not-entirely-unique distinction of being named “Worst Person in the World” by Keith Olbermann.

And when he wearied of that bloggy stuff, he went on to something as unlike it as possible:

“I wanted my work to be about the desert,” he says.

He considered doing a radio show like “A Prairie Home Companion” that focused on the American Southwest. Then, last summer, his new off-line venture appeared to him almost fully formed in the midst of a solo four-week drive through Death Valley and the Eastern Sierra. (“It’s what I do instead of go to a psychiatrist,” he says.)

It would be a quarterly regional magazine about the Southwest. The look would be inspired by old desert guides from the ’60s and ’70s like Owens Valley Jeep Trails and Mines of the Mojave, but it would pay homage to the weirdness of the desert with stories about strange desert animals and even stranger desert characters. He called it the Desert Oracle.

“I saw it pretty clearly,” he says. “It was going to be small, it was going to be yellow, and inside it was going to be all black and white. No color, no GIFs, no apps, no content on the Internet.”

So far, it’s not yet as well known as his early blog declaration: “It’s 2001, and we can fact-check your ass.” Fourteen years later, lots of asses are claiming to be in the fact-check business; I can’t blame Layne for wanting to get away from all this.

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Just a hint of mockery

Meet Brandy Bean:

Mug shot of Brandy Bean

As you can see, she’s already met with the police department of Bellevue, Ohio:

Brandy Bean was taken into custody earlier this afternoon 5/26/2015, after a short foot pursuit in the area of CVS and Circle K. She was arrested on several Felony warrants including Burglary, Forgery and Theft. The Burglary charges were the result of the investigation into a female knocking on doors and asking to use the telephone, and the restroom and wanting a drink of water. While the resident was out of the room, the female would steal items from within the house. Forgery charges were from separate previous case(s).

And either she’s taunting the photographer, or she’s a little over halfway through a Ball Park Frank.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Disclosure of the month

Bark M., reviewing the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid for Jalopnik, admits to the following:

Full Disclosure: Hyundai provided me with airfare to Orange County, two nights at the Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach, California, and more Pinot Noir than I would have previously considered possible to consume within 48 hours. I also took a bottle opener from the mini bar, which I assume somebody else ended up paying for.

Man, they’ll charge you (or someone) for even breathing into the mini bar.

(Via Bark’s older brother.)

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A barrel of laughs

A little song, a little dance, an AK-47 down your pants:

The AK-47 is many things, but it is definitely not a small and discreet weapon. That’s why it’s not surprising that a man in Florida was arrested after trying to shove one of the assault rifles down his pants in a pawn shop, evidently thinking that this was something he would be able to get away with.

Unfortunately for all of us, the surveillance footage of this incident that allegedly exists hasn’t been released, but the store owner says that he spotted the 19-year-old walking strangely, then confronted him and took the rifle back. Police caught up with the suspect later, and he did confess to attempting to steal the rifle.

Was he tall? Because an AK-47 is just this side of three feet long, which isn’t going to work with a shortish inseam unless the stock is folded, and perhaps even then.

Apparently, though, he had other problems:

A judge set his bond very high: it turns out that the man was already out on bond for a domestic violence arrest and had an injunction from a different state not to go anywhere near guns. That makes this case significantly less hilarious. Maybe even not hilarious at all.

But it’s in Florida, which at least makes it Farkable.

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Spend it anyway

Michael C. Carnuccio, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, throws shade on the already obscure budgeting process in this state:

[L]egislative leaders announced by press release that in a year when lawmakers may have $611 million less to appropriate, they appropriated $17 million more than last year and suspended the rules that required the budget to be available for public review before being adopted by lawmakers.

While rains and flooding are washing out roads and bridges across the state, lawmakers chose to divert $100 million from roads, bridges and maintenance so they could continue irresponsible funding for rodeos, roping contests, festivals, an aquarium, attempts at space travel, losses on golf courses, taxpayer-subsidized horse racing, state-subsidized TV, undisclosed political earmarks, agency swag and organizational memberships that total more than $50 million per year.

I suspect they’d already decided to tap the road funding long before the consequences of the Rainiest Month Ever were known.

Still, Carnuccio’s been here long enough now to realize that when you hold Oklahoma legislators’ feet to the fire, they increase spending on protective footwear.

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Dick comes first

This has been out for a month or so, and I’m surprised I didn’t catch it. In the June issue of Automobile, there’s a drive of the new Porsche Cayman GT4, and buried in the article is this paragraph:

Andreas Preuninger, who as head of Porsche’s GT division led development of the GT4, sums up the message conveyed by his latest brainchild: “To us, it simply is a highly desirable sports car. But don’t let this desirability make you think that every Dick, Tom and Harry can hop in and take it to the limit just like that.”

Huh? Usually Tom gets top billing.

And now it dawns on me why I didn’t notice this before: Preuninger works for Porsche, home of the ass-engined Nazi slot car, and getting things seemingly out of order is what they do best. Twisting around an old English idiom is nothing to these guys.

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Half a paywall

A note from Entertainment Weekly:

As an Entertainment Weekly magazine subscriber, you have full access to all of the great content on EW.com, including 24/7 news, engaging photo galleries, your favorite TV recaps, exclusive videos and more. However like many popular websites, EW.com will now cap the number of articles non-subscribers can access for free.

They didn’t say what the cap would be: I’m guessing five per month. And well, I am the oldest EW subscriber, or at least tied for oldest, ever since issue #1 in 1990.

Now I’m wondering if InStyle, the only other Time Inc. magazine I take, is considering a similar move. (And actually, I read their site more than I do EW.com.)

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Non-little boxes

“Older suburbs,” reports Consumerist, “are turning over”:

Homes in the towns closest to city centers with the shortest commutes are the most valuable, but also the most vulnerable to being bulldozed and displaced by much larger homes. Three bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms (or even only one bathroom) was an acceptable suburban home back during the post-World War II expansion of the suburbs. Now those houses are kind of old, and prime targets for builders who want to replace them with larger, modern houses.

My house is indeed kind of old, but no one’s looking to replace it: our neighborhood zoning prevents McMansions from being dropped into the mid-century milieu.

Then again, there’s one anomaly, made possible by the existence of a narrow-ish (49 x 176 feet) lot that had been vacant for many years. The owner ultimately sold it for $20,000, consistent with my observation that land in this area goes for $100k an acre. The trick, of course, was putting a house on it that looked like it belonged with the late-Forties originals. The front setback is comparable to those of neighboring houses, as prescribed by city ordinance. But the house goes back 71 feet: it’s narrow but very long, roughly twice the size of the houses on either side. This presents no particular problem, though I wonder if the neighbors might be thinking of adding on to the back. On my own block, the desire for more space has generally meant forgoing the garage, but then we have wider, if shallower, lots.

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Desperate student

And presumably a desperate student with really good vision:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Does anyone know how to fit 3000 words total, typed, onto a 3x5 index card front and back? On Microsoft Word or?

There is, of course, a reason for this:

My history teacher is letting my class have a cheat card for the exam. I have all 3000 words typed up on Word. I just need to figure out how to fit it all onto a 3×5 notecard … Help me Please!

Teacher didn’t say they could have magnifying glasses.

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Space invaders?

We may or may not be targeted by evil space aliens, but the Richmond (California) City Council has us, or at least their 52 square miles, covered:

After listening to horror stories from more than a dozen people who believe that government agencies and other parties are watching them from outer space — including one speaker who was “targeted” just before arriving at Richmond City Hall — the council voted 5-2 to approve a resolution to discourage the use of space weapons on earth dwellers.

This move is not entirely unprecedented:

The resolution approved on May 19 refers to an attempt by a U.S. Congressman 14 years ago to ban space-based weapons. In 2001, then-Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, introduced the “Space Preservation Act” and “Space Preservation Treaty” that would have banned spaced-based weapons.

The Richmond resolution from Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles doesn’t merely support those attempts to ban space-based weapons, it does so “to ensure that individuals will not be targets of space-based weapons.”

In other news, Dennis Kucinich has a legacy.

Mayor Tom Butt, on the losing side of the 5-2 vote, later got a disturbing letter from a constituent:

“My son suffers from mental illness and believes that Voice-Skull or electromagnetic waves generated by groups who target individuals” plague him, the woman told Butt. “He keeps using [the council’s decision] to support his theory that the reasons he hears voices is that he is being targeted! Of course, I find this hard to believe, but I can’t convince him otherwise. He often refers to and cites the Richmond Police and City Council.” She said the council’s vote is helping her son justify his beliefs and avoid taking his medication.

I suspect this will play out in the time-honored fashion: should you tell the Council majority that there has been a marked absence of earth-shattering kabooms, they will reply “See how well it works?”

(Via Rand Simberg.)

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The Sino-Swedish sedan

Remember when “Made in Japan” was synonymous with “complete and utter crap”? There are now people in these United States who bewail the loss of Japanese-sourced Camrys and Accords, which were supposedly “better” than the cars built by those same companies Stateside.

For a brief period after Japanese ascendancy, South Korean cars were dismissed as the worst kind of shoddily assembled crap. That doesn’t happen anymore: Daewoo has been subsumed by General Motors, Hyundai/Kia have proven themselves in the American market, and we simply haven’t heard from the rest.

So now it’s China’s night in the barrel, and the first circulation of the upcoming fecal cyclone is on the radar:

Volvo Car started exporting S60 sedans built in China to the United States last week as part of its plan to expand sales and market share globally.

The vehicles, which are produced at Volvo’s plant in the southwest China city of Chengdu, will be transported to Shanghai for shipment to the U.S.

The S60 will arrive at dealership showrooms in the United States in about two months, Volvo said. The company did not indicate how many vehicles it intends to export.

Volvo’s parent company, Zhejiang Geely Holding Group of China, has been calling the shots for five years now, and this is not a new S60: it’s the same one Volvo has been building in Sweden, in Belgium, and even in Malaysia fercrissake. I suspect that none of Volvo’s American customers will notice the difference. Some of their avowed non-customers, however, are already up in arms at the announcement. An example:

When you have situations like with Takata, a company that’s from a culture where shipping crap-that-will-kill-people should be a problem, and it ends up happening anyway and is subsequently covered up, I’d be pretty leery of buying a product originating in a place where the existing corporate culture is absolutely renowned for viewing basic competence in construction as an afterthought. No matter how much Volvo tries to make sure it’s not a problem, I’m not quite ready to stake my family’s life on their having figured it out.

Takata, of course, is Japanese, so this translates to “If I can’t trust Japan, I sure as hell ain’t gonna trust China.” Not everyone, however, is quite so adamant:

There is nothing magical about Chinese assembly. Either it will be carefully managed and will work fine, or it will be sloppily managed and turn out a lot of defective products. We’ve seen plenty of examples of both in China, as well as in America (was a 1981 Cadillac Fleetwood a shining example of assembly quality?). Actually, I’d expect this first batch of Volvos to be impeccably assembled, because Volvo will have something to prove.

And at least it’s coming over under an established brand name. Geely hasn’t tried to sell any of its own designs in the States, and probably won’t for a while, although I suspect some hipper-than-thou Americans would queue up to buy London taxis — which vehicle Geely also owns. Then again, this incident alone could keep Geely-branded cars at bay for another couple of years at least.

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