The Deereslayer

Self-driving cars? Brian J. says we’ll see self-plowing plows first:

[S]elf-directing machines are going to hit the farms first, where they can go along in their laser-and-GPS-guided finery to handle the time-consuming chores of farming with far less insurance liability concerns. Just imagine when this becomes mainstream, at least as mainstream as farming is, and automated farm machines can work day and night on ever larger farms. Great swaths of land will really become food farms, and it’ll squeeze out the family farmers most likely.

One question, however, remains unanswerable for now:

Will the prices go down for commodity foods (but remain high for the locovore organic artisan stuff), or will it put Google in charge of our food supply?

I suspect we’ll see continued demand for Federal price supports until Google actually takes over the government.

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For lack of hard evidence

You might say, he doesn’t want a pickle:

A man who claimed riding a BMW K1100RS gave him a permanent erection has had his claim dismissed in court.

Henry Wolf, from California, alleged four hours on the BMW in 2010 left him with an erection for two years. He sought compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, emotional distress and “general damages” from BMW and seat-maker Corbin-Pacific.

Wait a minute. The K1100 series, if I remember correctly, dates back to the early Nineties. Did Wolf buy a used bike, or has he had it all along?

But the claim has been tossed out by the Superior Court of San Francisco, where judge James J McBride ruled the plaintiff did not present enough supporting evidence.

[insert “kickstand” joke here]

(Via Autoblog.)

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You don’t owe Jack

There is a time-honored definition of Tennessee whiskey: it has to be fermented in the Volunteer State from mash containing 51 percent corn, aged in new barrels of charred oak, filtered through maple charcoal and bottled at 80 proof or more. Which sounds rather like Jack Daniel’s, the best-selling Tennessee whiskey.

Wait, what? That definition dates back to … 2013?

[S]tate lawmakers are considering dialing back some of those requirements that they say make it too difficult for craft distilleries to market their spirits as Tennessee whiskey, a distinctive and popular draw in the booming American liquor business.

But the people behind Jack Daniel’s see the hand of a bigger competitor at work — Diageo PLC, the British conglomerate that owns George Dickel, another Tennessee whiskey made about 15 miles up the road.

The Tennessee law apparently is modeled on the Federal definition of bourbon. (Yes, Cynthiana, there is a Federal definition of bourbon.)

Diageo’s representative says the law would basically require all Tennessee whiskey to taste like Jack Daniel’s:

“It’s not unlike if the beer guys 25 years ago had said all American beer has to be made like Budweiser… You never would have a Sam Adams or a Yazoo or any of those guys.”

Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) proposes to loosen the definition only slightly:

The principal change would be to allow Tennessee whiskey makers to reuse barrels, which he said would present considerable savings over new ones that can cost $600 each.

“There are a lot of ways to make high-quality whiskey, even if it’s not necessarily the way Jack Daniel’s does it,” Sanderson said. “What gives them the right to call theirs Tennessee whiskey, and not others?”

Benjamin Prichard was not available for comment.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Honey, my bracket hurts

Some things, they say, practically sell themselves. This is not one of them:

March Vasness from

(Another Bad Newspaper special — and timely, too!)

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It is incumbent upon me as an automotive enthusiast to complain bitterly about the advance of self-driving cars, which will supposedly drain all the life out of what used to be fun before traffic became obnoxious and pavement maintenance became theoretical.

Yet there are some potential advantages to the existence of such vehicles:

As the notion evolves, I think that robocars would actually change the dynamics of car ownership. Most specifically, a lot of people wouldn’t need to own one. Instead it would be Zipcar writ large, except that instead of having to find an available car, the car you need will be able to drive to your curb.

I have to admit, that sounds awfully appealing in its own way. And it may portend a move to smaller vehicles:

As it stands, we tend to drive cars with excess capacity for those rare times when we need said capacity. All of my cars have had room for four or five even though the vast majority of the time it’s only had one or two people in it. Almost always one until we had the baby. But it sucks to need space and not have it, so you get the larger model.

Gwendolyn has space for five, and seat belts for same; in the eight years she’s been here, I think she’s carried five people exactly once. Most of the time, it’s just me; one weekend a year, generally, it’s just me and Trini.

But this is the suggestion that I find most entertaining:

[I]t would actually capture not only the psychological benefits of public transportation, but also many of the environmental benefits. With cars being on call, we could greatly reduce the amount of parking space required.

You and I likely know several people whose main objection to riding the bus is that it involves, well, riding the bus, with its allegedly high population of creeps and weirdos.

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It’s exceedingly hard not to laugh at this character:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Is legit?

The sordid story:

I ordered 2 IDs from them for 250$ and they said they got my order and they took the money from the card immediately. They still replied back after they took the money saying they will send pictures before they send it out.

I figure he’s taking Chutzpah 101 and needs this for his lab requirement. (At the 200 level, you have to return used burglar’s tools for warranty replacement.)

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Meanwhile, Mr Darwin just smiles

The idea was great, kinda sorta:

Until Bt corn was genetically altered to be poisonous to the pests, rootworms used to cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. crops. Named for the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, Bt corn now accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop.

But who didn’t see this coming?

After years of predicting it would happen — and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators — scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn.

This could have been forestalled, at least to a certain extent:

Key to effective management, said the scientists, were refuges set aside and planted with non-Bt corn. Within these fields, rootworms would remain susceptible to the Bt toxin. By mating with any Bt-resistant worms that chanced to evolve in neighboring fields, they’d prevent resistance from building up in the gene pool.

But the scientists’ own recommendations — an advisory panel convened in 2002 by the EPA suggested that a full 50 percent of each corn farmer’s fields be devoted to these non-Bt refuges — were resisted by seed companies and eventually the EPA itself, which set voluntary refuge guidelines at between 5 and 20 percent.

Elson Shields, a Cornell entomologist, is wholly unsurprised:

There’s a lesson to be learned for future crop traits, Shields said. Rootworm resistance was expected from the outset, but the Bt seed industry, seeking to maximize short-term profits, ignored outside scientists. The next pest-fighting trait “will fall under the same pressure,” said Shields, “and the insect will win. Always bet on the insect if there is not a smart deployment of the trait.”

And once again, man is done in by his obsession with quarterly revenue reports.

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Drools of thumb

Prompted by Jess’ list of Useful Everyday Numbers, I am herewith providing a list of numbers that may not be quite so useful.

1: The number of gallons of gas it takes to go to work and back in my current car. (Total distance is 21.3 miles; average fuel economy is 21.3 mpg.)

1: The difference in size (US) between a woman’s shoe and a man’s shoe of the same length. (If I did serious drag, I’d be looking for a d’Orsay pump in 15 wide.)

355/113: A really good approximation for pi that I’ve only been able to use once in a lifetime.

7: Number of Very Small Ponies standing on the bookshelf. Five are plastic, two pewter.

16: Lowest house number, ever.

28: The number of seconds you get before my answering machine hangs up on you. Very useful for robocallers with 30-second spiels.

28: Capacity in gallons of my ostensible 30-gallon water heater.

143: Distance in feet from the back fence to the curb at Surlywood.

773: Number of gigabytes left on this 1-TB drive immediately after moving all my stuff off the old Windows XP box.

3799: Number of files in the backup copy of this site’s graphics directory.

4990: Total miles traversed in the longest World Tour (2003).

5548: Highest house number, ever.

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Five Mississippi

The “five-second rule” will not die, and this is one reason why:

Biology students at Aston University in the UK monitored how quickly E. coli and common bacteria spread from surfaces to food such as toast (butter side down, no doubt), pasta and sticky sweets — with time being a significant factor in the transfer of germs.

Food picked up just a few seconds after being dropped is less likely to contain bacteria than if it is left for longer periods of time according to the findings.

There is, however, a variable that must be taken into account:

The type of flooring the food has been dropped on has an effect, with bacteria least likely to transfer from carpeted surfaces and most likely to transfer from laminate or tiled surfaces to moist foods making contact for more than five seconds.

This, of course, contradicts research from a couple of years ago, which supports my ongoing hypothesis that Everything We Know Is, Or Will Be, Wrong.

(Via The Glittering Eye.)

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Evenly odd

In Oklahoma City, the number on your house determines the days you can water your lawn: there are more odd days than even days in a year, but so far, nobody has mounted a serious fairness challenge to the ordinance.

Meanwhile in France, something similar was envisioned for the streets of Paris:

Government officials in Paris announced over the weekend that a new plan would go into effect early Monday morning: only about half of the city’s cars would be allowed to drive on any given day. The reason, as you can probably guess, was to reduce the amount of smog in the air.

The plan, however, didn’t make it to Tuesday:

French officials say the rule banning roughly half of Paris’ car traffic from the city’s streets will not be in effect Tuesday.

Minister of Ecology Philippe Martin says 90 percent of Parisian drivers followed the rules [Monday], according to Le Monde. He said new data shows a “clear tendency toward improvement,” citing changes in weather patterns that have contributed to the city’s smog.

This is how the French differ from us: when they backpedal on something, par Dieu, they do it completely.

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Down the rope they go

Mozilla is abandoning the sinking Windows 8 ship:

Windows 8’s controversial Metro interface has received another blow today as Mozilla has revealed that after 2 years worth of development and testing that it is shelving the Metro based version of Firefox. Microsoft launched Windows 8 with a new Metro start screen 2 years ago and developer interest in the platform has been slow. The latest snub from Mozilla is not likely to help matters either. Microsoft have been trying to entice developers to write touch friendly apps for its new touch interface but so far the interest has been minimal.

And speaking of minimal interest:

In a blog post the vice president of Firefox said, “On any given day, we have, for instance, millions of people testing pre-release versions of Firefox desktop, but we’ve never seen more than 1,000 active daily users in the Metro environment.” The blog post goes on to explain that with so few people interested in this version that bug testing would take far too long as there were not enough people actively using the software to properly test it and squash bugs.

This being Mozilla, “properly test” is open to interpretation. Still, it’s another blow to Microsoft Bob 2.0 8.

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Tin whistles are made of tin

If the next question is “What do they make foghorns out of?” you’re ready for this slice of quantum phenomena subtitled “Does your neutrino lose its flavour on the bed-post overnight?”

Neutrinos, which interact so weakly with normal matter that even the best detectors only manage to capture small handfuls of interactions, come in three “flavours”: electron, muon, and tau, and they oscillate between these flavours.

The SuperKamiokande detector, which comprises 50,000 tonnes of water and 11,000 photomultiplier tubes, is specific to electron neutrinos, spotting the tiny amount of Cherenkov radiation emitted when a neutrino scores a direct hit on an atom in the tank. These interactions are rare, which is why the experiments are so long-lasting.

With enough data, however, something interesting emerged: when it’s night-time at SuperKamiokande, the detector observes 3.2 per cent more electron neutrinos than during the day. In other words, when the detector is on the sun-side of Earth, the neutrinos passing through it are very slightly skewed towards muon and tau flavours, while at night-time, there’s slightly more electron flavours for the detector to observe.

Which, at the very least, justifies going on to a HyperKamiokande detector.

(With thanks to Lonnie Donegan.)

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You’ve seen the butcher

The Telltale Statistic for tonight is startling: the Bulls scored nothing in six and a half minutes in the fourth quarter, from 10:01 to 3:30. You have to figure that part of Scott Brooks’ pep talk on the plane to Chicago was “You guys remember defense, don’t you?” They did. The lead had changed hands several times before the final 12 minutes, and the Bulls pulled to within one at 76-75 before the Big Shutdown. By the time they broke through with a free throw (Joakim Noah hit one of two), the Thunder had run out to 89-76, and the Bulls wound up at the slaughterhouse, 97-85.

Then again, it wasn’t all defense; OKC, while not shooting particularly well (31-75, 41 percent), actually had some three-point mojo working (13-25, 52 percent), with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Caron Butler each knocking down three treys. (And it didn’t hurt that the Bulls were shooting quite a bit worse: 29-84, 34 percent.) Westbrook, after his rest last night, was up to playing 28 minutes tonight; he came awfully close to a triple-double (17 points, nine rebounds, nine assists) before the reserves came on to mop up. Durant, for his part, knocked out 35 points and collected 12 boards; Butler led the bench with 12, though Reggie Jackson was right behind with 11. And this was one of those nights when Serge Ibaka was more of a factor for the offense, scoring 15 on 6-11 while retrieving a modest four caroms and swatting only twice.

Any of the Bulls could score, assuming any of the Bulls could score, if you know what I mean: five of them — Thibs only played nine men — hit double figures, led by Taj Gibson, coming off the bench with 16. The picture of frustration, if you’re looking for one, had to be Kirk Hinrich, who in 32 minutes connected on three shots (out of 12) and collected five fouls. Carlos Boozer, in just 24 minutes, came up with 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls’ only double-double; Noah, had he made that one foul shot, would have had another.

Revenge game coming up Thursday night against the Cavaliers, followed by, well, another revenge game Friday against the Raptors. Westbrook will be out for one of them.

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This offer is limited

And boy, is it. Dan Lovejoy finds a deal with his smartphone, then discovers the fine print:

Offer not valid on the following items

It might have been easier to list the things he could buy at the discount.

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Madness on display

Ronnie Schreiber has a great piece in TTAC about Earl “Madman” Muntz, entrepreneur, used-car salesman, new-car manufacturer, tape-cartridge magnate, and all-around swell guy. One paragraph, I admit, took me slightly aback:

An inveterate and flamboyant romantic, Muntz married seven times, and in between matrimonial relationships he also had a number of girlfriends, including comedienne Phyllis Diller. That seems somewhat ironic in light of the fact that all of his wives were beauties and Diller famously effected a homely comedic persona.

Which reminded me that it was, indeed, a persona. Here’s Phyllis Diller on the cover of her second comedy album for Verve, Are You Ready for Phyllis Diller?

Cover of Are You Ready for Phyllis Diller, Verve 15031, 1962

Pretty darn cute for a woman in her mid-forties (Diller was born in 1917, this came out circa 1962).

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One of those diastolical schemes

This tissue of organic fertilizer, with the absurd (but guaranteed click-bait) title “1 weird food that KILLS blood pressure,” showed up 14 times in my email box yesterday:

“You’re going to have a stroke or a heart attack before you leave this building.”

That’s what the nurse told my dad.

She had just checked his blood pressure and it was a deadly 155/90.

When I heard the news, my mind raced back to my own blood pressure scare just a few short years before.

Thankfully, after some frantic research, I had stumbled upon an all-natural blood pressure fix that normalized my blood pressure in a matter of weeks.

Which wouldn’t help someone about to leave the building, of course, but hey, this is spam; you’re not supposed to notice the contradictions.

Incidentally, I’ve been occasionally as high as 155/90; last I looked, I wasn’t dead, or anything close to it.

I remember when they told my dad he had six months to live, tops. And sure enough, six years later, that’s what he had.

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