Followed by twenty years of groveling

News Item: The parent company of Ashley Madison, a matchmaking website for cheating spouses, says it was hacked and that the personal information of some of its users was posted online.

Yep.

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Watch how you hug that tree

Tree Hugger from My Little Pony: Friendship is MagicAfter all these years, I retain a sort of sentimental fondness for hippie chicks, not because I had any physical or emotional connection to them — certainly none of them ever had any reason to look my way — but because I saw them as making a concerted effort to improve, to the extent possible, their immediate environments, in several senses of the word; and, by extension, maybe to make the world a slightly better place, without any of the blatant cynicism or neofascist tendencies exhibited by today’s cracktivists. Guys of the species, on the other hand, tended to invite my suspicion: I wondered just how many of them were feigning the lifestyle just to get next to the chicks.

That said, this bunch is really bumming me out:

Activists at the University of California at Berkeley got naked on Saturday to show their love for nearby trees that authorities are planning to cut own.

About 50 people showed up at a grove of eucalyptus trees on the campus of UC-Berkeley, stripped off their clothes, and began to intimately interact with the trees in the grove for the benefit of photographer Jack Gescheidt.

There’s a lot to be said for protecting trees, and I tend to mourn at their demise. But the epidermis on your average coddled college student is no match for tree bark, and a lot of these characters are going to end up with body art of the involuntary kind: scratches and scrapes and scars.

(Do not ask why I would know this.)

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Big Shot Becky

Becky Hammon’s #25 jersey is proudly displayed at Colorado State’s Moby Arena. Weirdly, she went undrafted by the WNBA, but managed to get signed by the New York Liberty, which installed her as the second-string point guard. Eventually she worked herself into the starting lineup, and in 2007 she was dealt to the San Antonio Stars.

Becky Hammon as a San Antonio Star

In 2013, she tore an ACL and spent a year in rehab; during that time she looked for a coaching gig, and found one in San Antonio — with the NBA’s Spurs, on Gregg Popovich’s staff of assistants. Said Pop at her hiring:

I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic, and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.

Becky Hammon as a San Antonio Spurs coach

This past season’s Spurs finished 55-27 and took the Clippers to seven games in the playoffs before bowing out. This summer, Pop dispatched Hammon to coach the Spurs’ summer-league team in Salt Lake City. They finished 1-2, in a three-way tie for second. (The Jazz won all three of their games to claim the championship.) Undaunted, the Spurs proceeded to the Las Vegas summer-league extravaganza (24 teams!) and won that one.

Oh, and here’s Hammon subtly suggesting that one of the opposing players just might have taken one too many steps:

Okay, maybe not so subtly.

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It’s bleeding demised

It was, however, quite impossible to nail to the perch:

To celebrate the achievements of the Monty Python crew, UKTV channel Gold — which will air the final performance of the [Python] reunion on Sunday — contracted with sculptor Iain Prendergast to create a 50-foot fiberglass version of the famous “Norwegian Blue” parrot. The parrot, which is famous for being dead from the moment it was sold, was placed on Monday at Potters Fields Park in South London, near Tower Bridge. This is both a fine reminder to tune in on Sunday to the broadcast and an outstanding opportunity to inspire countless visitors to declare in increasingly frantic tones that “This parrot is no more! It has ceased to be! It’s expired and gone to meet its maker! This is a late parrot! It’s a stiff!”

Actual picture at the link. We’re assuming that the Choir Invisible would in fact be available for comment if they weren’t also inaudible.

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Meanwhile, phish are dying

This may seem impossible, but apparently it’s true:

For the first time in 12 years, spam made up less than 50 percent of all email.

According to Symantec’s latest monthly threat report, only 49.7 percent of email sent this June was spam. While still a pretty dang high percentage, it’s the lowest since September 2003.

Better tools like enhanced spam filters and more frequent prosecution of spam producers have helped cut down on spam. But for those of us who grew up with the internet and got the occasional laugh out of spam’s unintentional and bizarre poetry, this is a mildly bittersweet fadeout.

One data point doth not a trend make. Call me in thirty days and we’ll talk.

(Via Fark.)

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Drifting together

Charleston, West Virginia has been a two-newspaper town, kinda sorta. But it’s becoming less so:

The Charleston Gazette and Charleston Daily Mail have been your local source for news for more than a century.

The two newspapers operated independently for readers and advertisers until Jan. 1, 1958, when the owners merged the business, advertising, circulation and production departments into a single corporation.

The standard Joint Operating Agreement, common in many cities in an effort to keep two papers going. But this is where things change:

Beginning [Sunday], the two newspapers are combining newsroom functions with the exception of editorial page content.

That’s right, two editorial pages, presumably facing one another, with the Gazette on the left and the Daily Mail on the right, reflecting their positions on the political spectrum.

So: still a two-newspaper town? Not with one edition a day, I think. Then again, they’ve published a jointly-produced single edition on weekends for several years, and since both papers were morning papers, the last six people on earth who preferred afternoon editions will not be further affected. Besides, it’s a single ownership, albeit with one strange twist along the way:

On January 20, 2010, the Daily Gazette Company and the Justice Department settled relative to violations in the purchase of the Daily Mail and the Daily Gazette Company’s management of it. Under the terms of the settlement, the previous owner, the Media News Group, will hold a perpetual option to re-purchase 20% of the paper, will have two of five seats on the management board, and will determine the size of the budget for its news staff and choose its editorial content. Daily Gazette will be required to seek government permission to cease publication of the Daily Mail and the intellectual property of the paper will pass to the Media News Group should it ever be shut down.

So complete consolidation may still be a long way off.

(Via Andrew Brown.)

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Recordings received

I’ve snagged these three albums from iTunes in the past couple of months, and it’s about time I told you about them.

The So Flows Sessions by Patrick O'HearnPatrick O’Hearn: The So Flows Sessions (2006)

In 2001, Patrick O’Hearn released an album called So Flows the Current. This was the first time O’Hearn had put out an album by himself, without a label backing him; it was quiet, meditative, and impeccably produced. At least seventeen tracks were recorded, nine of which made it to the album. Five years later, eight more tracks surfaced as The So Flows Sessions, and it deserves better, I think, than to be dismissed as just outtakes from its predecessor; it’s subtle without being boring, quiet without being mere background music. O’Hearn has been a fixture in so-called “new-age” radio ever since I discovered the existence of “new-age” radio, and it still amazes me that he got there by way of Frank Zappa and Missing Persons.

 

A Posteriori by EnigmaEnigma: A Posteriori (2006)

You remember Enigma. In 1990, Michael Cretu and a small band of collaborators released MCMXC a.D., which produced the mighty hit single “Sadeness (Part I),” a dance number overlaid with Gregorian chant destined for the middle of the Top Ten. A Posteriori — “After the fact” — is the sixth Enigma album; while echoes of the earlier work resound here and there, the tone is decidedly different: less thump, more techno, and references that suggest a galactic disaster in the making. Two singles were released: “Hello and Welcome,” which was remixed before the album appeared, and “Goodbye Milky Way,” which more or less gives away the game.

 

Dark Matter by SPC ECOSPC ECO: Dark Matter (2015)

SPC ECO — pronounced, I am told, “space echo” — really ought to be characterized as darkwave, this being their second album with “dark” in the title; but they’re a bit too downtempo, and there’s somehow enough murk in the mix to suggest both the flow of dreampop and the golden days of shoegaze. It helps that Dean Garcia plays every instrument in the book and a few only in the appendix, and Rose Berlin (Dean’s daughter) makes wonderfully ethereal vocal noises, though in the first couple of tracks she seems a bit overly processed. No singles have yet been released, though either “Playing Games” or “I Won’t Be Heard” would seem to have stand-alone potential. But to be honest, nothing here is quite so dreamy/sprightly as this track from their previous album.

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Triumphantly so

In 1959, the US found itself awash in foreign cars. Volkswagen, which had set up shop in 1949, dominated the market with its Beetles, but France was selling a fair number of Renaults, Toyota had tentatively dipped a toe into the Stateside milieu with the Toyopet Crown, and the British seemed to be everywhere: my father, in fact, put up some presumably modest sum for a Ford Anglia from beautiful downtown Dagenham. In general, economy was the name of the game, and this Triumph advertisement from 1959 makes darn sure you know that:

Print ad for '59 Triumph

There were no real fuel-economy rules in those days, but 40 mpg doesn’t seem too far out of reach, providing you weren’t doing things like climbing hills in San Francisco. The engine was dinky by American standards: a 948-cc (58 cubic inches, wow!) overhead-valve inline four, pumping out 37 hp, competitive with the Beetle’s flat four. I was amused by this bit: “It will travel up to 60,000 miles without a major overhaul — often 100,000.” Today, needing an overhaul at 60k is the sign of Heavy Citrus, but back then, things wore out a whole lot faster.

Still, the funniest part, at least to me, is that it’s not really a Triumph. This is actually a ’59 Standard Ten sedan, given a Triumph badge because those Yanks know the name, having bought several Triumph TR-series sports cars in the decade. And if you saw “Triumph” and thought “sports-car engine,” who could blame you? The TR3A of that era had an engine twice as big with nearly three times the ponies.

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The glucose is clear

I’m not quite sure I understand this promotion:

Actually, that’s only half a gallon, but it still sounds a bit strange.

(Via Dawn Summers.)

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Warm! What is it good for?

There’s a certain irony in writing this while a Heat Advisory is boiling away outside, but what the hell:

Look, warm is better than cold. Plants grow better. Food is more abundant. Plus being cold sucks, just ask anyone who has not yet moved south for the winter. I say we fire up those coal plants, drive the heck out of your SUVs, bring back Freon. Each of us should strive to have a carbon footprint the size of Bigfoot. We all know what happens if it gets too cold.

I figure carbon-based life forms with a morbid fear of carbon are sufficiently self-loathing to make themselves perfect candidates for Voluntary Human Extinction.

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How little things change

Just an historical note, or a point in the cycle we’re bound to repeat?

The Whigs collapsed in 1856, and the Democrats in 1860, because neither represented the views of the majority of Americans. American politics had been all about slavery since at least the 1830s, but both parties studiously avoided it. You could vote for the Whigs, who stood for nothing but not being Democrats, or you could vote for the Democrats, who were pro-slavery but wouldn’t admit it under torture. The Dems were better at coalition building — some things never change — and were able to cobble together the “Hard Shell,” “Soft Shell,” “Barnburner,” etc. factions together for one election longer than the Whigs were, but when faced with a legitimate protest party, they too collapsed. Their vote split several different ways, Lincoln won the White House, and I forget what happened next.

Today’s Republican leadership, in case you hadn’t noticed, stands for nothing but not being Democrats. And anyone paying attention knows the Democrats’ poster child: it’s a nonwhite female college student who will do anything to not get pregnant, but she won’t do that. (Or rather, she won’t not do that.) I can’t wait for the grownups to start running the playground again.

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Strange search-engine queries (494)

Admittedly, we only pull ten or twelve out of the logs for review here, but remember: #AllSearchesMatter.

stan and hilda can mow the lawn in 60 minutes if they work together. if hilda works three times as fast as stan:  It’s because Stan spent the first half of the weekend on the couch watching sports and has no energy left for actual work.

brain teaser: i am something:  Yeah, you just think you’re something.

whatever happened to quinn cummings:  She’s on Twitter as @quinncy, her lacerating wit intact.

youtubers who smoke cigarettes:  I suspect some of them have been smoking, um, something else.

what ford transmission do i have:  The one that’s broken.

tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength:  Too many people willing to cause too many tragedies.

jerking off made simple:  When, exactly, was it complicated?

the most lewd and vulgar video webcam jailbait girls:  Are still better behaved than Washington politicians.

funny paramecium cartoons:  Oh, they’re so ciliated.

did ariana grande have a baby:  Far as I know, she’s had only donuts.

girl with two heads:  You’d have better luck finding a girl with two faces.

trying to be less of an asshole than yesterday:  Well, thank you for that, Mr. Trump.

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No advance fees, period

California says a talent agent can’t collect money from a client before representation actually begins, as explained here, and one such agent has now been convicted:

Debra Baum, 53, entered a plea of no contest to one count of operating an advance fee talent service. Judge Deborah Brazil sentenced Baum to 36 months summary probation and ordered her to serve 45 days in jail or perform 20 days of community labor. Baum also agreed to pay $91,252.75 in restitution to the parents of the victims…

The City Attorney’s office said that Baum solicited a 19-year old in 2012 who she heard singing in a hair salon and signed her to a $10,000 per month management contract to promote her vocal career. Before terminating the contract in September 2012, the victim’s family paid $70,000 in management fees to Baum as well as thousands of dollars in third party expenses for vocal training, stylists and recordings.

Said Baum on Twitter:

This doesn’t quite sound like someone who just entered a nolo plea.

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The last of the romantics

Just when I was starting to think that Taylor Swift was turning (and turning me) cynical in her old age, here comes Carly Rae Jepsen to sweep me back to hearts and flowers:

Dropped this past Friday, “Run Away With Me” is the lead track from E-MO-TION, already out in Japan and due here next month. If it outsells “I Really Like You,” which peaked at #39 in Billboard, we’re looking at a gold, maybe platinum album. Peanuts compared to Taylor; but then, Taylor’s already mapped out her road for the next twenty-five years. Carly is still feeling the tug of “What now?” And damn if she doesn’t make me feel it too.

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Someone call the government

Shihka Dalmia writes at TheWeek.com:

[P]rivatizing marriage can’t sidestep the broader questions about who should get married to whom and under what circumstances.

Bill Quick took a shot at this notion, pointing out that people routinely make contracts that don’t have to have governmental approval, which led to this exchange in the comments. First, Bill, refuting an earlier comment:

Except for the fact that marrying close relatives has been a feature of marriage all through history (and we now have the technological means to determine potential harm in such marriages), polygamy may or may not be socially destructive, it is practiced in much of the world openly, and much of the rest sub rosa, and “socially destructive” is a flimsy and often ugly reason for banning something.

Many believe private ownership of guns is socially destructive. Private ownership of automobiles certainly delivers a mass slaughter every year. And we all know how fantastically successful the ban on some drugs has been — why, no social destruction issuing from that ban at all, eh?

Return volley by SteveF:

Private ownership of automobiles causes social destruction not by the endless, inevitable slaughter of innocents but by allowing people to travel easily, quickly, and privately. If people can go where they want, when they want, and are not limited by the schedule of buses and trains and don’t need to show ID to get from place to place, who knows what mischief they might get up to?

Besides that, I’ve heard tell that some young men drive their automobiles to meet young women from outside the village. Society is doomed if we don’t put an end to this!

It could be worse. Those young men could be dating female college students.

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Did I call it, or what?

Back in January I ran a shot from a Tesla Model S P85D’s touchscreen, with two speed options selectable: “Sport” or “Insane.” Total tool of pop culture that I am, I titled that piece “Ludicrous speed.”

And now “Ludicrous” is being added as a legitimate option:

[O]wners and buyers can now upgrade to the new Ludicrous Mode on the Model S P85D. This upgrade is quite involved, requiring a new, advanced “smart fuse” and upgraded main pack contacter. Together, the upgrades result in a 2.8 second sprint to 60 mph — an improvement of 10 percent — and a quarter-mile time of 10.9 seconds, states [Elon] Musk. Car and Driver says the upgrade gives the Model S 762 horsepower.

If you are ordering a new P85D and want the Ludicrous Model update, prepare to shell out $10,000 plus another $3,000 for the required range update.

As usual, the upgrade will be offered to current P85D owners, though since it involves about $5000 worth of new hardware, it will require more than just the usual software download.

Dark Helmet, I assume, will be pleased.

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