The citiest of all

To me, “city” has always seemed like it ought to be an adjective: Tulsa, for instance, is citier than North Platte. And scarcely any place on the continent is citier than New York City:

As a child, I had all kinds of fantasies about what the unmediated, unadulterated natural world might be like, but my experience was mostly confined to yearly hikes at Bear Mountain, which my father, paraphrasing Marx, called a Lumpenwilderness. And anyway, it can seem Herculean at times to leave New York City and go into nature, or anywhere else for that matter. If you don’t have a car, which is many if not most people, you have to rent one. For my set, that meant walking across the George Washington Bridge to the Rent-A-Wreck in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Then you had to actually drive out of the city, which could literally take hours, because, since you’d walked to New Jersey, you had to drive back across the bridge to get your stuff. And then there would be traffic and getting lost, which could not be avoided if your path took you through the Bronx at all. And then, if you weren’t some sort of wilderness expert, what exactly were you supposed to do when you get there? You could luxuriate in the grass while trying to wipe the fear of Lyme ticks from your consciousness, or marvel at the unobstructed views of sky. But if you’re like me, by dark you would be sweating in your bed because of the sonic emptiness, terrorized by the absence of the reassuring all-hours city din. As Woody Allen said, “I am two with nature.”

I first discovered this phenomenon in Basic Combat Training, forty-odd years ago. The absence of noise just screams at you. The farm boys from mid-Missouri, they seemed to be used to it, but those of us who were taught to genuflect at the very mention of Willis Carrier, we never quite adjusted.

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Columbidae trip

Something else I didn’t know about this town:

In 1973, the American Pigeon Museum and Library was established. Twenty years later, they purchased 10 acres in Oklahoma City and just last month moved into a brand new building that will open to the public early next year.

It’s located just south of NE 63rd Street and west of Bryant Avenue, and it has an extensive collection of pigeon equipment clocks, bands, trophies and paintings. It also has a lot great military photographs and Army pigeon corps equipment from both world wars including message holders like the one Cher Ami carried through whizzing bullets and battlefields of lore.

Despite her name, Cher Ami was a hen, and this is the message she was bearing:

October, 1918: Trapped behind enemy lines in Charlevaux, France, and surrounded by hundreds of German troops, the few hundred surviving members of the Lost Battalion soon had another problem to deal with in the form of friendly fire. His men rapidly succumbing to the onslaught and with two birds already shot down, Major Charles Whittlesay dispatched a frantic message by way of their last surviving homing pigeon, ‘Cher Ami’:

WE ARE ALONG THE ROAD PARALELL 276.4. OUR ARTILLERY IS DROPPING A BARRAGE DIRECTLY ON US. FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT.

When the pigeon miraculously arrived at the division headquarters 25 miles away he had been shot in the leg, breast and eye, and thanks to his efforts 194 members of the battalion were subsequently rescued. Cher Ami died from his injuries six months later, but not before being awarded the croix de guerre for heroic service.

This is, in other words, not the bird that crapped on your car ninety seconds after you washed it.

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In other news

Of course, we all know why Jeff Bezos was willing to ante up a quarter of a billion for the Washington Post: he got free shipping.

Still, this question comes up:

In any event, it’s noteworthy that the Boston Globe was sold for $70 million in the same week the Washington Post garnered $250 million. The disparity in sale prices hasn’t been explained.

Two factors come to mind:

  • The Post still moves about 480,000 copies a day, even though a growing percentage of those copies are virtual. The Globe sells about half as many.
  • Several times before, the New York Times Company, which owned the Globe, has sold properties to refocus on the Family Business; it’s possible that they wanted to firm up their balance sheets after paying off Mexican benefactor Carlos Slim three years early.

We will, of course, never know how much Phil Anschutz peeled off for the Oklahoman.

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This is not a common occurrence

And that’s what surprises me about this incident:

A disgruntled Charter Communications customer accused of threatening to bomb the Duluth customer service office last year pleaded guilty to a reduced charge Monday.

Steven Paul Saari Jr., 28, of Duluth was charged with a felony count of making terroristic threats after the July 10, 2012, incident, which saw Charter evacuate its Garfield Avenue building and police establish a secure perimeter around the site.

On Monday, Saari pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor count of trespassing on a public service utility.

Sentencing will be next Friday between 12 and 6 pm.

(Via the Consumerist.)

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Trees died for this

And undoubtedly, they’ll keep dying:

I was talking to my accountant the other day about the amount of paper that has accumulated in my office over the years, and she told me her solution was to scan everything, store the images on a hard drive and throw all the paper away. I imagine you can probably get a thousand to one compression ratio by doing that, but you still have not separated the wheat from the chaff. Eventually the hard disk will fail, or more likely become obsolete and you will no longer be able to get any data off of it, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? We keep all this crap around for years and we will never need 99.999% of it.

This is because we are extremely bad at predicting the 0.001% of it we will need, and we know it.

Of course, you can keep rolling over hard drives more or less indefinitely. The oldest file on my desktop at home is dated 2 January 1985. Let me repeat that: 2 January 1985. Twenty-eight freaking years! And how often have I looked at it? (Well, once this week, obviously.)

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A voice inside my head

From their 2011 Starry Night gala, Vancouver’s Shooting Star Foundation presents singer Rebecca Shoichet:

Rebecca Shoichet on stage

She’s also a member of SideOne, the estimable cover band:

… this band is made up of extremely talented and experienced musicians, and the sets were crafted for the sole purpose of packing a dance floor, while avoiding entirely the typical cover band cheese.

But most of the time when I hear her, it’s something like this:

Except for those last spoken words, which were spoken by, um, someone else.

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A solid idea

Dave Schuler comes up with a book proposal:

… A field guide to ordinary household objects after they’ve passed through a dog’s digestive system.

I’m just guessing that he doesn’t particularly want to write this himself.

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Some dressing for your word salad?

I think she’s got far more nerve than I do:

I dare you to try it. Close your eyes like you’re preparing to meditate and just type whatever floats across your mind. No peeking! Ready? Okay. Now what? I can’t think of anything because I’m tryig to think of something. I think this is why I stopped blogging. No, actually I think I stopped because I started making more friends and then my family started reading and I started caring what people thought. I mean I’ve always sort of cared what people think about what I write, but I don’t get all weird about it because I typically try to offset my bitchiness with a litle humor and oh shit I think I just made a typo. OMG what if my fingers were on the wrong keys all along and this is a bunch of gibberish? Did I spell gibberish correctly?

Some of the things that go through my head, I don’t even want to mention, and I was that way long before I picked up NSA as a feed subscriber.

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Small-head thinking

“Mental illness,” said Hugo Schwyzer, “is a bitch.” Which is, I think, indisputably true. And to demonstrate it:

Hugo Schwyzer, the social sciences academic at Pasadena City College best known as the “porn professor,” tried to commit suicide [Thursday] night, he told the [L. A.] Weekly.

He was visiting his mother in the Monterey area, where he grew up, when it happened about 10 p.m., he said. He was placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, the professor said:

“I took an entire bottle of Klonopin,” he said. That’s a muscle relaxant and anti-anxiety drug.

Schwyzer said he’s physically OK but reiterated how the social media fallout from a sexting relationship with a sometime porn star and multiple affairs with women made his marriage “over” and sunk him into a deep depression.

The sexting relationship and the multiple affairs didn’t destroy his marriage, but Twitter did? Maybe I’ve been taking tweeting too lightly all these years.

The prof says Twitter and article comments roasting him as a woman hater and regurgitating a 15-year-old suicide attempt and attempted murder of a girlfriend have taken their toll.

Maybe it’s just me, but actually trying to kill a woman — well, I’m sorry, but that sounds like the very definition of hate to me. Sucks if that’s interfering with your love life, Prof.

And I’m with Tim Blair on this one: “Instead of Klonopin, he should try KFC. It seems to cheer up other Hugos.”

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Lightning again

I hadn’t heard of Debra Baum before she became Rebecca Black’s manager. That particular event was groundbreaking enough to insure that the next time Baum had a teenage singer to pitch, I’d pay serious attention.

And here is the singer. Meet Sabrina Lentini:

She’s just turned fifteen, from Orange County, California (stop me if you’ve heard this), and she was one of a dozen contestants — Minors, shall we say — on Majors & Minors, a music-competition series on the Hub. Among the Majors participating: Brandy, Colbie Caillat, Avril Lavigne, will.i.am. (Brandy was the show’s producer.) Sabrina did not win, but she did make some connections, and she’s since self-released an EP called No Price for Love. Here’s the title song:

To these ears, she splits the difference between Melanie and Colbie. (In fact, there exists footage of her singing “Brand New Key.”) And unlike RB, she’s writing her own stuff. I’m looking forward to seeing how her career progresses.

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They were right the first time

A letter to the editor, published in the Oklahoman this morning, is headlined this way:

Clip from the Oklahoman 8-5-13

The writer, of course, was talking about the Republican party, but the proofreader, or the auto-correct gizmo, had it right. If the Democrats are the Me Party, clearly the Republicans are the Me Too Party.

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Thank you for flying Air Putin

According to their Web site, the Russian airline Aeroflot is the Official Airline of Manchester United, which fact annoys a Russian Deputy Prime Minister:

Russia’s deputy prime minister criticised state-controlled airline Aeroflot’s sponsorship of English soccer club Manchester United on Tuesday, saying it appeared to show the firm favoured international over domestic interests.

Earlier in July, Aeroflot signed a five-year contract for an undisclosed sum with the English soccer champions, in a deal the airline’s chief executive said would promote Aeroflot’s brand worldwide.

“Aeroflot prefers Anglo-Saxon football and basketball clubs to our planes? I might invite them for an intimate talk,” said [Dmitry] Rogozin, known for his anti-Western rhetoric, on his Russian Twitter account.

Basketball? Oh, yes. Aeroflot has been a sponsor of the Brooklyn (formerly New Jersey) Nets since 2010, and has just renewed that relationship with the team and its owner, Russian zillionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.

Interestingly, while Aeroflot does fly into New York (JFK), they don’t yet have scheduled flights into Manchester.

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How dare you drive that?

Everybody hates sport-utility vehicles except the people who actually drive them. It’s no different in India, where there is now a legal definition of the SUV, the better to tax them with:

The government justified the move saying that SUVs occupy more space on the road, although the truth is that large sedans occupy more space than SUVs. A criteria was set and if a vehicle fits into all three, then it is classified as an SUV. Thus an SUV is a vehicle which is more than 4-metres in length, having an engine larger than 1.5-litres and a ground clearance of more than 170 mm. Indian roads are pathetic and you really need good ground clearance to prevent scraping the underbody on large and unmarked speed-breakers.

My own large sedan, 5 meters long with a 3-liter engine, meets two of the three SUV criteria, and it wouldn’t take much to jack up the suspension to meet the third.

Mahindra’s high-selling XUV5OO was hit with the tax, up to the tune of $550. What did the automaker do?

Mahindra went ahead and added a stone guard which became the lowest point of the vehicle, resulting in a reduced ground clearance of 160 mm (from 200 mm).

Which makes it a bit less roadworthy on pathetic Indian roads, but hey, this is what the government wanted, right?

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Don’t walk across that glass ceiling

You know, guys, we’re never going to make it to a post-sexist society — assuming there can be such a thing as a post-sexist society — if we keep having silly little contretemps like this:

On Friday, a baffled hacker community got a firsthand lesson in just how bizarre sexism in the tech industry can be. LinkedIn and Toptal, a small developer networking platform, essentially played a round of credibility chicken over Toptal’s advertising on the site.

The incident involved a brief attempt by LinkedIn to pull ads for female engineers — because it claimed that its users had complained about their appearance.

Said Toptal’s CEO about the matter:

We run a mixture of male and female advertisements. We’ve taken extremely professional photos of both men and women who are part of the Toptal network and made sure they looked sharp, well dressed and happy; however, LinkedIn’s internal advertising’s staff completely disagrees that they both look sharp, well dressed and happy. Actually, they believe, with 100% certainty, that the women in our advertisements are offensive and harmful to their user base.

One fairly typical comment from the sidelines, which sums up the controversy:

I glance at the two ads they’re showing there, and my first impulse is “they slapped some stock photos of attractive women on there to give male viewers an endorphin kick.” They’re a far cry from the “look! boobs!” of Evony ads, but they also don’t look like women ready for a day at the office. I know from the article that these are actual, working female engineers, but part of me wants to say that the ad designer obviously picked them for “sexy” as opposed to “professional,” and that seems sleazy and sad. But on the other hand, who the hell am I to tell any professional how to dress or style their hair? But on the third hand, if I’m right it’s not the fault of the engineers but of the ad designers…

Augh, I kinda feel like an asshole just for thinking about this.

Which may be the whole point: it’s okay to appreciate women in the 51st appearance percentile, so long as you regret it immediately afterwards.

Toptal did not, however, help their case by falling back on a few stock photos of non-engineers to, um, sweeten the deal. (“Who cares?” they asked, not expecting an answer.)

The idea that how well a woman performs as an engineer is basically independent of her appearance — one could argue that a prettier one might get her foot in the door slightly faster, but that’s not a performance issue — isn’t even being considered. Now that’s what’s sad.

Addendum: Here’s an actual Toptal profile.

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Strange search-engine queries (392)

Once more, we descend into the little room where the logs are stored and glance at the thousands of almost-identical lines, hoping something amusing in the form of a search string will jump up and catch our eye. It works a lot better than you might think it would.

he is neither a dentist nor a certified asbestos remover, neither the next rebirth of Dalai Lama:  In fact, there’s a chance he’s not even a he, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

was conway twitty on the plane with ritchie valens:  It’s only make-believe.

how many of the b53 turbine blades have been replaced by siemens:  Evidently not enough.

why isn’t nomorobo available yet?  They ran out of turbine blades.

What is a good screw funny:  Torx. You never have a driver for them, and you wind up trying to wedge an Allen wrench in there.

the word citizen is no longer used?  You’re thinking of Seattle. Other words no longer used there: “brown bag,” “viaduct,” “Sonics.”

Crown Victoria parking brake warning light on in a minute lyrics:  See what I mean? The people have had enough of silly love songs.

are the bay city rollers insulted by tartan horde songs:  Only if they’re silly.

does a white car or silver car stay cooler:  This being August, the answer is No.

kingsmen vegetables:  Just don’t go showing everyone your louie, Louie.

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Condition Redmond

A few weeks ago, Microsoft moved to restructure itself, and I don’t think they missed a single current buzzword in the announcement.

What they should have done was this:

[S]plit into two major division: Stuff That Works and Stuff That’s Crap.

The Stuff That Works will continue to support the Xbox 360, the Microsoft Mouse, Microsoft Surface Pro, and Microsoft Security Essentials.

The Stuff That’s Crap division will encompass Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Surface RT, Xbox One, and just about everything else.

There may be, however, some cross-pollination:

Products and services like Microsoft Office, which are currently slated for the Stuff That’s Crap division, could wind up in Stuff That Works, but that’s still uncertain.

It is a measure of something, surely, that no one even mentions Internet Explorer anymore.

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