But it looks official

Yours truly, several snowfalls ago:

It takes a certain warped genius to send out junk mail in an envelope that looks for all the world like it contains a W-2 form — in January, of course. Inasmuch as I already have my W-2 for 2011, I could easily have justified consigning it to the circular file, but curiosity won out. (The terrorists have won.)

Of course, I’m not the only person who gets this kind of crap:

It’s been a while since I have received a fake “check” whose cashing obligates me to a four year contract, or a deceptive yellow pages solicitation, or even my favorite, the board minutes services that masquerade as an official government form. So I will highlight Paramount Merchant Funding for this over the top message on the front of their envelope they sent me, again in an apparent bid to masquerade as some sort of official mail that must be opened.

The fakery, as you might have guessed, is a rewording of 18 USC § 1702, which a commenter identified quickly as “the generic ‘don’t mess with anybody’s mail but your own’ clause.” As though someone would tamper with this crap enroute.

Somewhere the mailer has to indicate whence it came. In this particular case, it was “ZIP CODE 11779,” the sleepy village of Ronkonkoma, Lawn Guyland, New York, not exactly a hotbed of Federal regulatory activity.

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Physician, socialize thyself

How come everywhere I look they show me risk factors?

Just as we once knew that infectious diseases killed, but didn’t know that germs spread them, we’ve known intuitively that loneliness hastens death, but haven’t been able to explain how. Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack. They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer — tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.

I plan to take this with a grain of salt. In fact, several grains, which probably won’t affect my blood pressure in the least.

(Via the staggeringly popular Pejman Yousefzadeh.)

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A story of Doomed Love

The Associated Press, of course, couldn’t believe that they were being subjected to Official Scrutiny, and inevitably they flailed about in confusion:

I think it is singularly awesome that the administration wiretapped the press. It was absolutely wrong, and I believe it is unconstitutional. What makes it so delicious is that the press is finally a victim of the administration. They are like the mistress that marries the guy after he finally leaves his wife and is shocked to find out he’s unfaithful to her too. Bu…bu…you promised to protect our rights! You said you loved us! We fawned over you! We covered for you, and now you’ve betrayed us!

Frog, meet scorpion.

So they drown together. How utterly romantic.

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And not a word about VisiCalc

If you were wondering how I put together the search-engine roundup every Monday, well, it’s actually pretty simple: grab the data in CSV format, and then dump it into Lotus 1-2-3, where I can just read down the column.

And I will continue to do that despite the fact that IBM, owner of the Lotus software line since 1995, has decided, once and for all, to kill 1-2-3 and the package-deal SmartSuite next month. (Software support will end in the fall of 2014.)

Then again, IBM didn’t buy Lotus to get 1-2-3; their goal was to make something out of Lotus Notes, the lumbering mail/collaboration tool/office suite/passenger airbag that, by order of The Powers That Be, sits on my work box. And Notes, now in version 9 and sheared of the Lotus name, will probably last forever, or at least until it’s no longer profitable for IBM to vend Domino servers.

(Via this Anil Dash tweet.)

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A tragedy of errors

You had to figure that something was a trifle askew when the Thunder managed only fifteen points in the second quarter and went into the locker room trailing 50-38. But the tone was truly established in the third, when Derek Fisher popped up one of his what-was-he-thinking? treys and Tony Allen, watching in horror from the Memphis bench, hurled his towel onto the court, drawing a technical. This prompted a mini-rally, in which OKC climbed back to within two; but halfway through the fourth, they’d made exactly two buckets, were down twelve, and it was painfully obvious that any further Thunder chances would be dependent on Grizzlies mistakes. Then the Grizzlies obliged them: up two with 11 seconds left, Zach Randolph bricked two free throws. Kevin Durant shed Allen, put up a jumper that backrimmed, and Allen tossed in two from the stripe to finish off the Thunder, 88-84.

Those two late clankers were about the only things Randolph did wrong all night: he finished with a game-high 28 points, 8-17 from the floor, 12-16 from the line, and 14 rebounds. The ever-underrated Mike Conley contributed 13 points and 11 assists; Allen finished with 10, Marc Gasol with 11. And while most of the statistics were pretty close, this one wasn’t: the Griz gave up only nine turnovers, just two more than Kevin Durant.

KD, by any reasonable standards, had an off night, though few players can have an off night and still score 21. Playing all 48 minutes, he was a dismal 5-21 from the floor, 0-4 on the long ball. (Both sides were pretty terrible from three: Memphis 3-14, OKC 6-25.) Both Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka were hitting fairly well, though Ibaka fouled out late.

So like I said: Memphis in five. The next question: Can the Grizzlies beat Miami? (I have to figure that they can dispose of San Antonio or Golden State.) They split the season series 1-1, each winning at home. A Grizzlies-Heat Finals would have a level of physicality that might scare MMA types. And at this point, we have to have something to hope for.

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Dorkestrations

Were you looking for college men with IQs in triple digits plus a dash of hawtness? Janie Jones laughs at your futile pursuit:

We don’t have hot young guys, we have spindly, acne-pocked geeks who desperately chug protein shakes hoping to someday have some mass on their lanky frames and look a little less like greasy-haired fuzzy-teethed nerds.

That was me circa 1970, except for the protein shakes. The grease receded nearly as quickly as my hairline. I did, however, succeed beyond everyone’s wildest expectations at the task of accumulating mass, to the extent that I eventually found it necessary to shed some of it.

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Although it doesn’t clobber them

And who knows? Maybe it will work:

A new law signed by Governor Fallin Friday will help deter copper thieves that have plagued rural communities in Oklahoma, according to the bill’s author.

House Bill 1740, by state Rep. Harold Wright (R-Weatherford) and state Sen. AJ Griffin (R-Guthrie), prohibits a scrap metal dealer from paying cash in purchasing more than $1,000 of copper and requires them to issue a check instead after establishing the identity of the seller. The new law, which takes effect Nov. 1, also increases the penalty for providing false information for a scrap metal log book to a felony punishable by a $5,000, imprisonment for up to 2 years or both fine and imprisonment. It also requires scrap metal dealers to be licensed through the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Not just rural, either: the house next door had its air-conditioning unit disassembled in the dead of night several years ago.

The really smart thieves, of course, manage to create their own penalties.

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How hissy a fit?

The answer is none. None more hissy:

An angry owner of a Maserati Quattroporte in China hired three thugs to destroy his car in the great city of Qingdao in Shandong Province. The owner has a long standing conflict with a local Maserati dealer and an insurance company over maintenance costs. A new Maserati Quattroporte costs 2.6 million yuan in China, or $423,000.

The Italians are evidently sticking it to the Chinese, since the infamous Maser four-door — yes, the brand-new sixth-generation version, which the smashed car wasn’t — can be had here in the States for under $200k no matter how many options you check off.

The conflict started in 2011, when the owner and the dealer got into a row about a repair costs and the quality of some replaced parts. The dealer apparently replaced a broken part with another used part, and not with a new part. The dealer then charged 2400 yuan ($390) for the “repair”. The insurance company backed the dealer and a long and painful process of angry letters and angry phone calls started.

Of course, what I want to know is this: what can break on a Maserati that costs only $390 to fix?

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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The easy consumer choice

Well, this was difficult. I got both an email and a proper letter from the fulfillment house for The Week, the only newsmagazine worth my time, offering me a 54-issue (about 14 months) subscription renewal. I decided I would write them a check, but before taking pen in hand, I took a quick look at the email link. And that deal was $5 pricier.

What’s more, they picked up the postage on the return envelope. So I save five bucks, minus whatever pittance it costs me for that one single check (whatever it is per box divided by 120), and I don’t have to fork over my Visa number. Win/win all around.

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My little doxxer

Jack Baruth’s had one:

[S]everal years ago, I was the subject of a thorough and costly doxxing by a fellow who was, apparently, upset that I’d criticized some ultra-crappy article he’d written for a startup web publication. He distributed a pretty wildly exaggerated report of every terrible thing I’ve ever done to some contacts he’d cultivated at a couple of auto manufacturers. The way I found out about this was by having my flight to a press event canceled while I was sitting in the airport lounge. I had the dubious pleasure of spending the next couple of days calling people to get the stories straightened out. It was frankly unpleasant, to put it mildly.

I have a pretty healthy dose of contempt for my little doxxer. There’s something uniquely duplicitous about telling a bunch of people that someone you hate is a violent, dangerous individual while simultaneously personally trusting that said individual won’t do anything violent or dangerous to you as a consequence for your actions. It’s a coward’s move, this doxxing. But most importantly, it’s a one-way kind of tool that is employed by a certain type of person against another type of person. Rarely are “doxxers” counter-doxxed. This is because the doxxers, almost without exception, haven’t ever done anything in their lives.

I’m not saying they haven’t done anything bad.

I’m saying they haven’t done anything. Good or bad. Noteworthy or otherwise. They’re people who have always run away from anything that looked like a challenge or a confrontation. And if you always run from a challenge, you’ll never put anybody in the hospital or on the LifeFlight, but you’ll also never win any races. You’ll never spend a night in jail for assault, but you’ll probably also never create anything unique or worthwhile. You’ll never do something you wish you could take back, but you’ll also never do something that you look back on with complete and utter satisfaction.

I dunno, Jack. Some of these guys seem awfully damned satisfied.

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And that revenue is lost forever

This letter to the editor of the Oklahoman — well, its heart is in the right place, but its brain seems to be on backorder from Amazon:

“U.S. Senate passes bill to let states tax online sales” (Business, May 7) quotes the Oklahoma Tax Commission in saying the state loses $185 million to $225 million in tax revenue from Internet sales each year. If the state loses that much, then some citizens gained an equal amount in savings. And where would these citizens most likely spend that savings? Right here at home! The state would get its pound of flesh when those savings were spent.

So does the state really lose on Internet sales? Time and effort would be better spent in figuring ways to cut government spending to reduce taxes, including eliminating the sales tax on food and clothing.

Which would result in savings to some citizens, which would be spent — where, exactly, and on what?

The real problem here, though, is not so much with the letter as with that gratuitous term “loses”: why, we’d have that $185-225 million if it weren’t for, um, the fact that no law currently allows us to take it. Obviously we should have more laws to allow the state to not “lose” money, right?

But hey, this spate of pooch-screwing was aggravated by having these alleged “sales tax holidays” in which tax is charged, no matter what you heard: the prices are simply adjusted downward by the amount of the tax. Sales tax, we learn from these things, is purely arbitrary, and subject to the whim of the government. And of late, fewer of us are inclined to indulge their whims.

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No Dick for you

The sheer Richardness of this incident is astonishing:

When Ruth Levy went online to create a personalised birthday card for a 90-year-old friend called Dick, it turned out his common name of yesteryear has been banned as a modern profanity.

After typing in her message to her friend of 50 years, 77-year-old Mrs Levy was turned down and warned by the Marks & Spencer website against using bad language.

Horrified, the tech-savvy grandmother closely checked the e-card for typing slip-ups, but still could not get approval for: “Many happy returns on your significant birthday.”

But after complaining to the store, she was told her card had been banned simply because her friend’s name was Dick — the shortened version of Richard.

Marks & Sparks were total farks: they suggested Mrs Levy call poor Dick instead — on the phone, fercrissake — and insisted: “We must ensure [our] system is robust to protect our content standards.”

(Via Fark.)

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About those April showers

Raquel Pomplun at GlamourconThe lovely lady on the end of the line is April 2012 Playboy Playmate Raquel Pomplun, recently named Playmate of the Year; one of the perks of the job is to get to wheel around in a hot car, in this case a brand-spanking-new Jaguar F-Type. (This is the second type I’ve had occasion to mention the F-Type in connection with an, um, interesting-looking female; the first was a short promotional film complete with promotional music video. The operative word here, evidently, is “promotional.”) I note for record that of the 54 women so far officially designated Playmate of the Year — the first was Ellen Stratton, Miss December 1959, later PMOY 1960 — no fewer than seven came from April issues, including, for some reason, three of the last four. This doesn’t matter to you, and it probably doesn’t matter to Hef, but as a thirty-year subscriber to the magazine, I’ve made my own prediction for PMOY every spring, and every single year I’ve been wrong. (Ten PMOYs so far have come from December, but only one from June or July. I defy anyone to explain that distribution. Inevitably, Wikipedia has the complete list.) There exists a stereotype of long standing, which I may or may not have taken into account, to the effect that the PMOY winner tends to be a twenty-year-old top-heavy blonde; however, Raquel is 25, not blonde, and reported as a B-cup. Incidentally, she reports that she had a 103-degree fever during her PMOY photoshoot, but, as the phrase goes, the show must go on.

Oh, and here’s an earlier shot, still on the modest side, just because:

Raquel Pomplun seated

I am not, I hasten to add, complaining in any way about this selection, except to the extent that it continues my Streak O’ Futility.

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Color me antediluvian

Hmmm. Maybe I am really older than dirt:

This is a great headline: Carbon dioxide levels highest in recorded human history.

OMG! That’s a long ti… wait, how long is the “recorded human history” of carbon dioxide levels anyway?

But then we’d have to read the article, which says:

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has steadily risen from 317 parts per million in 1958, when measurements began, to 400.

Emphasis added. It takes a certain amount of bravado / innumeracy / cranial-rectal inversion [choose as many as necessary] to come up with a definition of “recorded human history” that lies entirely within my lifetime. Or, for that matter, Al Gore’s.

You want to know why we have low-information voters? Because we have no-information media. And they’re damn proud of it, too.

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Still up against the wall

[Previously posted here.]

Just when you thought the return of Serge Ibaka’s shooting mojo might save the day, the Thunder fell back into their “Do we have to have a third quarter?” funk, and an erstwhile 17-point lead was vaporized. It was tied at 76 at the beginning of the final frame, and when Kevin Durant missed a layup (!) at 2:55, things began to unravel. The Grizzlies were up 94-92 with ten seconds left, and everyone knew Durant would be getting the ball on the next possession. KD, undaunted, pushed to the rim for the layup to tie it. The Griz had six seconds left; Zach Randolph went up for the win, and Kendrick Perkins swatted it away. Welcome to overtime. The Thunder didn’t even score in the bonus period until 1:55, when Derek Fisher made his first trey of the night, at which time it was 98-97 Memphis. “Dripping with drama,” said radio guy Matt Pinto. Durant’s subsequent pullup jumper was rather drippy itself, and Mike Conley delivered a nifty pass to Marc Gasol to put the Griz up by three. Gasol subsequently added a free throw to make it 101-97, and Pinto and Grant Long got to complain about a call while Lionel Hollis plotted the Thunder’s demise. It was Tayshaun Prince, arguably the poorest of the Memphis free-throw shooters, who finished the job with two more, to put the Griz up six (again!), 103-97.

Which means that Wednesday could be the end of it all, especially if the Bears keep coming up with double-figure performances like Gasol’s (23 points, 11 rebounds), Z-Bo’s (23 points, 12 rebounds), and Conley’s (team-high 24). OKC registered some reasonable figures, but when Durant’s game-high 27 ends up -7, it’s a lost cause.

Besides, the Heat barbecued the Bulls, 88-65, to go 3-1 in that race. Suddenly I am very, very tired.

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Ducking and covering

Ten and a half hours of being beaten upon is no way to live. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot that could have been done about it short of fleeing, and I don’t flee well:

Our admin team is continuing to roll out the fix and monitoring where needed. They are confident the source of the connectivity issues are due to large-scale brute force attacks to wp-login pages. These attacks are overloading affected servers and the fix being applied will limit the rate these attacks are hitting wp-login pages. In addition to the fix that’s being applied everywhere, we’re also mitigating the attack by blocking IP addresses all around our data centers.

While they didn’t get too specific, it was most likely something like this that brought us down, and there’s a practical limit to how much you can harden something like WordPress without killing its usability.

It’s still slow around here, but it’s not dead, and there’s a lot to be said for not being dead — though it was two hours before I was actually able to log in.

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