Just in time for dinner

From Syaffolee’s travel notebook, somewhere in the Mekong Delta:

There was a lot of seafood, some of it live, still flopping about in narrow metal pans filled with water.

This doesn’t happen quite so often on Classen, if you know what I mean.

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A scare for you

Of the five Spice Girls, perhaps the least heard-from of late is Scary Spice, otherwise known as Melanie Brown, seen here partying only moderately hearty:

Melanie Brown summer of 2013

Where has she been? All over the map, but her current gig is the judging panel of America’s Got Talent, alongside Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, and Heidi Klum.

While poking around the stacks, I turned up something of which I was not aware: Mel had done an episode of Coronation Street. My first thought was “Big deal. Corrie’s been on for fifty-odd years. By now, everyone in Britain, plus a handful of Tunisians, must have done the show.” The whole pre-Spice story:

The intention of the writers was that Andy McDonald and Amy [Nelson] would marry in what would be the first mixed-race wedding of the programme but actress Louise Duprey found the pressures of fame too demanding and soon after the recording of Episode 3601 (1st October 1993) suffered a nervous breakdown. It became clear that she would not return and the next — and final — time that the character was seen was in Episode 3609 (20th October 1993) when she was played by Melanie Brown (later better known as “Scary Spice” of the Spice Girls pop group) although she was only seen in a short scene set in a darkened room in which the cameras concentrated on Nicholas Cochrane. Louise Duprey was found dead of a drugs overdose in Liverpool in 2000. Her body had lain undiscovered for several weeks.

Now that’s scary.

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Sluts by mail

Something billing itself as “pua4done” tagged this “urgent” and dropped it into the maelstrom that is my inbox:

whats up!

I am not going to sit here and waste your time..

If you have ever wished you could pick up any girl YES i mean any girl with just a few simple words or body gestures then your DREAM is now a reality!…

I’m guessing that “pua” is a reference to “pick-up artist,” a phrase recently in vogue. And I’m also guessing that the sender isn’t going to do me any favors if I click on his link, which is anchored to the following text:

watch my free video and you too can pick up any girl at your leasure.. Or how about make the next girl you see want to tear off your clothes and suck YOUR dick!

What I really question, though, is that emphasis on that final “YOUR,” as though … oh, never mind.

From a different email address, but addressed to the same mailing list — you guys don’t spoof very well, do you? — was something titled “Looking for NSA Hookup.” I assume, of course, that NSA has already read this.

Wait, what? Oh, really?

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You can tell the difference

I am of, or perhaps from, an age where learning to shine up one’s shoes was a routine ritual of boyhood. There were two competitors, I knew: Kiwi, which came in a flat can, and Griffin’s, which came in a tall bottle. (If I’d looked, I’d find bottles of Kiwi and cans of Griffin’s, but I never looked that hard.) There was, however, a third, which was well on its way to oblivion, colloquial speech having established, or at least claimed, that it was largely indistinguishable from fecal matter, at least to some of us.

The trademark fell into desuetude, as trademarks will; but this one was revived, for a line of wholly different products. From earlier this month, in beautiful downtown Detroit:

In all honesty, we had no idea how many people would turn out for the grand opening of the Shinola Detroit Flagship store (441 W. Canfield St.) last weekend. So you can imagine how pleasantly surprised we were to be greeted by a long line of beaming Detroiters.

We had our full assortment of American-made products on hand, including men’s and women’s watches, leather goods, bicycles, and journals. But I think we surprised some people with the array of collaboratively-produced and curated items we also have in our store, such as leather-covered bike locks (a collaboration with Map of Days), jeans by Detroit Denim, Shinola bike bells, ceramic vessels by Local Portion, and a curated newsstand.

The stuff is pricey — watches start around $400, bicycles at two grand. Still, I have to believe there exists a market for this kind of thing, and if the conversation must open with WWII-era snark, well, at least Shinola v2.0 has its shiny-shod foot in the door. Meanwhile, Griffin and Kiwi soldier on.

(With thanks to Nancy Friedman, who offers her own analysis of the name.)

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A fitting legacy

How will we remember the Obama administration? What single act encapsulates the entire experience?

If you ask me, it’s this one:

Federal wildlife officials plan to dispatch hunters into forests of the Pacific Northwest starting this fall to shoot one species of owl to protect another that is threatened with extinction.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday released a final environmental review of an experiment to see if killing barred owls will allow northern spotted owls to reclaim territory they’ve been driven out of over the past half-century.

The two other non-owl players in this scenario are not at all pleased:

“Shooting a few isolated areas of barred owl isn’t going to help us as forest managers, nor is it going to help the forest be protected from wildfires, and catastrophic wildfire is one of the big impediments to spotted owl recovery,” said Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry group.

Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland, said saving the spotted owl is of paramount importance, but the focus must remain on protecting habitat. “To move forward with killing barred owls without addressing the fundamental cause of spotted owl declines, from our perspective, is not acceptable,” he said.

This is not the first time the Feds have come up with a plan like this:

Between 2000 and 2006, wildlife officials captured and removed more than 40 golden eagles from the Channel Islands off Southern California to protect the island fox. They also hired a company to kill 5,000 feral pigs on Santa Cruz in a controversial program to restore the island’s ecosystem.

For some reason, they couldn’t persuade the eagles to dine on the pigs rather than on the foxes; large signs containing mandatory nutritional information, I suspect, might not have worked.

Still, they’re overlooking the most obvious solution: relocate the spotted owls to Detroit. One more predator there will scarcely be noticed.

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The old one-two to the 313

Bill Quick modestly proposes a solution to both illegal immigration and Detroit’s insolvency:

Let’s roast two birds with one stone. Are you an illegal alien? Would you like to become a legal resident? Fine. All you have to do is emigrate to Detroit, pledge never to join a union, and agree not to accept any welfare or other government support payments whatsoever. In turn, Detroit will become a free economic zone with no federal, state, or local taxes, and no government regulations.

This might even encourage some of the 700,000 remaining residents to stick around, assuming the deal was offered to them.

How would this work? Cutting off benefits in that zone could be seen as a violation of equal protection; but they’re not technically being cut off, only being refused by the would-be beneficiaries. I’ve seen thinner hairs than that being split. (It is assumed for purposes of illustration that reneging on that deal would presumably, once the benefits application was received, get you a one-way trip back to wherever.) And truth be told, I like the idea of this purely as an experiment. Surely it can’t be any worse than what’s in Detroit now.

See also this Michael Bloomberg proposal.

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Further and future tweaks

I was working on the back end yesterday, so to speak, and started wondering if maybe I should move up beyond PHP 5.2.x, inasmuch as WordPress is now recommending 5.2.4 as the absolute minimum.

The host now sends new accounts by default to 5.3 and FastCGI, so that was the package for which I opted. It sped things along a bit, but they were also offering 5.4, so after a decent interval (about eight hours) I bumped up to the 5.4 level; with 5.4.11, I’ve cut my RAM usage by a third.

As it happens, 5.5 is out now, and 5.5.1, released last week, is the latest stable release. When that’s available to me, I’ll grab it.

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To cheat the wind

Lest you think that electronic musicians are just happy hedonists, allow me to pass on the following news:

State building codes do not require that schools provide safe rooms, leaving the decision to individual school districts. FEMA distributes grant money to states after major disasters to give communities an incentive to rebuild smarter and to avoid costlier disasters in the future. But support is limited, and local school districts still must come up with around a quarter of the costs for storm improvements.

Shelter Oklahoma Schools was created with the purpose of providing storm shelters in and around Oklahoma schools and communities. World renowned producers have banded together and donated tracks for a special release on the PIN23 Net Label as a fundraiser release for the Shelter Oklahoma Schools project. ALL SALES will go to ShelterOklahomaSchools.org.

Says compiler Jack Acid: “Amazing to see so many artists outside of Oklahoma, and outside of America even, wanting to help.”

Here’s the full scoop and the track list. The album — 38 tracks, 320-kbps MP3 — is a measly ten bucks, and all proceeds go towards getting storm shelters for Oklahoma schools.

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The fuller portfolio man

Stockbrokers are now peddling their wares door to door. Or at least one of them is: Edward Jones, the St. Louis-based investment firm that maintains strip-mall offices, each with a single counselor, dropped by the palatial estate at Surlywood this morning, while normal people are at work. Upon receiving no answer at the door, the chap left a booklet whose middle pages incorporated a table containing about 180 widely held stocks and their one-word advice (BUY, HOLD, SELL) on each.

I did like the disclaimer:

The Edward Jones Research department typically recommends industry-leading companies that appear reasonably valued. A well-diversified approach is typically used without significant over- or under-weighting (in comparison to the S&P 500) in any one sector. An index is not managed and is unavailable for direct investment. Performance results do not represent actual trading and may not reflect the impact that material economic and market factors might have on our decision making if we were actually managing clients’ money.

For an investment firm, this seems unusually forthright.

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Sunset over England

It’s truly the end of an era:

David “Slightly Less Insane” Payne presumably will fill Gary’s slot, if never, ever his shoes.

Update: TLO’s full story.

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Funny threads on this screw

Two months ago, Yahoo! bought Tumblr and promised “not to screw it up.” And then last week, they screwed it up, only to attempt hurriedly to unscrew it:

Friday, it was revealed that Yahoo’s Tumblr brand had exiled its “Adult” blogs separately from its “NSFW” blogs into a non-searchable ghetto where they were de-indexed from both internal and external search — making an estimated 12.5 million blogs unfindable.

Within 24 hours Tumblr has quietly returned the blogs back to internal and external search, and folded its “Adult” blogs into the wider “NSFW” category.

See also Tumblehead David Karp’s statement, which indicates that a lot of blogs which were neither Adult nor NSFW but tagged with various LGBTQ terms were caught in the undertow, requiring Karp’s minions to develop better filters.

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More minor irritants

Aren’t there always more minor irritants?

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A tale of two budgets

William Crum in the Oklahoman, on the suddenly newsworthy matter of municipal budgets:

Q: How much does Detroit owe?

A: Long-term debt could be as much as $20 billion.

Q: How does Oklahoma City compare?

A: Oklahoma City and its related trusts owe a little more than $1.3 billion. Property taxes are used to make payments on about $600 million in general obligation bonds, meaning taxpayers are on the hook for that money. Revenue bonds issued by related trusts are secured by specific streams of cash — for instance, payments on the $344 million owed by the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust are made from money collected for water and sewer services. Nine related trusts borrow to finance public services including airports, the fairgrounds, parking and economic development.

Q: One battle in Michigan is over whether bankruptcy could lead to cuts in pension benefits for retired public employees. Is this an issue in Oklahoma City?

A: Actuarial figures that came out last week show Oklahoma City’s pension system is 99-percent funded. That system covers civilian employees; fire and police are in state pension systems.

State pension funding is running about 65 percent, an improvement over recent years but still a bit short of where it ought to be.

Interestingly, Detroit’s 2013-14 budget calls for $1 billion in expenditures. Oklahoma City, with 100,000 fewer people, has a 2013-14 budget that calls for — um, $1 billion in expenditures. On the other hand, OKC is caught up on its debt service, and legally can’t run a deficit.

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Or maybe just one long extension cord

One factor hampering widespread adoption of electric vehicles is range anxiety, brought on by the combination of long charging times and short vehicle ranges: if you live someplace where everything is a couple hundred miles away, you’re not really a candidate for an EV, at least not for your only car.

But suppose you can’t drive a couple hundred miles away no matter what’s powering your car?

A rare combination of factors makes Southeast Alaska a promising locale for plug-ins. It’s not accessible to the outside world by road — all shipments and long-distance travel come by ship or through the air. The main road running through town, Route 7, spans less than 35 miles from end to end, so there’s only so far a vehicle can travel in any one direction. Thus, range anxiety isn’t much of an issue. “I think we actually have more miles of hiking trail than roads here,” said Zach Wilkinson of the Juneau Economic Development Commission, one of the entities spearheading the local push for EVs.

While Juneau has only one charging station for now, they’re planning to add a lot more. And since almost all the local power is hydroelectric, it’s not like there’s going to be a sudden spike in the Dreaded Greenhouse Gases once those stations are in operation.

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Mill demands more grist

Another reason why I still use this seven-year-old WordPress theme:

Readers sometimes “like” my posts by clicking a button that WordPress displays at the end of the post, and I appreciate that. In fact I very often like their posts too, but my security software (NoScript) goes off when I try to click “like.” Just to get to that point I must first temporarily allow a couple of urls to run javascript. Then NoScript warns me about a potential “clickjacking” attempt, and I haven’t been able to sort out exactly what that is and how to allow the link without allowing malicious links. Whatever clickjacking is, I bet it’s something I wouldn’t like.

Blogger and WordPress.com and, most blatantly, Tumblr have been trying to capture eyeballs by playing social-media games with “followers” and “likes” and whatnot, in an effort to make you think that you shouldn’t venture from their sandbox because those Other People can’t “like” you or “reblog” you. (There are actually only 19 original Tumblr posts and 487 million reblogs.)

Oh, and in case you were wondering:

A clickjacked page tricks a user into performing undesired actions by clicking on a concealed link. On a clickjacked page, the attackers load another page over it in a transparent layer. The users think that they are clicking visible buttons, while they are actually performing actions on the hidden page. The hidden page may be an authentic page; therefore, the attackers can trick users into performing actions which the users never intended. There is no way of tracing such actions to the attackers later, as the users would have been genuinely authenticated on the hidden page.

My readers may be reassured that even if I were evil enough to try crap like that, I wouldn’t have the tech smarts to implement it.

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Stairway to Hendricks

MaxMara, the Italian fashion house, launched a new Accessories line last week in New York, and Christina Hendricks was there:

Christina Hendricks at MaxMara debut 7-18-13

The new signature item, perhaps, is the unfortunately named J-Bag (see it here), which just exudes Sixties goodness, not unlike Christina herself. The ad campaign, however, will feature Jennifer Garner.

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