It’s all at the new Radio Shack

What? A new Radio Shack? “Surely,” you say, “you jest.”

I jest not [and you know what goes here]. A new Radio Shack has just opened:

Radio Shack’s comeback is beginning in Baraboo [Wisconsin].

On July 10 a downtown store formerly known as Gadget Central became a Radio Shack franchise, the national chain’s first new U.S. store since it filed for bankruptcy.

The Radio Shack sign went up Tuesday at the corner of Ash and Third streets, where owner P.J. Kruschel and his staff are stocking the shelves with merchandise. The store sells televisions, flashlights and drones, as well as refurbished phones and laptops.

“Inventory is pouring in,” Kruschel said. “We’re going to have all the parts and pieces, all the fun toys.”

But the major selling point will be service after the sale:

Kruschel said competitive prices will allow his store to sit at the table with big-box and online competitors, and service will be his trump card. The store offers cell phone and computer repair.

“Radio Shack will work in almost any small town,” he said. “People want service.”

People who want the latest Kindle Fire or a build-it-yourself drone or an iPhone will find those, too, at prices comparable to Best Buy and

Baraboo is a few miles northwest of Madison, Wisconsin, if you’re planning a pilgrimage or something.

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He went to church incognito

The New York Post front page, following the resignation (effective next month) of White House press secretary Sean Spicer:

New York Post cover story: No More Mr. Spice Guy

Of course, he’s got no friends, because they read the papers.

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The great Trentini

Caroline Trentini was thirteen or so when she was spotted by one of those mysterious people who spend their days looking for girls with modeling potential. Why was he looking at this town in the far south of Brazil? He’d struck gold in southern Brazil before: Gisele Bündchen, about as golden as you can get in the fashion biz. She quickly started getting work, and eventually moved to New York, a fairly gutsy move for a girl who spoke no English. Then again, fashion photographers ask, not how you’re doing or how’s the weather, but “Can you wear this?” She could.

Caroline Trentini for Victoria's Secret in 2005

Caroline Trentini doesn't quite sprawl

Caroline Trentini apparently not wearing anything

Or, regarding that last shot, “Can you not wear this?”

And we have a brief interview with her on the occasion of a Versace campaign for 2015:

Her English, of course, is fine. And if you’re curious, she just turned 30 this month.

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Just another manic fun place

Most of my schooling was acquired during the period I lived in Charleston, South Carolina, which at the time was a sleepy little historical attraction surrounded by the usual suburban sprawl. No more, it appears:

The Charleston peninsula is approximately 8 square miles.

In comparison, New York City is 305 square miles, Chicago is 237 square miles and Boston spans 48 square miles in the city proper. We are not in the same vicinity as our larger urban counterparts, but this small city is making waves. In a new report published today from BusinessInsider, we could be under water by 2100.

Today, the corner of Calhoun Street and King Street, a pinnacle of foot and vehicle traffic in the heart of Charleston, resembles Times Square more than an early pre-Revolutionary historic village. The once quiet intersection donned by scenic Marion Square is now home to 5 Guys Burgers, Chipotle, Walgreens, Carolina Ale House, Panera Bread, Moe’s Southwestern and Starbucks as well as cranes and development of a new hotel adjacent the Embassy Suites. We are one digital billboard away from a Shakespearean tragedy.

I know that corner well, and none of that stuff was there when I left. (There was a Holiday Inn at Meeting and Calhoun; it’s where I caught the bus to go home in 1968-69.)

And that suburban sprawl? A lot of it has been incorporated into the city, which now covers — wait for it — 109 square miles. (Not including 18 square miles of water, mostly from the Ashley and Cooper Rivers, which meet in Charleston to form the Atlantic Ocean.) And in the original eight square miles, there are nine Starbucks, one of which is in the Francis Marion Hotel, just off the Square. The official Starbucks locator shows 33 in the metro area.

More relevant to my interests was Hardee’s, at which burger joint I spent a fair sum in those days. The downtown store (200 Spring Street) is still there. Off school hours, I’d visit the one where I-26 crosses Dorchester Road in North Charleston (then an unincorporated zone called “Charleston Heights”), which would be about the 3700 block. Confident, I Binged out: “hardees dorchester road.” Got one back — at 10005 Dorchester Road. There was literally nothing there but forest 50 years ago.


I should be so disabled

A lot of folks complain about those worthless scum on welfare, as though those people were, um, worthless scum. Maybe a few of them are. But few are worthless at this level:

Mark Lloyd, of Ynysybwl, Rhondda Cynon Taff, claimed £6,551.80 in Personal Independence Payments, saying a slipped disc in his back left him in agony.

At the same time, the 33-year-old competed in races, climbed Africa’s highest peak, went wing-walking and skied in the Alps.

He was convicted of a fraud charge at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates’ Court.

Chris Evans, prosecuting, said: “He said he can only walk between 20 and 50 metres, can’t walk on uneven ground, suffers pain when walking long distances and needs to sit down every 20 minutes.”

He claimed the cash between October 2014 and February 2016, but the court was shown photos of Lloyd competing in the HSBC triathlon in September 2015 — a race he won in the adult taster category.

That month, he was also pictured posing with an African guide during his five-day trek to the peak of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania which involved walking between eight and 12 hours a day.

He also took part in the World Powerboat Championships in Malta.

Counsel for the defense was reduced to statements like this:

“When climbing Mount Kilimanjaro he said he pushed himself and was in agony.”


Lloyd will be sentenced in August.

(Via Fark.)

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And they can just bite me

Let me, um, rephrase that. I have no compelling desire to be bitten. Unfortunately, we’re surrounded by mosquitoes the size of a Volkswagen. (In Minnesota and the Dakotas, they’re the size of a Volkswagen bus.)

And if they get through whatever defenses you’ve posted, there’s this:

A new product aims to stop the suffering. Bite Helper, reviewed by Mashable, is designed to stop your bites from itching.

Place the pen-like device over your swollen bite and it will begin to emit heat and vibrations designed to quell the itch. It’s meant to increase blood flow around the area to alleviate your pain, heating your skin up to 120°F for up to 45 seconds. It’s the size of a thin tube of sunscreen and is battery powered.

Then again:

Most dermatologists advise applying cold to alleviate itching from insect bites, so the question is: Will heating up your skin really work? Bite Helper hasn’t been clinically tested, so it’s hard to say for certain how effective it would be. There has been some research to suggest that heat can help increase blood flow in general, but decrease histamine-induced blood flow in the skin (part of the body’s normal response to allergens) and reduce itching overall. In a German study of wasp, mosquito, and bee stings, concentrated heat led to a significant improvement in symptoms, though the researchers focused mostly on pain reduction rather than itching.

Meanwhile, feel free to curse the name of Noah, who had a chance to get both those damn mosquitoes and passed it by.

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Gotta get down on frizzday

Listen for the anguish in her voice:

Answers were swift to arrive, but this is the one I like:

I have no idea what she ultimately did, but this turned up on her Facebook feed yesterday:

Rebecca Black lets her hair go wild

And, well, it’s hard to mess up t-shirt and jeans.

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Where have all the poets gone?

You’d expect there’d be a heck of a lot of them these days:

There’s zero barrier to entry with poetry — the rules for writing sonnets are right there, and not even the American educational system has so far managed to destroy literacy completely. If you want to go mano-a-mano with Shakespeare, your word processing program even comes with a dictionary and a thesaurus. There are 350+ million people in America today; Elizabethan England had maybe 3 million. Just as a matter of simple probability, there should be some world-class sonnet-writers around right now…

… but, of course, there aren’t, because sometime in the later 19th century our universities started awarding degrees in English Literature. You’ve got to justify all those years in grad school somehow, and so by the 1950s you had J. Evans Pritchard, PhD, laying down mathematical formulae for judging a poem’s excellence. And now only Diversity Pokemon write poetry. Seriously, can you even name a 20th century poet, let alone quote him?

I suppose I should consider myself fortunate that I have Facebook friends who will point me to contemporary verse without even the slightest hint of irony.

That said, the finest sonnet I ever wrote turned out to have only thirteen lines — though they were very good lines, I suspect. (It’s been a long time since I even tried to remember it.)

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Don’t shake this off

The night Grace VanderWaal got the Golden Whatzit on America’s Got Talent, Simon Cowell told her she might be the next Taylor Swift. And this is as Swiftian a song as I’ve heard since Tay’s 1989. Can’t embed the video, but what matters here is the audio:

And I swear, Grace is going for that Swiftian silhouette: she’s grown several inches in the last year, all of them vertical.

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No trace of malaise

Interior of a 1979 Cadillac SevilleTom Klockau offers what isn’t quite a mash note, but is perhaps close enough to one, to the ’79 Cadillac Seville, then the smallest yet most expensive Caddy, and what greets you when you open the driver’s door is this vision from the Land of Brougham in somewhere between off-white and light yellow. The important thing, though, is not the less-than-subtle hints of GM baroque gone by, but that color itself:

Back then, you could really personalize your car. Not like all the timid, fretful people today who only rely on some ambiguous future resale value and thus choose gray, black or white with prosthetic limb beige or Dark Black interior choices. How original.

“Prosthetic limb beige!” Beige doesn’t match everyone, of course, but it’s at least sort of sunny-ish, especially when viewed next to your average contemporary three-row SUV with seven seats of gloom. I could live with something like this if I thought it would fit into my postwar garage.

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Floating in air

Ten seconds of something seemingly miraculous:

How this happened:

When reviewing the security footage from outside his house in Austin, Texas, Al Brooks spotted an unusual sight: a bird seems to hover past the camera with its wings completely stationary. Of course it wasn’t really hovering (and no, it’s not suspended by strings) but rather the frame rate of the camera matched the flaps of the bird’s wings perfectly resulting in a stroboscopic illusion. This is the same stroboscopic effect you might see in a video of airplane propellers that aren’t moving or when the wheels on a car appear to be frozen.

(Via Swiss Miss and Neatorama.)

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A bad idea whose time will never come

The perpetrator this time is Attorney General Sessions, who seeks more opportunities to rob the citizenry in the name of crime prevention:

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Justice Department will issue new directives to increase the federal govenment’s use of civil asset forfeiture, a controversial practice that allows law enforcement to seize property from suspected criminals without charging them with a crime.

Why? It’s profitable:

A 2014 Washington Post investigative series found that warrantless police seizures … have boomed since 9/11, hauling in $2.5 billion. Also in 2014, for the first time ever, the U.S. government seized more property from Americans than burglars did.

Burglars, at least, are honest about their intentions.

Peter Grant blasts this idea the way it needs to be blasted:

The State makes the claim, and then — without having to prove it — proceeds to confiscate the asset(s) that it alleges were financed through the claimed illegal activity. Their owner must then prove that the State is wrong before he or she can reclaim the asset(s) — at his or her expense. Many can’t afford that expense.

This is immoral on a fundamental level. It removes the burden of proof from the authorities, and places it on the individual. It’s not justice — it’s the antithesis of justice. If the asset(s) are confiscated after the defendant has been found guilty of a crime by a jury of his or her peers, that’s one thing. To just take them, without any legal justification whatsoever, is as much a crime as the misdeeds of which their owner may be suspected or accused.

At the state level, in only three states — Montana, Nebraska and North Carolina — a criminal conviction must be obtained before any assets can be seized. This should be the standard nationwide, and the Attorney General should embrace it. He won’t, of course.

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Maybe it’s over there

“This Isn’t the Place” is the middle track of the new Nine Inch Nails EP Add Violence, which drops with great force tomorrow:

That sudden ending suggests to me that this goes right into the next track, “Not Anymore.”

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And 58 flops

H. J. Heinz is known for — says so right on the label — “57 varieties.” (Actually, I think they have more than that, but you don’t throw away a perfectly good trademark.) It would be heinous, I think, for them to obtain a new one by slapping a different label on an old one.

And especially in this case:

“Chicago is an amazing city full of traditions — [one] of them, as you well know, is never putting Ketchup on your Chicago Dog,” reads an oddly capitalized press release. It continues: “While Heinz respects this time-honored tradition, the brand is hoping that Chicagoans will reconsider their anti-ketchup stance.”

Nah. Chicago’s good.

Heinz’s new “Chicago Dog Sauce” — a limited-time-only cheap marketing ploy that disguises the company’s normal, bland ketchup with a new label — is an insult to Abe Froman and the rest of Chicago’s encased-meat community.

“But our marketing survey … ?”

No one here cares about that “random” sample of gullible tourists who deemed this behavior acceptable. These traitors were caught on film along the lakefront. They might as well be Packers fans.

(Via E. M. Zanotti.)

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Living off the residuals

Drake appeared in 145 episodes of the Degrassi series reboot, about which he said later: “My mother was very sick. We were very poor, like broke. The only money I had coming in was off of Canadian TV.”

Fortunately, he has other sources of income these days, because:

A residuals check made out to Drake

Judging by the date, I’m guessing he gets these quarterly. And by now, he’s earned some figure with nine digits — he said he wanted to make $25 million by age 25, a sum he exceeded handily — which tells me he’s not desperate for thirty-three bucks a year.

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A real snootful

Americans love that new-car smell; they’ll even buy synthetic new-car smell in a spray bottle, just to prolong the ecstasy.

The Chinese, however, aren’t having any of that:

Chinese would rather their cars didn’t smell of anything — a cultural divide that’s testing car makers seeking an edge to revive sales in the world’s biggest auto market.

At Ford Motor Company, for example, 18 smell assessors — dubbed “golden noses” — at its research plant outside the eastern city of Nanjing test the smell of each material that goes inside a Ford car to be sold in China and around Asia.

The China smell test isn’t unique, but illustrates the lengths automakers go to to attract buyers in markets where consumer attitudes vary widely.

Very few Chinese-built cars are sold in the States — yet. I have to figure that eventually the importers will start spritzing the interiors with that aftermarket stuff.