Scan this, pal

You already know what I think of supermarket self-checkout:

I am not fond of this particular implementation anyway: the scanning zone seems to be wildly variable, and it may refuse your can of tomato sauce right in front of its frickin’ laser beam because it’s worried about something it thinks you tried to sneak into a bag without scanning at all. After that, finding out it’s running on some form of Windows merely elicits a “That figures.”

Still, apparently they’re popular enough to merit a Consumerist survey:

Are they intended to be used for small purchases of just a few items — or is it perfectly fine to get in line with a full week’s worth of groceries?

At the only places I’d be likely to use them, there’s no room for a whole Cart Full O’ Stuff: there are only three bagging stations, and if you’re lucky two of them will be cooperating. The Homeland store I patronize on occasion has a flat 20-item limit. Does the machine cut off at 20? Um, no. Don’t ask me why I know that.

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Take that, Ralph

You gotta love this:

1964 Corvair Monza rear view

A sight to see at the Corvair Society of America’s convention, last weekend in Sturbridge, Massachusetts: a shot across Ralph Nader’s bow. The caption thereupon:

Kevin Willson of Juneau, Alaska, sports a license plate meant to mock the quirky car’s reputation for being deadly.

Willson’s car appears to be a ’64, which also sported some rear-suspension improvements over the original: Chevy softened up the rear coils and added a Corvette-like transverse leaf spring, which did wonders to tame the tail-happiness that so disturbed Nader. (In ’65, a new independent rear suspension, arguably better than Corvette’s, eliminated it completely.) If you told me I could have any late-Sixties sled I wanted, I’d probably ask for a second-generation Corvair.

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Where’s my stuff?

Contents magazine has proposed “standards for the care and feeding of user-generated content,” something which matters if, for instance, you had to rescue a site from GeoCities before Yahoo! turned it into a ghost town. One of those standards, as recounted by Jeffrey Zeldman:

If you close a system, support data rescue. Provide one financial quarter’s notice between announcing the shutdown and destroying any user-contributed content, public or private, and offer data export during this period. And beyond that three months? Make user-contributed content available for media-cost purchase for one year after shutdown.

The only time I’ve really had to deal with this myself was the closing of Photoworks, which sent me an email to warn me to retrieve my stuff within two weeks, though technically they’d been closed for nearly a year. The export system, fortunately, was the same one they’d had all along.

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Ask me again in fifty years

“Do people with fall birthdays live longer?” asks The Week, and, as you’d expect from an article with a question mark in the title, the answer given is at best a qualified Maybe:

[R]esearchers studied the lives of more than 1,500 people who were born between 1880 and 1895 who lived to be 100 or older. They found that most of the people who enjoyed extraordinarily long lives had birthdays in September, October, or November. By contrast, a slight majority of people in the non-centenarian population were born in the first half of the year. In fact, three birth months — March, May, and July — had 40 percent fewer centenarians.

I might be more persuaded by this were it not for the fact that both my siblings with fall birthdays are gone.

As to why this should be so at all:

“Childhood living conditions may have long-lasting consequences for health in later life and longevity,” says Leonid Gavrilov, one of the study authors. For example, in the late 19th century, when these men and women were born, their mothers might have had access to better nutrition at different times of the year. Similarly, seasonal infections might have affected fetuses in the womb, hitting those conceived in different months at significantly different points in their development. Also, the milder fall weather might have helped babies born then to grow up stronger by protecting them from extra stress.

Of course, by the time they have all the numbers for those of us born within a few ticks of 1950, I’ll be in no position to post an update.

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Strange search-engine queries (339)

It occurs to me that if I did this only once every four years, it would be just as much work, and you’d probably read it five hours late.

friday related song:  I think we can safely eliminate “Manic Monday” and maybe “Ruby Tuesday.”

kirk “i will destroy it”:  This was Plan B. (Plan A was “I will date it.”)

fictional Governor Preston:  You know, we should start electing more fictional governors. Eventually one of them might become a fictional President, which might be an improvement over the last few real ones.

what nissan car cost $120,000:  The GT-R, if you include tax, license, and the cost of insuring the driver who bought it after thinking he could use it for drifting after watching The Fast and the Furious too many times.

reset the server to its dreamhost-approved configuration:  Hosed up your Web site, did you?

can you get chlamydia from trying on bikinis without underwear:  Write the word “moist” on the blackboard 100 times, and stay out of T. J. Maxx for a year.

why did joan blondell’s breasts wobble when she walked:  Never seen any actual breasts, have you?

oge wind power downside:  It’s called “July,” when it’s 103 in the shade if you have any shade, and the wind is deader than a snow-cone shop in Tierra del Fuego.

burrito cheapest gas in town:  Yeah, but the octane rating isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

what qualifies as a nightmare:  Watching campaign ads in an election year.

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Wafting from the pages

Last year I declared at least temporary loyalty to the old-fashioned book, as distinguished from the new electronically-distributed variety, prompting this comment from a reader:

For me an e-reader, obviously, will never replace the tactile pleasure I receive from the printed pages of a book, its cover and binding, fonts and all the rest, the sheer physicality of its existence.

Part of that sheer physicality, apparently, is its scent:

Gerhard Steidl was first alerted to the importance of the smell of a book by Karl Lagerfeld, prompting a passion for paper and the composition of a scent on the pages of a book. To Wallpaper* magazine the pairing of the publisher with the perfumer seemed a natural partnership and so the idea for Paper Passion was born. Wallpaper* magazine commissioned master perfumer Geza Schoen to create a fragrance based on the smell of books to be part of the Wallpaper* magazine Handmade exhibition in Milan.

This is an opportunity to celebrate all the gloriosensuality of books, at a time when many in the industry are turning against them.

Paper Passion, the book and the scent, is out now for $98.00. I know just the fictional character for whom I’d buy this.

(Via kottke.org.)

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We were all completely aghast

I don’t make a habit of going ranty at the office — which is not to say I never have, not by any means — but I’m not above mocking ill-conceived ideas, of which we have always had an abundance. Earlier this year, bits and pieces of a scheme were disclosed to me through, let us say, an informal channel, to which I responded something along the lines of “Are you shitting me? These people couldn’t schedule a fart after a trip to Taco Bell.”

In view of this, I am perhaps rethinking that judgment. [Warning: Probably not safe for anywhere.]

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Whole lotta analysis

Willie Dixon used to say that you can’t judge a book by looking at the cover. (And, speaking of covers, Bo Diddley covered that song to such great effect that Dixon’s version is mostly forgotten. Dixon, at least, got paid for that one; it wasn’t until the 1980s that Willie saw any checks from Led Zeppelin’s expropriation of “You Need Love,” which Robert Plant probably remembered from the Muddy Waters cover anyway.)

Oh, right. “You can’t judge a book by looking at the cover.” Well, actually you can, if you’re six years old, though your interpretations might be just a hair askew:

“I think this book is about a sprite that lives in the forest. And she meets a lion, a tiger a bear and a mouse. She also meets a leaf and a tree, it’s a magical book but for teens.”

Which, come to think about it, sounds exactly like One Hundred Years of Solitude, especially if you’re college-age and, um, import certain substances from Colombia.

(The Friar found this first.)

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And a yo-ho-ho to you too

Apparently if you killed off every single illicit download site, every online file-sharing scheme, and every single torrent, music piracy would decrease by, oh, a measly 19 percent:

A leaked report from the music industry shows that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which heavily lobbied to pass the Stop Online Piracy and Protect IP Acts (SOPA and PIPA), reported that digital piracy accounted for only 19% of illegal music acquisition in 2011.

Even more damning, under the heading “SOPA/PIPA debate,” the report admitted that “legislation [was] not likely to have been an effective tool for music.”

The report, dated April 26, is credited to RIAA Deputy General Counsel Vicky Sheckler and was obtained by Torrentfreak.

The major source of, um, unpaid file distribution remains SneakerNet: you carry a copy of the original to a friend’s house. The RIAA’s next move, apparently, will be to require people to stay home.

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Unsealed for your distraction

There were guns for hundreds of years before there were such things as “gun safes.” In fact, Bill Quick, not far from my age, never saw one when he was growing up:

When I was a kid growing up in the midwest back in the 1950s, there were a lot of guns around, but very few actual gun safes.

Parents trained their kids from a very early age how to treat firearms, though. They did this weird thing called “taking responsibility for the safety of their children.”

This latter practice, I’m guessing, slid into desuetude some time after my adolescence. I was marginally skittish about firearms as a teen, but I had reason to believe that my peers would not actually shoot me, since they seemed to know what they were doing. And indeed, I didn’t get shot even once.

My son once caught a BB on a hair-parting trajectory. Then again, nobody I know keeps a BB gun in a safe.

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No fooling

I am reeling from the idea that Rachel Sweet is fifty today.

Fool Around by Rachel SweetSweet — that’s her real name — was born in Akron in 1962, and in 1978, after a couple of flop C&W singles in the Tanya Tucker mode, she wound up on Stiff Records, alongside the likes of Ian Dury and Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. In the clip above, she’s appearing on the UK series Top of the Pops, backed by The Records, who didn’t record for Stiff; you may recall their glorious ’78 single “Starry Eyes”. (Rachel’s song here, of course, you remember from Carla Thomas’ 1966 waxing; it was an early composition by the team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter.)

Her music career held up for several years, after which Sweet got a literature degree from Columbia (not the record label) and started working in television, co-producing for Dharma & Greg, George Lopez and, most recently, Hot in Cleveland. Truth be told, though, I still think of her in terms of, you know, records:

Rachel Sweet and Nipper

You’d think Nipper would have retired by now, but no.

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Where’s Mistral?

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Oh, and your coffee sucks

We begin with the tale of a coffee shop that seemed to have everything going for it: cheerful staff, cozy ambiance, excellent location — everything except drinkable coffee. “It tasted like the water left after you rinsed your socks.” Not a good sign.

The shop folded after a year or so of indifferent-at-best business. Upon hearing this tale, Andrea Harris asked, innocently enough, “Didn’t anyone tell him his coffee tasted like sock water?” The next commenter down suggested that it’s not our job to tell him his product is inferior, and Harris was incensed:

See, this is why so many people are against capitalism and the “free” market. Because they see this sort of “fuck you, I’ve got mine, I don’t care if you starve” attitude from too many of its proponents, this attitude that even if you do everything right one tiny mistake OR EVEN unforeseen shit happening like a hurricane or other natural disaster wiping you out means your business should fail and you should crawl off into a hole and die, this dog-eat-dog nasty-ass treatment of other people, and of course they start looking at socialism, communism, anything communitarian that seems to promise a system where people won’t be treated like disposable garbage.

The majority of new businesses do fail. It has always been thus. We are missing, perhaps, one piece of information about this defunct java joint: how long ago did this happen? I submit that it’s almost impossible to avoid getting feedback from one’s customers in this day and age; where I live, offending vendors are routinely grilled on Twitter and pilloried on message boards and Yelp. Restaurant reviews in the Gazette concentrate on the favorable stuff, but there’s always a line left for “What needs work.” (Sample.)

And besides, entrepreneurs with one strike, even several strikes, against them seldom crawl off into a hole and die. They’ll be back with something else. They might even have learned something in the interim. As a system, it’s way better than the establishment of a Ministry of Beverage Evaluation.

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Your educational material for the weekend

Mythological references in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Seriously.

(Which is the follow-up to this.)

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This is not an F-stop

And in fact, the Big F is audible in offices large and small, all through the nation, to the extent that some of these corksoaking iceholes think it retards your farging career development:

Employees who make frequent contributions to the swear jar may lose more than loose change; they may lose out on a promotion. Sixty-four percent of employers said that they’d think less of an employee who repeatedly uses curse words, and 57 percent said they’d be less likely to promote someone who swears in the office. The nationwide survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive® from May 14, 2012 to June 4, 2012, included more than 2,000 hiring managers and 3,800 workers across industries and company sizes.

Half (51 percent) of workers reported that they swear in the office. The majority of those (95 percent) said they do so in front of their co-workers, while 51 percent cuss in front of the boss. Workers were the least likely to use expletives in front of senior leaders (13 percent) and their clients (7 percent).

Any universe with 1.9 workers per hiring manager is, ipso facto, not worth a flying fish.

(Via James fracking Joyner.)

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Future Black

Once upon a time, an Orange County legend made his exit from the scene — an exit which, you’ll remember, proved to be temporary — by saying “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.”

Rebecca Black at the 2012 Teen Choice AwardsA current Orange County legend makes no such rash promises. At the 2012 Teen Choice Awards, Rebecca Black was asked if she planned to continue making videos for YouTube. Said she: “For sure. For sure. Until the day I die. Until the day I die.” Assuming a life expectancy of 80 years, this means we’re going to have sixty-five years of Rebecca Black videos. I couldn’t be happier — unless, of course, there’s some way to insure that I could see the last few, assuming I can still see anything at all at the age of 123.

RB did allow that there are no collaborations on the new album, shipping date still undetermined, although she’s not ruling out the possibility for the next one. (Ed Sheeran, call your service.)

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