Sometimes it even works

We are heavily reliant on systems that work not quite 100 percent of the time:

Our modern world runs on giant, soulless corporations that mostly work very well. They keep us supplied with food, water, power, transportation, entertainment and an endless variety of gadgets. A great many people have worked very hard to make these organizations productive and efficient. Problem is that in streamlining these operations they become more susceptible to grit in the gears. Their normal reaction is to just kick it out. That’s when your high-tech new ride breaks down, you find yourself stranded by the side of the road with a dead cell phone that wouldn’t work anyway because your account has been terminated for non-payment, because your credit card has been canceled because your number and 27 million others got stolen by the Romanian mafia who sold it to some grifters in Kansas City who tried to buy a boatload of Christmas presents over the internet.

And we will never, ever run short of grifters.

One corollary: inevitably, this sort of system-building leads to atrocities like the construction of voice-mail systems that can handle any conceivable inquiry except the one you’re trying to put in. Technology has only so much imagination.

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Oh, what a night

Late December, back in ’53,
What a very special time for me,
As I remember — what the hell?

Hoover vacuum ad from 1953

Sixty-odd years later, Susan and Tom are still not speaking to one another. The Hoover, meantime, sucks as much as it always did. (I have one such machine, admittedly not that old; it’s still functional as its 40th birthday approaches.) Not that anyone born in the last 25 years is going to believe that humble household appliances were once considered dynamite Christmas fare.

(From Pop Sugar via Miss Cellania.)

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Nobody likes price hikes

Especially if there’s a good reason for one, and in this case there was:

Uber is reportedly charging its users in downtown Sydney a minimum $100, a result of surge pricing introduced in the midst of an armed hostage crisis, Mashable has learned.

An executive in the city’s Central Business District (CBD) sent Mashable screenshots of the Uber app that show the company is charging up to four-times the normal rate because “demand is off the charts.”

A hundred Australian dollars is about $82 USD.

“I have never, ever seen it at four-times [the normal rate] and I’m a 1% top Uber user,” said Matthew Leung, the user in contact with Mashable. “I understand the way the business works — higher the demand, higher the charge — but four-times at $100 minimum is ridiculous. Almost price gouging at its worst.”

Rather a lot of Twitter users chose to ignore that word “almost”; reaction was swift and almost entirely negative. Uber’s Sydney office issued a statement:

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not driving my way into that sort of catastrophe for a lousy 82 bucks.

Later, in an effort at damage control, Uber began waiving fees for riders leaving the CBD, and offered refunds to the truly distraught.

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Blasts from the past

The very last time I can remember calling up a radio station and asking “What the hell is that?” was for this very track, some time in 1990.

I’m not sure that stills of Mount Etna in mid-eruption are the ideal visual complement to Paul Speer’s guitar and Leroy Quintana’s keyboards, but it’s what we’ve got. (And the tune runs only to 5:10, so there’s two minutes more volcano without accompaniment.)

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No place left to hide

The quality of exhibitionists has declined markedly of late:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Will the host see me on nude adult cams?

Here’s where it gets pitiful:

I don’t want the hosts on nude adult cams to see me during the private shows because I really can’t risk being recognized. Is there a way for me to remain hidden?

So: (a) gutless; (b) underage; (c) gutless and underage?

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Strange search-engine queries (463)

Taylor Swift once wrote a song called “Back to December.” It had nothing whatever to do with this stuff, which is scraped out of the logs in a desperate attempt to find something amusing on a Monday morning.

don alverzo wiki:  You’d think people would check Wikipedia for wiki entries, but maybe not.

2001 mazda 626 and transmission problems:  Go together like a horse and carriage.

dolichocephaly cleese:  Not the lost nephew of John Cleese. I think.

on MTV who got Punk’d when they were told there’d $250,000 Porsche was stolen:  Not the lost nephew of John Cleese. I think.

jordache lard ass jeans:  Not actually made by Jordache.

pole vault plant box padding:  You might try cutting up some old worn-out jeans.

spearsling:  Britney’s daughter — some day.

rebecca romijn body paint see:  This is why Sports Illustrated has a swimsuit issue.

calf falsies:  Raw material for Mystery Veal.

nice japanese daddy:  He’ll wear the Hello Kitty sweater you bought him, and smile the whole time.

SupraModem 2400:  But was it Hayes-compatible?

well turned ankle:  Good at a fashion show; not so good at an NBA game.

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A little dark spot

The Suns have been slumping of late, and the loss of Goran Dragić to back spasms wasn’t going to help matters. An ideal time, perhaps, for the Thunder to run off another 70-point first half. Both sides, however, looked tired in the third quarter, though OKC extended the lead to 25. There wasn’t any particular reason for the starters for either side to play the fourth quarter, and they didn’t; in fact, things got to the point where Mitch McGary actually got to play. (Jeremy Lamb drew a DNP-CD, though apparently he was not feeling well, in case anyone thought Lamb was residing in Scott Brooks’ doghouse.) And as it turned out, the fourth quarter, despite meeting the definition of garbage time, was actually a bit more entertaining than the third. Final: Oklahoma City 112, Phoenix 88, climbing to 11-13 and dropping the Suns to 12-13. Half a game out of eighth place, guys.

Gerald Green, subbing for Dragić, was the Suns’ high scorer with 15; fellow wingman Eric Bledsoe added 12. Rookie Tyler Ennis led the reserves with 11. The Suns put up lots of shots, didn’t make many: 34 of 99 for 35 percent. (OKC was 39-80 for 49 percent.) Thunder dominance on the boards was prodigious: 63-40.

In their brief appearances, Russell Westbrook (27 minutes) picked up 28 points and eight boards, and delivered eight assists; Kevin Durant (24 minutes, though Brooks would have let him go 35 if needed) picked up 23 points and eight boards, and delivered two assists. Top rebounder turned out to be Kendrick Perkins, with ten; Steven Adams had eight. The Thunder did not shoot the long ball well (4-18), though the Suns weren’t any better (7-31). Oh, and McGary? Three points and four boards in seven minutes.

That long West Coast haul is coming up. The Kings are struggling a bit, with DeMarcus Cousins unwell; the Warriors are not struggling in the least, and hey, Kobe Bryant moved into third place on the all-time scorers list, which has to make the Lakers happy.

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Meanwhile, up in the sky

The spring storm season in this place lasts 14, maybe 15 months. On the upside, when the sirens pipe down we get a glimpse of something like this:

There was a tornado warning at the time, at a far corner of the county.

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Non-smuggler’s blues

There’s a little listserv on an arcane topic that I’ve been part of for at least fifteen years; the founder/leader died back in 2005, but it continues, and occasionally someone new shows up.

A Canadian chap had tossed out a story idea consistent with the group topic, and over the next couple of years turned out a pretty decent story, vaguely erotic but not enough to upset anyone’s applecart, and after he finished it, he vowed to make a book out of it. Which he did: he hired an editor to go through it — a wise choice, we all thought — then went the self-published route.

Response was good enough for him to start thinking in terms of “sequel,” and while I’d read the serialized version, I figured the least I could do is buy one in hardcopy. I contacted him offlist; he said he had a few copies on hand, and quoted a price. Fine, said I, what are my payment options? Apparently what gets to him fastest is MoneyGram, the successor to the old Travelers Express Company.

This next bit of history matters more than I thought it would:

In November 2012, MoneyGram International admitted to money laundering and wire fraud violations. MoneyGram services were used by unrelated parties involved in mass marketing and consumer phishing scams that defrauded thousands of victims in the United States. As a part of the settlement, MoneyGram created a $100 million victim compensation fund. MoneyGram also retained a corporate monitor who will report regularly to the United States Department of Justice for a five-year trial period. If MoneyGram fulfills its obligations under the settlement, prosecutors will seek dismissal of the charges of aiding and abetting wire fraud. MoneyGram also terminated any agents complicit in the 2009 scams and invested more than $84 million in improvements to the company’s consumer anti-fraud systems and consumer awareness education.

And apparently they’re taking no chances in 2014, because it took me half an hour on their Web site and another ten minutes talking to an actual rep for me to fail to persuade them to accept my payment to this Canadian guy, inasmuch as well, no, we’ve never actually met, and national borders are involved.

I said screw it, went to his publisher, and ordered a copy from them.

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Thieves vying for honor points

Received in the spam trap yesterday afternoon:

Hi there! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on. Any suggestions?

This might have carried more weight had the “author” been identified as something other than “buy litecoin With credit card no verification.”

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Quote of the week

Dr. B on that “torture” report:

Expect this report to be used to bash Republicans (without noting that President Obama doesn’t allow the capture and torture of suspected terrorists: he merely kills the bad guys with drones instead). True pacifists know this, and complain.

How can you tell a true pacifist from a fake one? If they only bash the US and the west, they are fake.

War is hell, as one General said, and the dirty little secret is that often trying to make wars more humane merely leads to the next war because you didn’t kill enough bad guys, so they regroup and attack again.

It’s only a secret to the politicians: the rest of us knew this all along. Most of the rest of us, anyway.

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Passing detest

Not the official Facebook Dislike iconOne can only hope:

[Thursday] during a Facebook Q&A with Mark Zuckerberg, the head of the social network said the company is mulling over the addition of a “dislike” button — a thumbs down to go with that ever-present thumbs up, reports Business Insider.

“We’re thinking about it,” Zuckerberg said. “It’s an interesting question.”

The problem with a dislike button could be bullying or shaming other users, Zuckerberg notes, though it would work for when people wanted to express themselves but didn’t want to comment or use the like button. For example, when someone posts about losing a beloved pet — you want to show support without typing a message, but “liking” the death of a pet can feel just … weird.

Still, I’m keen to see this button put to use, if only because I know I will put it to use with great vigor.

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Out to launch

Would you like to swing on a star?

And yes, those are real NASA interns.

Meghan Trainor can probably retire next spring.

(Via Miss Cellania. See also this earlier example of Johnson [Space Center] Style.)

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Born 1989

It just dawned on me that today is Taylor Swift’s birthday.

Now we’ve already had a couple of pictures of Tay this week, but hey, it’s her birthday.

And I really wonder about this expression she’s wearing at the iHeart Radio Jingle Ball:

Taylor Swift for iHeart Radio

In a more mellow mood, here’s another shot from her Keds campaign:

Taylor Swift for Keds

Ah, those were the days.

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Faster, please

The opening sentence of John Phillips’ column in the January Car and Driver:

In 1991, I wrote about a Top Fuel dragster that was homing in on the NHRA’s first 300-mph quarter-mile pass, a velocity that many felt might teleport the driver so far into the future that he’d land in an era where Congress couldn’t pass bills.

Current NHRA Top Fuel quarter-mile record at this writing is held by Spencer Massey of Fort Worth, Texas, who has done the deed in a certified 332.18 mph.

Apparently that’s still not fast enough.

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Try the impossible

A tidbit of semi-wisdom from six years ago:

The mere fact that you’ve worn the same wristwatch for a quarter of a century does not mean that you know what size battery it takes.

361.

Yesterday, I faced down one of life’s minor unpleasant tasks: replacing that battery. It’s not that the process is difficult — pry off the back, drop in the new button, replace the back — but it’s a pain in the neck, or in the finger anyway, to reset all those little digits. Still, the LCDs had grown dim, so I fetched my one remaining spare, pried off the back, dropped in the new button, and replaced the back.

And the time was within 18 seconds of correct. Evidently I managed to swap the batteries under the mechanism’s little electronic nose before it realized that there’d been an interruption in the current.

I don’t recall this ever happening before, and, as noted, I’ve owned this watch for over thirty years.

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