Bar exam flunked

Foxtel is an Australian company, providing both cable and satellite television and telephone service. It is a joint venture of News Corp (hence “Fox”) and Telestra (hence “tel”). As you can easily see, it has enjoyed steady growth in nearly two decades of existence.

Graph of Foxtel growth from the Canberra Times in Australia

Okay, maybe not so easily.


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A lot of believers back then

Mike Nesmith of the Monkees apparently used to distrust the press, and not just the musical press. He illustrates with this tale from 1977:

“As we sat down for the interview, before he asked the first question, I told him that I was going to lie to him. He was taken aback, then seemed a little nonplussed and asked why. I said it was because I didn’t trust the press, that I didn’t expect him to tell the truth, so neither would I …

“I said that some of the things I would say would be true and some false, and it was up to him to figure out which was which, according to the normal standards of journalistic responsibility. He asked how he would tell the difference between when I was lying and telling the truth, and I said, “You won’t. That is the point of the lie …

“Then came a point where he asked me about the sales of the Monkees records, and I saw the chance. It isn’t too well known, I said flatly, that we sold over thirty-five million records in 1967. More than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined … he diligently wrote all this down, and I wondered for a moment if I had chosen too outrageous a lie to tell, but it turned out it had been just right.

“The next day in the paper, there it was, printed as fact.”

To this day, this totally bogus number — “class-A mendacity,” said Nez — is being quoted by people who don’t know any better, which is most of them.

(From the Nesmith autobiography Infinite Tuesday, via American Digest.)

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The unsoaked rich

Colonel Bunny, on the subject of the one-percenters and how they stay there:

The mask has slipped in the last 25 years as the infection of high-speed trading on the stock market, the flood of insane derivatives, the chummy relationship of public employee unions and politicians, open borders, and massive money creation, among other things, have come to light. The result has been the enormous transfer of wealth to the richest 1% that has accompanied astronomical wage stagnation. This is parasitism.

No one’s been minding the store in the West for a long time. Almost all Western nations have flooded themselves with savages and run up massive debt and money supplies, all to satisfy, I presume, the moneyed interests and their lumpenproletariat clients on whom the former rely to deliver reliable votes for economic destruction and the slide into third-world grime and savagery. This has nothing to do with common sense or patriotism.

There’s scarcely any money worthy of the name down here in the old Teeming Milieu; at best, what we have turns out to be nothing more than positive ledger entries. The more pragmatic among us will note that this is better than negative ledger entries; but at any moment your personal balance may be confiscated at the whim of the State. And if they want you in red ink, in red ink you shall be.

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Actually, I was nearly broke

My ex zinged me on Facebook today with this:

Man wants to mow the lawn in his birthday suit

Okay, she wasn’t that scornful back in the day, but she certainly wasn’t keen on that sort of idea.

(From the voluminous humor files of Alan Drucker. God knows where he got it.)

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JD Rucker said this last fall:

But if not Clooney, then who? How about Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)?

Assuming Clooney doesn’t run, the more likely and mainstream choice of Senator Kamala Harris is poised to be the nominee. She’ll win California if she’s even a blip on the radar. Her opponents would have to eliminate her from contention altogether for her to lose this state where she is extremely popular.

Unfortunately for other hopefuls, the only way to eliminate her from contention will likely be through scandal because if California’s current plan passes, she’ll only have to go through Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. The state is pushing to move their primary to early March, making it the kingmaker it has always wanted to be.

As Politico points out, her opponents would be hard-pressed to mount the fundraising efforts necessary to blitz the most populous state in the nation with enough juice to derail her. That’s not going to happen unless Mark Cuban or some other self-funded billionaire enters the race. Harris will be the Democratic nominee and the DNC will wholeheartedly embrace her as the Trump-slayer.

And for those benighted jokers who make their selection on the basis of eye candy, she’s a cinch:

Kamala Harris has something to say

Kamala Harris has something to say

For those more obsessive than I:

And hey, if George Clooney does win, the First Lady will suddenly be vaulted into Jackie Kennedy territory. We’ve looked at her once.

Okay, more than once.

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Stepping over the water line

Peter Grant takes umbrage at the current state of the federal flood-insurance program:

Let’s assume that Hurricane Irma will cost about the same as Hurricane Harvey in terms of insurance payouts. That’s $22 billion in total. Let’s assume, too, that the historical average holds, and that about 30% of those claims will be repeat claims from properties that had previously been damaged by flooding. That’s $6.6 billion. That money might as well be poured down the drain … because it’s merely repeating previous repairs. What’s more, if those properties are permitted to reinsure at subsidized rates, we — the taxpayers of America — will be on the hook yet again for future repairs, which are certain to arise when the next hurricane hits those properties.

Proposed solution:

The taxpayer-subsidized federal flood insurance program should be modified AT ONCE. Those who are presently insured under it should be able to keep their insurance … but for one future claim only. As soon as they make a flood-related claim, the payout should be in the form of a forced purchase of their property, and a razing of any and all buildings on it. The property owner(s) can use the payout to settle any outstanding debts on the properties, and apply the balance to buying or building another home in a less flood-prone area. We, the taxpayers of this country, should no longer be liable for any repeat claims on their former property — otherwise we’re subsidizing failure. We’re subsidizing the repair, cleanup and construction industries, as well as the property owners.

I also propose that any new or replacement construction in flood-prone areas, and any repairs to properties formerly covered by the federal flood insurance program, should be automatically denied access to that program. Those who build or rebuild in such areas should be forced to pay for insurance at commercial rates, which should not be subsidized by the rest of us. Why should we pay for damages that we know are almost certain to be incurred in future? Is that a proper use of our taxes? I maintain it’s not.

This is actually a bit milder than my own thinking, which runs along the same lines but does not allow for even a single additional claim. I would also be amenable to allowing private flood insurance, if you can find someone to write it. The premiums would presumably be higher, but hey, that’s what’s supposed to happen with increased risk.

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Privet in public

Chinese privet, it appears, is the new kudzu:

Chinese privet was brought to the U.S. in the 1800s as a decorative hedge, but it has spread rapidly across the Southeast, now covering more than 1 million acres in Alabama alone. The small, woody hedge has become a major problem here, crowding out native plants in forests, on rights of way and in people’s back yards.

So what’s the deal with Ligustrum sinense and its cousins?

Privet is a successful invasive species because of its ability to outcompete and therefore displace native vegetation. This competitive superiority to native vegetation is connected with the plant’s ability to adapt to different light conditions. For example, in low light environments, privet is able to produce fewer and larger ramets than its competitors. These larger ramets make privet more tree-like, making privet better able to compete for light than its more shrub-like native counterparts. Privet is an ideal invasive species because it reproduces both sexually and asexually. Through sexual reproduction, privet produces seeds that are easily dispersed by wind and animals. These seeds can rapidly colonize disturbed soil such as that perturbed by fires, forest clearings, erosion, or abandoned agricultural land. Privet matures quickly, which allows for a short generation cycle and even greater dispersal. The roots of privet can reproduce asexually through root suckers.

Which makes eradication problematic, because if you don’t kill every last square inch of it, fragments of root will eventually turn into more privet.

Inevitably, it has spread: this privet, and several others like it, have made it halfway across the continent, to eastern Texas and Oklahoma. And none of them are good for insects:

[O]ne study found the abundance and diversity of butterflies increased following privet removal to almost the same abundance as that of a similar forest community, with no history of privet invasion. In a study conducted in Georgia, privet was found to decrease the diversity of native honeybee colonies. Plots removed of privet resulted in four times as many bee species as control plots in which privet was not removed. Traps placed in undisturbed forest plots with no history of privet caught an average of 210 bees from 34 species, while traps placed in privet-infested plots caught an average of 35 bees from only 9 species.

Birds like the little berries, but there’s little nutritional value to them, and the resulting excreta, if it doesn’t land on your car, is likely to produce still more privet.

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You can only outsource so far

At that point, the alternative is to bring the function back in-house while not actually hiring anyone to perform it:

A year ago, the Washington Post introduced Heliograf, an in-house program that automatically generates short reports for their live blog. It was first used during the Rio Olympics to provide information such as the results of medal events for services like Alexa. At that time Sam Han, engineering director of data science, said, “The next challenge is to broaden the subjects covered, deepen the kind of analysis possible and identify potential stories for our newsroom.”

It looks like that day has arrived. Over the past year, the Post has published 850 stories from Heliograf, expanding its reach to include reporting on subject like congressional races and high-school football games.

Um, Mister Bezos, sir, can this thing be trained to write editorials? Asking for a friend in the news business.

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In search of Fairness

Let’s try it this way:


Disclosure: I have never had a beer at the State Fair.

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The size of the universe

Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher, on the bridgeYou remember Dr Crusher, don’t you? Once upon a time, she found herself alone on the Enterprise, while the universe seemed literally to shrink around her. (If you’re keeping score, and of course you are, this was “Remember Me,” season 4. episode 5, of Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

Turns out that this isn’t necessarily the kind of situation one has to be a member of Starfleet Command to experience.

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Zoom it yourself

Kids on Yahoo! Answers are prone to questions like “What should I study in college? I need to make enough to afford a Lamborghini.” Not going to happen, of course, but they persist, until you ask them “Why don’t you build your own?”

Ken Imhoff spent 17 years building a replica Countach, with a Ford 351 Cleveland sitting amidships, fed by more carburetors than most people have seen in a lifetime.

As early as 1980, the Countach was selling new for over $100,000. Imhoff surely spent more than that to hand-build his. And once he was done, he realized he had no place to go.

Then he looked skyward:

“It was an exercise of human self-centered, egotistical, selfishness that just about ended my marriage and losing our home. As my faith begins to grow, I realize God gave me the talent to do what I do and there is nothing wrong with that; my only mistake was not using it to glorify Christ.”

So he hit the road with his homebrew ministry.


Reelin in the years

This Rube Goldberg-esque glycoprotein is called reelin:

Crystalline structure of reelin

It’s named for the reeler mouse, a mutant with really terrible motor skills.

Reelin is a complicated chemical found floating around in your body. Near as I can tell, it has some influence over the central nervous system. I got onto this from a Reddit link to a Wikipedia passage about schizophrenia, one of my least favorite diseases.

It’s a busy little substance:

Reelin has been suggested to be implicated in pathogenesis of several brain diseases. The expression of the protein has been found to be significantly lower in schizophrenia and psychotic bipolar disorder, but the cause of this observation remains uncertain as studies show that psychotropic medication itself affects reelin expression. Moreover, epigenetic hypotheses aimed at explaining the changed levels of reelin expression are controversial. Total lack of reelin causes a form of lissencephaly. Reelin may also play a role in Alzheimer’s disease, temporal lobe epilepsy and autism.

A mere 3,461 amino acids go into this stuff, which sort of reminds me of why I never became a chemist:

I’m not very good at chemistry. Oh, I understand the basics well enough, water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, but once you get past the basics there is an endless profusion of chemical compounds and I quickly become lost. It’s almost like the English language, you can stick words, or atoms, together in a limitless number of ways. If you use it every day, those combinations will become familiar to you, like the books you have read. But if you don’t immerse yourself in this sea of arcane knowledge it will always be gibberish.

And even then, I suspect, you’re always going to be at least somewhat behind the times.

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Credulity in the 21st century

Patrick Nonwhite, one of the two wise guys behind the DPRK News Service, billed as the “Official News feed of Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea,” has learned that some people simply have to believe in things, no matter how absurd. He relays this tale:

Our first big media mention, in which Greta Van Susteren, then at Fox and now at MSNBC, quoted us in her Fox blog as proof that North Korea was behind the hacking of Sony Pictures at the time The Interview was released. Plenty of people, including me through another account, told her she might be wrong about this, then she doubled down by stating that while “some say” the account is a parody, she believed it to be true. Then I predicted what the account would tweet ten minutes in the future. My prediction was correct. She took the blog post down and sent it to the memory hole. (I should add Ms. Van Susteren is a very nice person.)

Just don’t try to tell her she might be wrong.

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Strange search-engine queries (607)

Monday morning, as usual — for 11 years, anyway — we open up the big machine in the far corner and look around for things that people were searching for that, purely by coincidence, happened to be here. If they’re at least marginally amusing, so much the better.

iyambo chwo:  I’m guessing this is not something like Purina Klipspringer Chow.

devon dietary disagree dispatch:  I’m guessing this is also not something like Purina Klipspringer Chow.

if we use the analogy that some u.s. families have an income that could be represented by the height of mount everest, then the average american family has an income that is:  Halfway down the Mariana Trench.

dumpster rental thoreau:  I’m pretty sure Henry David Thoreau never rented a Dumpster.

protect adult brief 32 42 medium white disposable sold each quantity per 1 ea category undergarments product class undergarments:  Price includes air freight via Incontinental Airlines.

jenny scordamaglia birthday:  Not sure when it is, but she’ll probably be wearing her birthday suit.

lobotomy corporation rule 34:  Which lobe responds to visual stimuli?

how to remove shrink wrap from febreze small spaces:  Use small scissors.

stereo stone:  Actually, there are two stones, one on each side.

moab base jumping accident:  Landed on a stone. (Actually, two stones, one on each side.)

everything’s a rich man’s trick snopes:  Lately, Snopes hasn’t exactly been rolling in it.

bullet dealer missouri:  Often, they sell bullets in the same place they sell guns.

which way does the sun rotate:  That way. [points]

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No longer a young man

From earlier this month:

Rick Stevens, the former lead singer of Tower of Power, died Tuesday [5 September] after a battle with cancer. He was 77.

Stevens replaced Rufus Miller in the R&B band in 1969 and three years later, their album Bump City put Tower of Power in the national spotlight, including hit single “You’re Still a Young Man.”

In 1976, Stevens, who had left the band shortly after their big hit, was now addicted to drugs and shot three men to death during a deal gone wrong. He was sentenced to life in prison, where he kicked his addiction before being released on parole in 2012 after 36 years behind bars.

I heard about this, and thought: Some of the Tower of Power guys have been together for nearly 50 years now. Wouldn’t it have been great if Rick Stevens got to sing with them one more time?

He did, and it was:

And hey, the hippest threads and the bad boogaloo will never, ever die.


As Her Majesty turns away

Fortunately, we were left some nourishment:

Majestic ass biscuit

And also fortunately, we can get our hands on something that costs less than butter.

(Frighteningly, via a Tweeter of the same name.)