Roll them all over

Few shout “We are a legitimate business!” louder than your friendly neighborhood payday-loan joint. Maybe it is. I haven’t been there. But certainly this particular operation threw away its bid for legitimacy:

The operators of a payday lending scheme that allegedly bilked millions of dollars from consumers by trapping them into loans they never authorized will be banned from the consumer lending business under settlements with the Federal Trade Commission.

The settlements stem from charges the FTC filed last year alleging that Timothy A. Coppinger, Frampton T. Rowland III, and their companies targeted online payday loan applicants and, using information from lead generators and data brokers, deposited money into those applicants’ bank accounts without their permission. The defendants then withdrew reoccurring “finance” charges without any of the payments going to pay down the principal owed. The court subsequently halted the operation and froze the defendants’ assets pending litigation.

According to the FTC’s complaint, the defendants told consumers they had agreed to, and were obligated to pay for, the unauthorized “loans.” To support their claims, the defendants provided consumers with fake loan applications or other loan documents purportedly showing that consumers had authorized the loans. If consumers closed their bank accounts to stop the unauthorized debits, the defendants often sold the “loans” to debt buyers who then harassed consumers for payment.

So weasels and jackals can crossbreed. Who knew?

(Thanks to Roger Green.)

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Unsmart cookie

First we find out that Double Stuf falls short of being truly Double. Now we’re getting an Oreo in which you can barely see the Stuf:

Oreos are getting a skinny new look, and its maker says the new cookie is a “sophisticated” snack for grown-ups that isn’t meant to be twisted or dunked.

Mondelez International Inc. says it will add “Oreo Thins” to its permanent lineup in the U.S. starting next week. The cookies look like regular Oreos and have a similar cookie-to-filling ratio, except that they’re slimmer. That means four of the cookies contain 140 calories, compared with 160 calories for three regular Oreos.

For those who will sit there and eat half the package at a sitting, this is essentially meaningless.

And apparently the Thins are (quelle surprise!) fragile:

[I]t took months for the company to perfect manufacturing for the Thins. Early on … 60 percent of the cookies were breaking, but that the rate eventually came down to 3 percent.

Perhaps this could be alleviated with a Double Stuf Thin, though I suspect that isn’t happening. In the meantime:

You can twist the Oreo Thin, but three out of every four cracked when we tried — unlike the original, which as we all know, usually separates with ease.

So clearly the manufacturer is invoking the original first definition of “sophisticated”: “deprived of native or original simplicity.”

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Drachma queen

To some extent, I sympathize with the Greeks during this, their Hour of Need; but it’s not going to go away without a whole lot of hardship. Believe me, I know.

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Faster than you’re allowed to imagine

You may remember the Joan Claybrook Memorial Speedometer, an artifact of the Malaise Era that topped out at 85 mph (insult one) and highlighted the 55-mph national speed limit (insults two through infinity). It died an unlamented death in the late 1980s, and in a Junkyard Find piece for TTAC, Murilee Martin finds the rare example that adheres to the letter of the law while hurling all over its putative spirit:

Speedometer from Merkur XR4ti

Said Martin by way of explanation:

The Merkur XR4Ti also had an 85 mph speedometer, but it was presented with a certain amount of winking and nudging.

Nudge, nudge, say no more.

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Maximizing air exposure

At least one day every summer you’re going to encounter some situation like this:

We’re all feeling the heat right now, and where as comfort wise indoors naked in front of the air con is preferable, there comes a time when you just have to leave the house.

So true. I do strive to minimize such excursions, or to combine as many of them as possible into a single trip. (This latter habit, so to speak, I picked up during Energy Crisis I, when we were all exhorted to make fewer trips.)

Were it not for the fact that I would actually have to go somewhere on said excursions, by which I mean “somewhere other than a mere drive-through window,” I suppose I could position myself naked in front of the A/C vents in the car, but this has its drawbacks, most of which have to do with the lowered presumption of privacy out in public. (And I have leather seats, so at the very least I’d have to bring along a couple of towels.)

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Turn the Vangsness up to 11

The eleventh season of CBS’ Criminal Minds begins this fall, and of course Kirsten Vangsness will return as FBI analyst Penelope Garcia, a role she says was originally intended for a guy:

The story on Garcia was that they had a man whose name was Garcia. They shot the scenes with all the other characters talking to this man named Garcia. When they looked at the footage later, they suddenly realized that they had this pilot that was going to come out, but it was too guy heavy. There wasn’t enough female characters. So they thought they’d put in these two lines, have a woman come in and say those two lines and figure it out from there.

Even then, it wasn’t much of a role, but she got to put her stamp on it early:

It was just this little two-line thing. I remember they called me and said, “Bring your own clothes because it’s just going to be this one scene.” I’m a size 10-12, and in Hollywood, there’s either a size 0 or a size 22. Middle ground is kind of rare sometimes.

I’m a very creative dresser, so when I brought in my clothes, they said, “Are you crazy? This is the FBI. You can’t wear any of this!”

This was, of course, before they discovered she was so popular they had to make her a regular. And at forty-three, she will still wear what she will:

Kirsten Vangsness at GLSEN 2014

Wait a minute. We need a shot of her in glasses:

Kirsten Vangsness promo photo

Her love life has taken an odd curve, also. Having once described herself as “queer as a purple unicorn singing Madonna,” she’s now on a somewhat straighter path:

My boyfriend and I are going to go on a meditation retreat at the end of April. That’ll be fun. I fell in love with this guy, which is like the craziest thing. I was engaged to a woman. I was perfectly comfortable and happy with the nature of our relationship, but sometimes relationships fall apart. The last thing I would’ve thought was that I would meet a guy and fall in love. But I did it.

And hey, it’s not like she’s been re-routed to the office of Too Frickin’ Bad.

(Quotes from SmashingInterviews.com.)

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Zombie pitcher on the mound

No, wait, he’s not dead, or even undead:

If the Dodgers have figured out the Lazarus Effect, all of baseball is threatened.

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Skintroversion

The Pergelator looks up from The Frozen Ground to issue a proverb:

It’s a little weird how strongly I react to images of pretty women, and from the evidence, I would say it’s not just me but most men react the same way. There is one school of thought that says naked women, whether images or in person, tend to sexually arouse men. There is another that says their appearance is relaxing. I think both are true. Your reaction depends on you and the situation.

I haven’t seen this particular film — two words: “Nicolas Cage” — but it must have been a fairly ferocious bit of cinema to prompt this kind of speculation, though apparently female lead Vanessa Hudgens doesn’t participate in the Parade O’ Flesh.

On the Internet, images dropped below a dime a dozen a decade ago, so I have to figure that someone who is jarred by the sort of skin exposure that can be seen any day of the week on any of a thousand Tumblr blogs is perhaps too excitable to be trusted around an actual physical female, regardless of her attire. “In person,” however, calls for an entirely different metric, and I don’t expect to find such an event “relaxing,” if only because I have no reason to think it’s going to happen any time soon, and the element of surprise trumps the possibility of relaxation. I am, of course, willing to be proven wrong, but I’m not going to plan for it.

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The Era of Bad Feeling

Tam captures exactly the mood during the automotive Malaise Era:

To someone growing up in 6th or 7th Century England, the world must have seemed overshadowed by a glorious past. Like Tolkein’s Gondor, the reminders of civilization were all around: in grand villas with no-longer-functional plumbing; huge, decrepit public buildings looted for stone to make pasture fences; and ruler-straight, board-flat paved roads, with weeds and trees growing between the frost-heaved pavers.

How similar the life of the auto enthusiast on these shores in the late Seventies and early Eighties. Performance was a thing of the past, strangled by emissions and fuel economy needs and gun-shy insurers.

Yea, verily. I had to sympathize with the plight of a lad who’d acquired a 1980 Dodge Aspen with the legendary Mopar slant six; he apparently was not aware that the ’80 model reverted to a single-barrel carb and struggled to produce 90 hp, six less than my ’75 Toyota Celica with one-third less displacement. (And after that, Aspen and sister Volaré flew out the window, replaced by an endless stream of decidedly unspecial Ks.)

Tam also cites the case of the ’76 Cadillac Eldorado ragtop, billed as “The Last American Convertible.” I dug out a guidebook to “collectible cars,” published in 1982, which had this to say:

Our guess is that it may not be until the year 2000 that the ’76 Eldo convertible becomes scarce enough to be noticed by serious collectors — about the only reason it would be desirable even then. And because most owners have already mothballed their cars as future investments, mint-condition ’76s may actually be a bit more commonplace in a few years than the lower-production, less “worthy” 1971-75 models, which aren’t all that different anyway.

Lower production? Yep. This generation of Eldo moved about 7000-9000 ragtops a year, until GM made all this noise about “Get it while it’s last” and built 14,000 of them, almost all of which went into storage.

Then convertible production resumed in the 1980s, and legalarity ensued:

In the lawsuit, filed in federal court here … two men contend GM embarked on a fraudulent advertising campaign, deliberately misrepresenting the ’76 convertible as the “last of the breed” and a “priceless collector’s item” and luring thousands of buyers with “cavalier campaign promises.”

GM attorneys countered that the lawsuit was vague and contained no evidence that GM intended, as part of a fraudulent scheme, to resume convertible production after the 1976 model year.

“Because ‘Murrica!” says Tam. Yep.

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J-pop plus neo-folk

I can’t think of any other equation that works out to this:

Lilywhoooooooooo (with ten O’s, it appears) is singer/guitarist Fumie Yagi, seen here, and keyboardist/drummer Hiroyasu Nakamuru, who appears on most of their other tracks. (The earlier, more upbeat “Sakotis” is also on YouTube; they have a full album on Bandcamp.) For some reason, I am fascinated by this just-beyond-minimalistic stuff.

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The more things change

Why there will always be a market for the fake ID:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Is it possile to automatically run through date of birth questions?

Explanation? Of course:

I’ve been locked out of my playstation account because I forgot what I put in for my date of birth. Is it possible to create something to automatically put in every date until it finds the correct one?

The only way this could be more delicious would be if Sony demanded a copy of the pertinent birth certificate before allowing reentry.

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Strange search-engine queries (492)

We hold these search strings to be self-evident: rather a lot of people, and not just Americans, are looking for rather a lot of peculiar stuff. It falls to me to chronicle it for the sake of cheap laffs.

the who see me:  Yes, but can you see them?

gandolph’s tires sells the same tire globally:  I’m not surprised. There couldn’t have been that much demand just in the Shire.

windows 10 not ready:  So? Windows Vista was never ready.

last supper beer pong:  Oh, that Judas, he’s such a cut-up.

deanne is married to a very wealthy attorney and she wants everyone to know that. she drives an expensive car:  Which she intends to keep after the divorce.

without me you’re a dime but with me you’re a buck fifty lyrics:  Seems like kind of an unbalanced relationship to me, am I right?

how early can i refill my klonopin:  Probably two-thirty, since it’s unlikely you’ll even be awake by noon.

villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot:  Which is why they’ll never make it to supervillain status.

hello kitty hospital gown:  No mouth, and no back either.

seventy percent ethanol:  Sounds like Uncle Zeke halfway through a three-day weekend.

guys pout:  Sometimes they even whine.

can cats feel earthquakes:  What’s more, they don’t like ’em.

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What’s new, non-pussycat?

In terms of sheer shock value, this announcement ranks second only to the revelation that the star of same is not actually a cat:

[T]here’s going to be a Hello Kitty movie. Repeat: Hello Kitty is getting her own movie. Need to hear this information one more time? Hello Kitty + movie = our wildest dreams have FINALLY come true.

According to Deadline Hollywood, Sanrio is ready to take this kitty to the big screen (OK, but she’s not really a cat, we get it). It was only a matter of time before she made this big leap. Our Kitty White already has a well established empire, including, but not limited to: television shows, conventions, cafes, food trucks, a clothing line, a jewelry line, an organic farm, appearances at theme parks, and the list goes on and on. A big budget blockbuster just makes sense.

Wait a minute. Big budget?

Deadline reports that it’ll be anywhere from $160 million–$240 million. Just for comparison, both Inside Out and Jurassic World had budgets between $150 and $200 million. So I assume Hello Kitty: The Movie will be made out of gold and then painted pink.

So in terms of production values, this is the anti-Equestria Girls. Got it.

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A solution crashes into place

A rueful observation from a couple of years ago:

Several of this house’s light fixtures are inclined to give me grief, though the one most likely to give me grief at a moment’s notice is the two-bulb fixture over the kitchen sink: it has a neat and tidy design — the lower 15 percent of a sphere — which allows for a reasonable illumination pattern but which allows considerable heat buildup, and it fastens with three twist-screws, none of them placed favorably unless you’re two feet tall and can actually stand in the sink.

The advice given last decade was to replace the garden-variety 60-watt bulbs with 8-watt CFLs, which use so much less electricity that there’s just no excuse for not using them. An excuse promptly presented itself: CFLs in this installation lasted about five percent longer than the Standard Bulbs despite costing ten times as much. Must be the heat locked up in that hemidemisemiglobe, I reasoned, and reinstated the classic bulbs, grumbling all the way at having to climb that ladder yet again.

And there things stood until yesterday afternoon, when the ground, or at least the walls, shook a bit, and the hemidemisemiglobe, apparently insufficiently tightened down, yielded to the force of gravity, forcing me into Shard Removal mode. Results: fairly unsightly. On the upside, it’s a hell of a lot brighter in there, and now the freaking CFLs ought to work better, so long as I don’t actually replace the glass. God only knows what it would take to put a less-intractable fixture up there.

Nick Lowe, incidentally, was not available for comment, but I’m pretty sure I know what he would say.

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Engage

Surely this ring will persuade her to make it so:

Star Trek-inspired ring by Paul Michael Design

I missed this when it came out last year, but apparently it’s resurfaced in time for Comic-Con, or something:

Pittsburgh-based jewelry designer Paul Michael Bierker of Paul Michael Design created a ring worthy of any captain of someone’s heart.

The “Boldly Going Somewhere” ring, for sale on Etsy for $595 plus shipping, is available in a choice of metals and gems, including white gold with color-enhanced blue diamonds and white diamond galaxy; white gold with topaz and white diamond galaxy; sterling silver with blue topaz and cubic zirconia; or platinum with blue color-enhanced diamonds and white diamond galaxy.

But will this actually convince her? Dammit, Jim, I’m a blogger, not a fortune-teller.

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Begun, the bra wars have

And the town of Guilderland, New York, has been shaken to its very, um, foundations:

The bitter feud between the owners of Madame Pirie Famise Corset Shoppe and Her Underthings has grown more spiteful and uncomfortable for customers than, well, an ill-fitting bra.

The two specialty shops that offer custom fitting on women’s girdles and a wide selection of undergarments — including hard-to-find bras in sizes ranging from 30AAA to 56O — are locked in a pitched battle as their two businesses operate one-half block apart and try to bury the competition.

Where did this begin?

“Yes, it’s a feud, but I didn’t start it. I created a business to honor my late sister and I ended up in all this childish nonsense,” said Jackie Keto, 24, owner of Her Underthings. She opened the competing business in the Price Chopper plaza at 1704 Western Ave. in November 2014 after a judge ruled she could no longer use the Madame Pirie name or operate the store at its previous location of 1660 Western Ave.

Rosa Belleville ran Madame Pirie’s at 1660 Western Ave. for 14 years until she sold the business to an employee and protege, Jessica Keto, in January 2014 for $500,000. The deal included a $250,000 cash down payment and $250,000 to be paid in installments.

When Keto died unexpectedly at her Albany home on March 19, 2014 at 28, the future of Madame Pirie’s was thrown into doubt.

Keto’s younger sister, Jackie, who had worked at Pier 1 Imports in Colonie and majored in business and entrepreneurship at the College of Saint Rose, agreed to run the store. “It kind of fell to me,” she said.

Since her sister had only owned the business for about two months before her sudden death, the Keto family asked Belleville if they could return the Madame Pirie business and get the late woman’s $250,000 down payment back. Belleville declined and said she had already made extensive travel plans and wished to remain retired.

It got more complicated. Jackie Keto refused to continue the installment payments, on the basis that the inventory purchased from Madame Pirie was “old junk” that could not be sold. (Not so, said Belleville.) Keto eventually opened up a new store a few doors down, and used the old storefront to promote it. This annoyed Belleville enough to acquire a new storefront and reopen Madame Pirie.

I, of course, take no sides here, but I quail at Her Underthings’ slogan: “the place you get your bras at!”

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