A ray of light in Sacramento

There exists an asinine little bit of legal smugfuckery known as the Non- Disparagement Clause, usually sneaked into the smallest available type way down the page(s) in the contract you don’t have time to read in the first place. Examples thereof:

First there was the lawsuit of KlearGear.com’s non-disparagement clause, which tried to slap customers with $3,500 penalties if they complain about a purchase in a public forum. The clause was buried two pages deep on the site’s Terms of Sale, where no reasonable person would be expected to find it. A customer sued the site after being hit with the fee and the retailer was ordered to pay $306,000 in damages.

More recently, a customer of a very sketchy site called Accessory Outlet sued because its Terms of Sale … include a non-disparagement clause that charges customers $250 for even threatening to complain online or to issue a credit card chargeback.

This sort of crap is now illegal in the Golden State:

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed off on a piece of legislation that will make it illegal to try to enforce one of these silly clauses against a California consumer starting in 2015.

Violating the California law will result in penalties of up to $2,500 for the first instance, and up to $5,000 for each subsequent violation. If a customer can prove that it is [a] “willful, intentional, or reckless violation” they can be awarded a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000.

The other 56 states should do likewise at their earliest convenience.

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The coldest place you can go

McMurdo Station? Baffin Bay? Nothing so remote. You want chills like you’ve literally never had before, your destination is on La Cienega Boulevard in L.A.:

There, a business called Cryohealthcare promises visitors a cure for inflammatory problems — everything from rheumatoid arthritis to musculoskeletal injuries and autoimmune disorders. The process, overseen by the handsome Germany-born Dr. Jonas Kuehne, costs $65 a treatment and involves stripping to one’s underwear (or naked if you’re a woman); donning a robe, knee-length socks, gloves and a surgical mask; and entering a chamber that resembles a time machine. Aptly so as you are hurled back to the Ice Age, your body engulfed in a terrifying cloud of vapor and the temperature plummeting to -220°F. (The lowest natural temperature ever recorded has been -128.5°F in Antarctica.) Kuehne says such low temperatures stimulate cells to produce proteins called cytokines that fight inflammation. When I emerged 90 seconds later, did I feel great? Maybe at first, but that might have been euphoria about still being alive. I then was invited to do it again, which I agreed to for some inexplicable reason. A few hours later I began to not feel well at all, and for several days the skin on my legs felt a little freezer-burned.

You want colder than that, you’ll have to leave California. Oh, and you’d better be already dead:

[T]he body of famed computer coder Hal Finney was flown to the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., shortly after he died Aug. 28 of ALS. That night, his fluids were replaced with a proprietary chemical solution called M-22. His body then was chilled to -320°F and placed in an aluminum pod suspended within a 450-liter tank filled with liquid nitrogen. There, Finney will remain in suspended animation, or biostasis, until he can be revived. (Full-body cryopreservation costs $200,000, but one can preserve one’s brain for a mere $80,000.) Exactly how or when that might be achieved is unclear, but according to the Alcor website, the key lies in nanotechnology, by which molecule-sized devices could “recover any preserved person in which the basic brain structures encoding memory and personality remain intact.”

I’m not sure whether I should scoff at any of this or not.

(Via Commonsense & Wonder.)

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A bargain nearly Faustian

Lauren Faust, among my personal heroines — it’s that whole My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic thing — tells the story of how she got from shy-ish kid to animator at Sony Pictures, and while her CV is packed with all sorts of stuff, pony-related and otherwise, this is perhaps the most pertinent quote:

I started developing cartoons and series for girls. I would pitch shows to executives at different studios, and people would really like the stories and really like the characters, but then tell me, “We don’t want shows for girls.” They were attributing the poor performance of these shows to the gender of the target audience instead of to the quality of the shows. It was like banging my head against the wall; I just couldn’t get through.

Faust says she basically aimed MLP:FiM at her inner eight-year-old girl, which may explain why it was so well received by yours truly, inhabited by an inner nine-year-old girl. Her current project at Sony is the retelling of the tale of Medusa.

(Via Cartoon Brew.)

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No need for speed

Sure, we’d love to sell you a really high-speed, really high-priced Internet service, but only we can judge what is truly fast:

AT&T and Verizon have asked the Federal Communications Commission not to change its definition of broadband from 4Mbps to 10Mbps, saying many Internet users get by just fine at the lower speeds.

“Given the pace at which the industry is investing in advanced capabilities, there is no present need to redefine ‘advanced’ capabilities,” AT&T wrote in a filing made public Friday after the FCC’s comment deadline (see FCC proceeding 14-126). “Consumer behavior strongly reinforces the conclusion that a 10Mbps service exceeds what many Americans need today to enable basic, high-quality transmissions,” AT&T wrote later in its filing. Verizon made similar arguments.

Since American broadband is very much like American health care — pretty damned expensive for what you get — it’s no surprise that the guys who collect the tolls would like to keep their sweet little racket going.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler even suggested in a speech last week that 10Mbps is too low. “A 25Mbps connection is fast becoming ‘table stakes’ in 21st century communications,” he said. At 25Mbps, three-quarters of Americans have, at best, one choice of providers. At 10Mbps, 8.4 percent of Americans have no access, and another 30.3 percent have access from only one provider.

If the definition is kept at 4Mbps, statistics on broadband deployment and competition look a lot better, putting less pressure on telcos to upgrade infrastructure. AT&T and Verizon prefer to keep it that way.

Then again, even Nancy Pelosi, who did as much as anyone in history to fark up American healthcare, is at least coming around on broadband, insisting on the broadest possible definition of net neutrality:

Pelosi wrote in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission Monday that Internet service providers should be reclassified under Title II of the Communications Act — a step toward stronger regulations that would allow the FCC to more easily prohibit attempts by ISPs to charge other businesses for smoother, faster access to consumers.

“I oppose special Internet fast lanes,” wrote Pelosi. “I believe the FCC should follow the court’s guidance and reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II.”

Hang on to your routers, folks. This could get nasty.

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Your seventy years are up?

For a dead car brand, Saab certainly gets a lot of notice. The Economic Times of India buried this near the bottom of a column, but still:

Recent international reports indicate that one of Saab’s potential saviours could be Mahindra.

National Electric Vehicle Sweden, a Chinese-run company seeking to revive Saab, recently lost the right to use the brand’s name as it negotiates with potential investors on a revival plan.

The Indian company was keen on acquiring Saab in 2012, only to be beaten by the current owner. Saab didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

“Saab was a highly respected brand in both Europe and the US, and had a small, but strong following,” said [French auto analyst Gautam] Sen. “So, picking up Saab and using the brand could be a good way for Mahindra to make some headway into these markets. Even Ssangyong has had problems getting anywhere in Europe as many consumers believe that it is a Chinese brand. So re-branding (and redesigning) Ssangyong and Mahindra products into Saabs may work, if quality and design can come up to the expectations of the typically discerning Saab enthusiast,” he said. “Having said that, relaunching a brand as specific as Saab would not be that easy either.”

Mahindra took a 70-percent share of Ssangyong, the fourth-largest Korean automaker (behind Hyundai, Kia and GM Daewoo), after the Double Dragon fell into receivership in 2009.

Weirdly, both Mahindra and Saab Automobile were formed the same year: 1945.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Spyder, man

I hesitate to call a singer an Unsung (!) Hero, but David Dwight “Spyder” Turner, born in Beckley, West Virginia but raised in Detroit, seems to be largely forgotten except by collectors of old R&B singles and Northern Soul buffs. His big hit came up on the shuffle today, and I figured it was time he got a shout-out from this corner.

A lot of people have covered Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” over the years, but none of them quite like Spyder Turner, who sang every verse in the voice of some other soul singer, the sort of tribute you don’t dare try unless you’re utterly devoted to what you’re doing and you have a voice that can pull it off. Turner did. MGM cut his 5:40 original in half to fit it on a single in late 1966; it made #12 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B chart. On the LP, Turner sounded like everyone from Jackie Wilson to Smokey Robinson to three different Temptations.

And judging by the concert footage here, Turner, then 64, can still do it. It continues to amaze me that he had only one subsequent chart record: a cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “I Can’t Make It Anymore,” the sort of lost track that reminds you that if you go straight south from Detroit, you end up in Canada.

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Hands across the nation

Unlikely friendships may be the best kind: you’ve already overcome the presumed obstacles, probably without even thinking about them. Lisa knows how this goes:

I don’t think it was the Internet that opened up the doors to friendships between people who otherwise would never meet in real life. Ham radio operators used to have whole communities of “friends” out on the airwaves. Even before that, people had foreign pen pals with whom they shared years of correspondence without any expectation that they would ever shake hands in real life. Sometimes it was better that way. I remember a professor telling me a story about Henry James that may or may not be apocryphal. Among the many woman, James corresponded with regularly was one he had never met even through years of letters where they found themselves to be soul mates in matters of literature and philosophy. Finally, returning to America after a long stay in Europe, James decided to visit this woman in New York or Boston or wherever it was that she lived. According to the story, just before James walked up the drive to this woman’s home, a housemaid, distracted by something, dropped a basket of soiled linen on the front stoop. Henry, who we all know was a bit of a prig, saw this basket of unmentionables where no respectable home should allow it to be. He was so horrified at the indelicacy that he turned around and never wrote to the woman again. Who knows if the story’s true? But it might tell us that some friendships work best on other planes of existence.

Cue the voice of somebody’s mother, with just the slightest hint of condescension: “Are you talking to your little Internet friends again?”

Well, yes, we are. And some of them, we treasure as though we’d grown up beside them. Lisa knows about that sort of thing, which is why, after a season full of whirlwind activity, she’s taken keyboard in hand to pay tribute to a friend of hers, and mine, and likely one of yours too.

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Acts to grind

If you’ve ever told yourself “I just can’t get into opera,” here’s a handy guide to make it easier for you:

Anatomy of Operas

(Via the Facebook page of San Francisco classical station KDFC.)

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Wheelbase measured in inches

Enough of this “overcompensation” stuff, says Bark M.:

These guys hate me with a passion. Not only does my car have over four hundred horsepower, it’s yellow. To this particular group of internet commenters, I may as well have a target placed on my size 38 chest. According to them, my dong is actually so small that it’s inverted.

I would suggest that, in this day and age, that line of thought is outdated as the stereotype that only women of a certain persuasion drive Subarus. The only thing my car is an extension of is of my personality. In fact, I’d suggest that perhaps the opposite might be true — that men who drive underpowered cars do so because they think it supplements their identities as hipsters or intellectuals. Also, your girl just drooled over that Viper that drove by.

That Subaru stereotype, incidentally, once got a TTAC editor lambasted and then sacked.

I’m not buying the tweedy-hipster routine, though. In any given automotive class, the car with the least horsepower is likely to be the Mazda; this particular automaker values lightness and litheness more than pony count. If J. Random Wuss persistently chose the smallest horsepower number available, Mazda would be selling a million cars a year in the States instead of a mere 300,000.

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At the sign of the catty

We open with a quote from TLC regarding “scrubs”:

A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me
Hanging out the passenger side
Of his best friend’s ride
Trying to holler at me

The hollering here is also dubbed “catcalling,” which was news to me: I grew up with the notion that “catcalling” was what Philadelphia sports fans did to the visiting team — or, sometimes, to the home team. Then again, doing the wolf-whistle thing was so far out of my comfort zone back then that actually doing it was unthinkable. Women, I suspect, aren’t keen on it anyway:

I’m still always shocked and confused when a person says “I don’t know what you’re so mad about! They’re just trying to COMPLIMENT you for God’s sake!”

I guess my confusion stems from my definition of a compliment: “a polite expression of praise or admiration,” because to me, yelling at a woman from a moving vehicle doesn’t feel as polite as I guess it was intended. Because the way I was taught, polite would be allowing me the chance to respond which, since you’re driving at 50 MPH straight past me doesn’t really seem like an option. Although I suppose it is always an option for me to write down your license plate number and track you down through the DMV or local police station. Or maybe I could just run after your car until you stop, and we’re finally united in true love.

But all of that aside, I was always of the opinion that a compliment is intended to make the recipient feel good, not the complimenter. And if that were the case, there wouldn’t be women confronting you about it, or men going on the defensive when they do.

I’m not staking any claim to the moral high ground here: had I been persuaded that this particular practice might actually work, I might well have given it a try — nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? But there is no set of circumstances under which I could believe that she’d dressed herself up and planted herself in that particular location just to catch my eye: in my experience, this simply does not happen, and I can think of no reason why it should.

And yes, I suppose, once in a while it might pay off for someone; if it never did, it would never occur to anyone else to try it.

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For the long term

The October Motor Trend has an interview, not with the usual grand high muckety-muck of the automotive industry, but with a 70-year-old corporate accountant, unaffiliated with the industry, who’s been on their subscription rolls ever since 1960, at which time he was sixteen and the magazine was eleven.

I did like this interchange:

Have we ever steered you wrong?

No, absolutely not. Never was sorry on anything I ever bought, really.

So you never bought a Vega, huh?

The Vega was MT’s 1971 Car of the Year; they’re still living that one down.

I did some counting, and my current longest subscription run is with MT rival Car and Driver, which I started in 1978. I’m sure someone — possibly Tam — can beat that.

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You may work with someone like this

Or one very much like him, because there are a heck of a lot of guys like this:

30 years ago, I was in my boss’ office talking shop with him. The door was open, and it was the day annual reviews were implemented and raises first showed up on paychecks.

One young lower-level manager, upset with the size of his increase, stormed into the office, ignoring me, slapped his paycheck down on the boss’ desk, and exclaimed, “This is an insult! When are you going to pay me what I’m worth?”

Without batting an eye, the boss slid his check back over towards the young chap and said, “I’d love to, son, but there is the minimum wage law to consider.”

In fact, I’ve seen some people who should have been billed for the work they did.

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Coolen on the side

Nancy Anna Francina Coolen wound up with a shortened name (“Nance”), a career in Eurodance music, and a second career as a TV host, all before turning 40. (She’s 41 tomorrow.) There is, of course, the usual array of slightly exciting pictures:

Nance Coolen

Nance Coolen

Nance was discovered by Ruud van Rijen, who created the dance act Twenty 4 Seven in 1989. She remained with van Rijen through 1996; he continues the group today.

This video, set to Nance’s 2003 solo single “If You Wanna Dance,” contains a brief history of her career:

Last I looked, she was doing Showniews for the Dutch channel SBS 6.

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Why we hate buying cars

A field report from Bayou Renaissance Man:

As part of my search for solutions to my truck’s electrical problems, I visited a few used car dealers (and used car departments of new car dealers) to price alternative transport. I went well armed with information, having researched possible cars and trucks on Edmunds.com and made lists of what Edmunds terms the “true market value” of relevant ones for several model years. I always found that the cars’ sticker prices were several thousand dollars above those listed by Edmunds, and I always asked the salesmen to justify that. They uniformly tried to persuade me that Edmunds.com didn’t know what it was talking about. When I produced corroborating values from NADA and the Kelley Blue Book, they’d fall back on the old “Well, we use a different book” excuse. When I refused to buckle, and insisted on answers, about half of them hemmed and hawed and waffled; the other half simply refused to talk any further.

It was always thus. When I retired Deirdre, my ’84 Mercury Cougar, I was offered something like $1400 above KBB for her in trade. This made no sense to me, but I was ready to deal. The new(ish) car was a ’93 Mazda 626, for which they were asking $9995. In plum condition, and this one was close to it, it was worth a KBB-estimated $8600. By any definition of the term, this was a wash.

(The next Mazda was bought new. Sticker was just over $20,000. But that’s another story.)

There is, however, a silver lining:

Only one dealer was honest enough to tell me that they charged the price they believed the market would bear. If their price was higher than Edmunds’ recommendation, it was because that make and model were in demand in this area, or they’d had to invest extra money in getting the vehicle ready for sale (which they backed up with invoices showing the work that had been done). They made no excuses and didn’t try to waffle.

That sort of forthright statement deserves some sort of signal boost.

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The latest whiz kids

I admit to a certain difficulty trying to determine a motive here:

Imagine going to Walmart only to find that what you need is off the shelf. Not because it’s out of stock, but because it’s been soaked with doe urine.

Arrest and booking reports show that the damage amounted to more than $2,500.

I mean, who carries this stuff around? Besides deer, I mean, and they get rid of it as quickly as they can.

Police said Cody Hudson, 18, and Jon Ohlman, 24, sprayed doe urine on toys, fabrics and shoes inside the Walmart near East 96th Street North and Highway 169 in Owasso.

I’m guessing the culprits, nabbed right across the street, were not exactly fawned over.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Nothing new under the sunroof

The view from the driver’s seat of the freshly-hatched 2015 Lincoln MKC:

Instrument panel of 2015 Lincoln MKC

(Photo from worldautomodification.com.)

The buttons down the upper left side of the center stack bear letters you’ve seen before: P, R, N, D, S. (The last one is the engine start/stop switch.)

Now really: how much has changed in fifty-nine years?

Advertisement for 1956 Dodge

Oh, yeah: the Lincoln has shift paddles. Hot (actually kinda tepid) diggity.

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