Still almost none more black

I said something about this last year:

[A] material called Vantablack, being refined in labs now, traps light so completely that practically none escapes. The substance captures a full 99.96 percent of the light that hits it, which the human visual system perceives as deep, textureless blackness. Even when it’s applied to aluminum foil and then wrinkled, the part covered with Vantablack looks just as flat as can be, with no discernible silvery creases. It’s eerie, to have the physical world line up so poorly with expectations. It’s also potentially very valuable — making it look like there’s nothing where there’s really something is a long-time goal for defense departments.

And now it’s here, or at least a package of it is here:

Package of Vantablack

Even with the limitations of JPEG, and squoze-down JPEG at that, it still looks like — well, take it away, Professor:

The visual void Vantablack produces reminds me of the Portable Holes from Wile E. Coyote cartoons. Indeed, Stephen Westland, professor of color science and technology at Leeds University, told The Independent that the material is “almost as close to a black hole as we could imagine.”

Wait a minute. Those were Wile E. Coyote cartoons? No credit for that rapidly-moving bird? Our memories have fallen into a black hole.

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Four-wheel realignment

The Z Man attempts an explanation of what the holy hell is going on here:

The great reordering that is under way is due to the collapse of the raison d’être of the American ruling class. What animated politics in America for the last several generations has been the interplay between Progressives and the defenders of the status quo, played out in the shadow of the Cold War.

The Left collapsed as an intellectual movement when the Cold War ended, but the Right collapsed as a pragmatic alternative. You can’t have one without the other. In a single generation, the Left has adopted the economics of the Right and the Right has adopted the politics of the Left. Neither side has a reason to exist outside of naked greed.

Then again, greed is as powerful a motivator as, well, power. And it’s not like parties or factions are glued to the space they’re presently occupying. For now, though, the political discourse is basically “We’re great and you suck,” despite a total absence of detectable greatness anywhere in the spectrum.

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You dropped your Q

Infiniti, which has done more to sully the fine art of model naming than any automaker not named Cadillac — it’s probably no coincidence that both Cadillac and Infiniti have had Johan de Nysschen running them, and apparently nobody dares mess with the Johan — has decided that we dumb Americans can’t tell the difference between a front-wheel-drive sedan and a jacked-up AWD pseudo-crossover using exactly the same bodyshell:

Though Infiniti will sell its new Q30 hatchback and QX30 crossover as two distinct models elsewhere in the world, the cars will be sold in the U.S. only with the QX30 badge. The cars are already basically identical, and the new naming strategy will help prevent any confusion between the Q30 and QX30 on our shores.

As a result, there will be three versions of the 2017 Infiniti QX30 in the US: Two front-wheel-drive models, matching the Q30 sold overseas; plus one all-wheel-drive version with a higher ride height that aligns with the global QX30.

I suspect this is being done, not so much to defuzz the brand image, but to justify even higher prices for the fake-SUV version: if they’re all the “same model,” buyers won’t even flinch at a $15k difference between top and bottom of the line.

And I’d still rather have the QX50, the wagon formerly known as EX35, comparatively lacking in upjacking.

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We’re so confused

And having had similar troubles myself, I can relate:

What? Don’t look at me. I never know my Wi-Fi password.

(Via HelloGiggles.)

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And then it was gone

We all waited impatiently for the return of Blue Bell Ice Cream after the Great Listeria Scare. And now that it’s (mostly) back — a few flavors at a time — a local supermarket chain is, for the moment, dropping the line for “unfair pricing.”

This isn’t the first time Crest Foods told a food producer to take their product and shove it, either:

A few weeks back, Nick Harroz’ Crest Foods in central Oklahoma posted a notice beside the pasta-sauce shelf to the effect that they would no longer be stocking the Classico and Ragú brands, owing to large price increases by Unilever, owner of those brands, which the store did not wish to pass on to shoppers. It’s easy enough to be cynical about this sort of thing, but Harroz has done this before, and almost invariably he’s gotten his way, or a reasonable fraction thereof, which is how he manages to keep his prices around the Walmart level without going all, well, Walmartish on us: he’ll take on anyone up to and including mighty Coca-Cola.

Harroz died last year at 94, but it’s pretty clear that the store plans to follow his plan. And this, too, shall pass, once Blue Bell gives in — which they almost certainly will.

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Deer cross

We were presented with two statistics at the outset: these Milwaukee Bucks are, so far, the only team to beat Golden State this season, and despite that, they were 13th in the East and 3-14 on the road. These are, to say the least, contradictory premises, and it’s probably no surprise that the Thunder had trouble dispatching the Bucks: a 17-point lead in the third quarter was erased with frightening speed, the Bucks having seemingly no problem scoring points in the paint, and Khris Middleton making his way to a career night. Billy Donovan apparently decided that the Thunder would shoot their way out of it, and the fourth quarter saw 74 points made. OKC, who had 39 of those points, claimed the win, 131-123.

Look at this line for Middleton: 36 points on 13-22 shooting, six of nine treys, and seven assists. The man is fierce. His backcourt companion, Michael Carter-Williams, knocked down 19 more, and before fouling out late, Giannis Antetokounmpo collected 27 points and ten rebounds. The Bucks put up 100 shots, connecting on 49 of them. How does Oklahoma City beat that? Draw fouls and make the freebies — the Thunder were 37-40 from the line, while the Bucks went 15-22 — and turn Cameron Payne loose. The third-string, perhaps now second-string, point guard scored 16 points in just under 16 minutes. Donovan might be pleased, but I suspect he’s a bit vexed that the Bucks, near the bottom of the league in rebounding this season, outboarded the Thunder 47-41. And there’s something horribly wrong about letting an opponent shoot 49 percent in your house.

So while the Thunder got a day off from practice yesterday, they probably won’t get one tomorrow. And the Suns will be here Thursday, though it will be the second night of a back-to-back for Phoenix. Not that this particular disadvantage befell the Bucks, who came in with the same issue and yet looked just as fresh after 48 minutes as they had after 48 seconds. Maybe that’s how you beat the Warriors: you put off dying as long as possible.

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Right now, over Net

I frankly didn’t envision this kind of response, which explains as well as anything else why I am not working in the music industry. As of Christmas eve, the Beatles can be streamed through your favorite service, and in the first two days, says Rolling Stone, 673,000 Spotify playlists got an infusion of Fab Four.

If you’re wondering which Beatles song got played most often, wonder no more: it’s “Come Together,” the opener to Abbey Road, which enjoys a singular status among Beatles tracks: on 45, it was the B-side to the one and only time George Harrison got an A-side (with “Something”). At the time, we were told that it was really a double-A disc, but it followed Apple practice: A-side gets the green side of the apple, B-side gets the sliced side. “They blessed me with a couple of B-sides in the past,” said Harrison at the time, “but this is the first time I’ve had an A-side.” Lennon, for his part, thought “Something” was the best song on Abbey Road, so he wasn’t complaining. Curiously, “Something” didn’t make the top ten streams, but Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” did.

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They’ve had it up to there

The Illinois River — no, not the one that flows through Illinois — looked something like this yesterday:

At the time, the river was up over 30 feet, a place it’s never before been in recorded history (which is probably 125 years or so).

Another view:

Flood stage at this station is a mere eleven feet. The river might recede to that point before this weekend, if there isn’t any more rain; last I looked, it was down to about 21 feet.

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In the mouth of the mouse

Coming in a couple of months to Boca Raton, Florida:

Reunion - The Ultimate 80s Concert

Not everyone will look the same, of course. If I remember correctly, Mike Score is the only remaining original member of A Flock of Seagulls; then again, the two core guys from Wang Chung are still together, and Nu Shooz (Valerie Day and John Smith) are very much as they were.

Too bad they’re not taking this show on the road, ya dig?

(Via Debbie Gibson’s Facebook page.)

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Get out the vote/off my lawn

So true, so very, very true:

Lawn signs are one of the few campaign tactics deployed by candidates for every level of government in the United States. Inexpensive and relatively easy to deploy, lawn signs are a tactic available to even the most obscure and underfunded candidate for a downballot office. Indeed, the efflorescence of roadside lawn signs is often one of the few outward manifestations of a low-salience election.

These signs are illegalAnd that’s true even when, as is the case here in the Big Breezy, placing those signs anywhere other than someone’s actual lawn is forbidden by ordinance: the median on the east end of the Northwest Distressway collects these by the hundreds. I have noticed that winners are marginally quicker about clearing them off than losers are, but the ideal — that they vanish into thin air thirty seconds after the polls close — is not going to be reached in my lifetime.

And how much effect do these things have, anyway?

  • We conduct the first four randomized field trials of lawn signs.
  • On average, lawn signs increase vote share by 1.7 percentage points.
  • The effects of lawn signs spill over into adjacent precincts.

And a lot of downballot elections are closer than 1.7 percent; I remember one City Council vote here that was won by a single vote.

One of the researchers speaks out:

Alex Coppock, one of the co-authors of the study, told POLITICO the effects they found were in persuading voters to choose a certain candidate, not on turnout.

“We were surprised by these findings, because the conventional wisdom is that lawn signs don’t do much — they’re supposed to be a waste of money and time. Many campaign consultants think that signs ‘preach to the choir’ and not much else,” Coppock said.

“The effect is small in terms of percentage points, though the implication is that thousands of voters would have voted for someone else if not for the signs,” Coppock said. “My guess is that part of the reason that the effect is small is because any campaign tactic — signs, ads, mailers, calls, etc — only move people around at the margin. In many ways, it would be strange if the effect were bigger. Imagine a world in which the presence or absence of lawn signs could swing an election by 10 points.”

Truth be told, I think that as the electorate continues to fragment, that very world may be upon us before we know it.

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Getting ahead of ourselves

It was almost too good to be true:

Actually, the phone wasn’t what got me so much as it was the decidedly not-Forties-attired young lady, who more than a little resembles someone I used to want to look at more than I did. (Whatever the heck that means.) So I turned my attention to the background, and eventually hit upon the truth of the matter:

Then again, mobile technology is changing so rapidly that almost anything you can say about them results in an anachronism or two. Karen and Wade Sheeler were available for comment way back in 1990.

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Head ’em off at Rapace

Noomi Rapace, thirty-six today, made her name playing Lisbeth Salander in the three Swedish films made from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in 2009. (Interestingly, the Swedish title was Män som hatar kvinnor: “Men who hate women.”) Her first Hollywood blockbuster was Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

Noomi Rapace screenshot

Noomi Rapace takes a walk

The surname “Rapace,” incidentally, is French (and Italian) for “bird of prey”; Noomi and Ola Norell selected that name for themselves when they wed in 2001. (They split in 2011.)

Rapace has also appeared in music videos, including this weird little Luc Besson epic for the Rolling Stones in 2012:

Perhaps she just looks, um, musical; she’s slated to star in two upcoming biopics, one about Maria Callas, the other about Amy Winehouse.

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Viral music

In perhaps the most literal sense. Genetic Jen explains:

I took the entire HIV-1 genome and transformed it into music. This is something I had wanted to do for quite a while. The four nucleotide base pairs are cytosine (C), thymine (T), adenine (A), and guanine (G). Every C in the sequence has become a C note. The A bases are A notes and G bases are G notes. A friend suggested making the thymine (T) a pause in the music, but I preferred the idea that every base has a note so T has become a D note.

Is it great music? No. This is just yet another way to observe the genome. This is the smallest genome I’ve worked with and the track is one hour long. Obviously it could be shortened by altering the tempo but I liked it like this. Amazingly, a number of people have actually downloaded the music.

“Clearly I do strange things when I’m bored,” she says. I don’t think it’s all that strange: it’s still the same information, information of genuine value, simply converted into a different medium. And I am admittedly somewhat drawn to the idea that every single genome has a song of its own, even if the same four notes keep coming up.

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Remind me to change my phone number

From Reddit’s LegalAdviceUK:

One of my key members of staff is currently on paid annual holiday leave. We’ve just won a big project and I need his help to get it started before the 4th of January when it goes live. Unfortunately, I can’t contact him because I have phoned his house and left an answerphone message, his mobile goes straight to voicemail and I’ve left him a voicemail message. I’ve also emailed every known email address I have of his with read receipt requests but nothing so far. Unfortunately he’s not on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and it occurs to me there might be something wrong although his team workers think he’s ignoring me. None of them say they know where he is.

What I want to know is where does the company stand if somebody on paid annual holiday leave ignores legitimate communications from his employer and refuses to call back head office? If he was here in the office, refusing a reasonable direct request from senior management is a disciplinary matter but because he’s out of the office, is there anything I can do or is this a disciplinary matter that has to wait until the 4th of January when it will be too late for him to be involved in the big project we’ve just won and could lose if he’s not going to help the company with it?

Many responses, but this is the one I’d go with:

He’s on holiday. That means he’s not at work. He doesn’t even have to acknowledge you exist until he’s back at work after his holiday.

I know in practise that many people, myself included, will maintain some level of engagement with work out of hours and during vacation but that is something we choose to do, not something our employers have a genuine legal right to demand of us.

Honestly, this post makes you sound like the worst kind of PHB. You’ve taken on a “big project” which needs to go live in less than 2 weeks without considering how you’re going to deliver it and only now have you realised you don’t have the skills or capacity to do it and are looking around for someone to blame.

Although the very first responder captured the true spirit of the situation:

Dude, what are you doing pissing about on Reddit for? You’ve got a project to prepare for and less than two weeks to do it…

But, as a PHB, he’s not giving up:

A like for like exchange of annual leave is more than fair. The company is very busy right now with this new project we’ve won and the company would appreciate it if he could just pick up his phone and tell us he’ll be in tomorrow to work over Christmas and New Year.

I have no intent to break the law, I’ve told him that the M.D. has cancelled his annual leave and it’s going to be transferred to the first quarter of next year. If he doesn’t take it in the first quarter of next year then that’s his liability. As a company we’re being very understanding during this challenging time but the needs of the business are far more important than the needs of any employee including myself because without the extra work we’ve just won which he needs to do for us, there might not be a business viable enough to keep employing him! He can take his wife and kids somewhere nice next year.

He might be able to get away with that in some parts of the world. But in the UK? He’s going to be hanged. And what kind of Mickey Mouse operation is wholly dependent on getting random Big Projects?

(Via @mrs. claws.)

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Strange search-engine queries (517)

The National Weather Service, I am told, prefers “ice pellets” to “sleet.” And I’d prefer almost anything else with the exception of freezing rain, which is a tool of the devil. In the meantime, since I’m not going to frolic in the, um, pellets, I may as well read the search logs.

18 years old cutie verified by a doctor to be a virgin and then deflorated by the doctor’s husband:  And this is why the world is rapidly going to hell in a handbasket: the interaction between people obsessed with screwing and people obsessed with not screwing.

burn the spring chicken:  And hope it doesn’t taste too fowl.

no coke:  Pepsi?

gas station in median little rock circa 1960-70’s 12th & fairpark:  No, they won’t sell you regular for 59 cents a gallon. Or even 59.9 cents.

my sprained ankle family blog:  See? You can blog about anything.

if 90 percent of automobiles in orange county have both headlights working what is the probability that in a sample of eight automobiles at least seven will have both headlights working?  Do you know something about Orange County that I don’t?

sharon had a major argument with terence:  Damn guy never got around to getting his headlights fixed.

victoria justice feet ketchup:  Just in case you thought you had ridiculous fantasies.

manages to snag a steel conduit with his fingers symmetrical:  I suppose it’s easier to grasp with equal amounts on both sides.

severance pay for nineteen years symmetrical:  How much of that time was spending snagging steel conduit?

3.39 inches:  The guy on Tinder who claimed seven and a half.

moles on black people:  It happens. Black people don’t like them either.

renee is telling tom about her recent preparation for law school final exams. he nods his head and says “uh huh” a few times. however:  Tom has no idea that he’s about to get dumped.

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Tripping up the Nuggets

Denver Nuggets. Rebuilding, below .500, playing the second night of a back-to-back, and Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari are out. Easy prey? Not even. Denver was pretty much in command early on, leading 61-53 at halftime; the Thunder put together some offense in the third to take a one-point lead; baskets were traded for about five minutes, and then Enes Kanter somehow caught fire, hitting seven in a row, and things began happening for OKC, though not fast enough to open up a big lead. Nobody in the ‘Peake started breathing easy, though, until Dion Waiters, who’d up to that point had had a rough night, threw down over Kenneth Faried just inside the two-minute mark, putting OKC up 117-108. The final was 122-112, demonstrating once again that the Thunder can and will thrash all Western Conference rivals. (The East, maybe not so much.)

What kept the Nuggets in this one was the offensive rebound — they had 17 — and the subsequent score. And they scored pretty often, hitting 46 of 93 for just under 50 percent. Five Nuggets made double figures, led by Faried with 25 and 11 rebounds, although the major threat often as not was reserve forward Will Barton, who rounded up 19 points and a technical for sheer ferocity. Still, this night belonged to the Thunder, headed by Russell Westbrook, who came up with 30-9-12, a board short of a triple-double. Kevin Durant had 26, including 10 assists and, surprisingly, only one free throw — on that tech on Barton. Kanter’s big burst in the fourth gave him 21 of the Thunder’s 35 bench points.

Tuesday: Milwaukee Bucks. Not exactly rebuilding, but below .500, playing the second night of a back-to-back. No injuries to report at this time. Easy prey? Don’t bet on it. The Deer may be having their problems, but the Thunder can’t seem to capitalize on these things against Eastern teams. Yet. We shall see.

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