Nothing earth-shaking, apparently

You may remember this from 2011:

Six Italian seismologists and one government official will be tried for the manslaughter of those who died in an earthquake that struck the city of L’Aquila on 6 April 2009.

The seven are accused of misinforming the population about seismic risk in the days before the earthquakes, indirectly causing the death of the citizens they had reassured.

Convictions followed. Now those convictions — well, most of them — have been overturned:

Shouts of “Shame, shame!” greeted the appeals court … after the acquittal of six scientists convicted of manslaughter 2 years ago for advice they gave ahead of the deadly earthquake that struck this central Italian town in 2009. The scientists were convicted in October 2012, and handed 6-year jail sentences, for their role in a meeting of an official government advisory panel.

Only one of the seven experts originally found guilty was convicted today: Bernardo De Bernardinis, who in 2009 was deputy head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department and who will now serve 2 years in jail, pending any further appeals.

And this must be pointed out:

[The] original verdict generated controversy the world over and led many to argue that science itself had been found guilty. In explaining his sentence, the judge was at pains to emphasize that he had not convicted the experts for having failed to predict the earthquake — something, he said, that is beyond the powers of current science — but rather for having failed to carry out their legally binding duties as “public officials.” He said that the experts had not analyzed a series of factors indicating a heightened seismic risk, including the fact that previous quakes to have destroyed the town were accompanied by smaller tremors, as well as the nature of the ongoing swarm itself.

Note: the scientists go free, but the government official goes to the Big House. Clearly Rome has its priorities in order.

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Dollars for scents

Various forces converged this week to tell me that famed fashion designer Tory Burch now has her very own fragrance:

Tory Burch announces a new fragrance

As usual, I’m behind; she actually pushed out this product last fall, though apparently Bloomingdale’s had an exclusive for the first year.

Burch, arguably the wealthiest art-history graduate around — Forbes says she’s worth about a billion — is inclined to share the wealth:

The New York-based designer is promoting a new partnership between her Tory Burch Foundation, a nonprofit launched in 2009 to support the economic empowerment of women, and Bank of America.

The joint effort, launched in January, is known as Elizabeth Street Capital and named for the New York street where Burch launched her first boutique. Through it, Bank of America is giving a total of $10 million in loans to female entrepreneurs — first in eight markets, including Charlotte and the Carolinas region, New York, San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia, and then in other markets over the next two years.

An exceedingly comfortable place to be in. Then again, she always looks comfortable:

Tory Burch in her flagship store

Before you ask: she’s forty-eight.

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All those clouds look alike

Even the National Weather Service says so:

Partly sunny, or is that partly cloudy?

Then again, there’s a lot to be said for getting multiple uses out of the same graphic, with the possible exception of the one they use with the word “Hot,” described by a regular reader as the Eye of Sauron; the less I see of it, the better. It’s not going to show up for rather a long time, though.

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After a hot morning mess

Nineteen seventy-three. I’m wearing khakis because while I thought I looked better in fatigues, which isn’t saying much, the crusty warrant officer (then again, aren’t all warrant officers crusty?) who ran our shop insisted, and I wasn’t one to bend rules — at least, not his rules. Our little subcommand had lots of duty stations worldwide, some of them desirable, some of them less so. There was one post, though, that nobody ever seemed to want, and given the fact that transfer orders for enlisted personnel had to get past my desk, rather a lot of individuals who outranked me — I was a lowly Specialist Four at the time — seemed willing to do me favors to get them out of that assignment if at all possible. I never promised anything, and I never tried to collect on any of those markers, but sure enough, disposition forms materialized, signed by the correct officers, changing their destinations to some preferred location.

This could not possibly last forever, and of course it didn’t. Eventually they decided to fill one particular billet with me. It was a short tour — 12 months — and it came with a stripe. I shrugged. “I’m twenty years old,” I said, “and I’ve never been east of Boston or west of Amarillo. Maybe I should quit bitching.”

And so I was packed off to the Middle East, which was quieter than it is today and much quieter than some Southeast Asian locations at the time. It was, first and foremost, a duty station, so duty came first; but I did manage to spend some free time wandering about this crazed place without working up too much of a sweat. (Really. Typical middle-of-summer high temperature: 80°F. What was I worried about?) Of course, things can and do happen without notice, and as the phrase goes, everyone’s secondary MOS is Eleven Bravo.

That post has long since been closed, its need for it having largely evaporated and its host country having grown restive, even surly, over the years. Still, a lot of us passed through its gates over the years, and some of us are still around, even though we’re no longer wearing fatigues. Or khakis.

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Old yarn, updated stretch

The best satire is sufficiently plausible to persuade all but the most cynical of us. Some of us, I fear, are insufficiently cynical:

[T]he rumour that Facebook will be charging users to use the service is NOT a hoax according to the National Report. It is reported that their will be a fee of $2.99 per month for users to use Facebook. However, there is an option to keep your Facebook account and use it for free for 1 hour per week. If the person exceeds that time limit, they will be charged .49 cents per minute. This is ridiculous!

Says the National Report:

Jack Phillips from DeQuincy, Louisiana told reporters that he is not happy with Facebook’s decision to implement a new monthly fee.

“I can barely pay for my girly subscriptions as it is, now this Zuckerberg character wants another $3 a month out of me? Well I don’t think so bud,” Phillips said. “There’s free news out there that I get all my learning from, like The Epoch Times. I know their stories are not real, some fancy word called ‘satirical’, but they makes me laugh. Sure, their grammar and spelling is just God-awful, but I like that; it makes me feel smarter.”

That passage, about halfway down the article, should have given it away. And if it didn’t:

To order your monthly subscription please call the 24-hour Facebook hotline at (785) 273-0325. Discounts are available to those who pay for an entire year at once.

Trust me, Zuckerberg can afford a toll-free number, and even if he couldn’t, he wouldn’t use a local line in Topeka, Kansas, especially one that’s billed to the Westboro Baptist Church.

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Among my souvenirs

I have lots of inexplicable stuff, but nothing in this league, to be sure:

An iron gate with the infamous sign “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work will set you free”) at the former Nazi concentration camp at Dachau in Bavaria has been stolen, police said [last] Sunday.

The theft of the historic wrought iron gate, which measures two metres by one metre, apparently happened overnight, police said in a statement.

The site has no surveillance system, but is monitored by security guards and the theft apparently took place between their rounds of the camp, said police, who have appealed for any possible witnesses.

Police are now offering a €3000 reward for information leading to the capture of the thieves, and Frau Bundeskanzlerin has weighed in:

Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Tuesday for thieves of a gate to the former Nazi concentration camp at Dachau to be swiftly brought to justice, as she received an award from Holocaust survivors… “All the more appalling… are acts like the theft of the gate of this concentration camp memorial,” she said. “I hope that those who did that are caught quickly and held to account.”

Unnamed neo-Nazis seem to be on the police list of Expected Perps.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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So how come you didn’t vote?

There is exactly one proper response:

I take voting seriously — if I have skipped an election, it is because my former party has nominated someone as objectionable as the other party has and I want no blame for whichever loser wins and subsequently makes losers out of the rest of us.

I will presume to speak on behalf of many registered voters of several parties and say that if those who send out letters about our voting frequency would like us to vote more often, they should make more of an effort to nominate candidates who do not suck.

But that couldn’t happen, could it?

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Meanwhile on a cold and grey Chicago morn

Low — but not unprecedented — aspirations:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How do I become a drug dealer?

There is, of course, a motivation for this:

Im ******* sick and tired of being dirt poor, how do I sell drugs? IM NOT ASKING THIS FOR YOU TO TELL ME NOT TO, IM VERY AWARE OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF SELLING DRUGS. AND THIS IS MY ******* CHOICE. So please take your scared of the police and getting into trouble, BULLSHIT elsewhere, unless you have some USEFUL ******* advice for ****’s sake.

Hey, it’s your funeral, pal. Amateurs don’t stand a chance against the pros.

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Strange search-engine queries (458)

So you were Googling something in the dead of night, and you were hoping no one was noticing. Maybe no one was. Or, you know … not.

describing someone as fiendishly bright:  Certainly Congress doesn’t have anything to worry about.

www.bollywood shamita shetty.sex.com:  Send this guy back to Domain Registration 101.

1987 626 turbo gear ratio:  That’s probably in the manual.

mazda sedan 626 1988 manual:  I don’t think you’ll find a version that works on a Windows Phone.

yuja wang exposed:  We don’t expose any Wangs here if we can help it.

extra turkey program songs-babeee go baby go for serenay sarikaya:  Because that’s what we want above all else: extra turkey.

16th girl sax video free download:  Buy your own porn, ya schmuck.

front and rear car spoiler:  The fronts of most cars are spoiled these days by stupid-looking grille treatments intended as brand display.

gorf galaxian1:  Ah, a traditionalist.

what’s it gonna be merv:  Well? Speak up, Merv, we can’t hear you.

petticoat rule:  I think Merv may be exempt.

what are some reasons that make us save the mummer’s theater in okc:  As of now, none.

uses of fule in dustury:  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I try to keep my tank full of fule.

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Mutual disdain

The Kings, in days gone by, could pretty much count on being thrashed in Oklahoma City. Tonight, they came in with a stellar 5-1 record with their hopes high, but with their coach warning that even a 1-5 Thunder is still the Thunder and not to be underestimated. And Mike Malone was right, at least for the first half: OKC came on strong and took a 52-39 lead at the half. Then the Thunder faded, allowing the Kings to approach to within a bucket; it was 67-65 OKC through three. Scott Brooks shrugged and shuffled the lineup yet again, and the Thunder responded with a 5-0 run over 44 seconds to go back up seven. Thus reenergized, OKC proceeded to deal the Kings their umpteenth consecutive loss in the Big Breezy, though not before several anxious moments: the final was Oklahoma City 101, Sacramento 93.

Unexpected bonuses for the Thunder: Nick Collison’s fourth and fifth treys of the season — he’d had only four all of last year — and seven points in less than eight minutes from Ish Smith, the temporary third point guard. And free throws, an issue of late, weren’t a problem tonight, with OKC knocking down 23 of 27. (The Kings, who were leading the NBA in charity-stripe prowess, were held to 15-22.) No double-doubles, though Jeremy Lamb (17 points, 9 rebounds) and Serge Ibaka (14/9) came close; Reggie Jackson posted a team-high 22 points.

Rudy Gay did come up with a double-double for Sacramento: 23 points, 10 boards. DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore added 16 each; Cousins was his usual fearsome self on defense, and McLemore knocked down four of six treys, generally at inopportune moments. Is this a playoff team? Too early to tell, but I’m thinking they’re too good to finish near the bottom.

There follows a back-to-back sequence on the road — in Milwaukee on Tuesday, in Boston on Wednesday — before the Thunder return home Friday for a match with the somewhat-improved Detroit Pistons.

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What, this Sith again?

You can’t tell me this wasn’t inevitable.

(Via Bonnie Burton at CNET.)

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44 down, six to go

This is a little gizmo to create a map of the states in which you’ve spent time, color-coded by the nature of that time:

  • red for states where you’ve not spent much time or seen very much.
  • amber for states where you’ve at least slept and seen some sights.
  • blue for states you’ve spent a lot of time in or seen a fair amount of.
  • green for states you’ve spent a great deal of time in on multiple visits.

Some of these criteria are highly subjective; however, I did the best I could, reserving green only for the states where I had something resembling a legal residence or a very long stay.

Places I have been

For the record: “Alaska and Hawaii are only included in the produced map if you give them a color.” Which I didn’t.

Update: Clarified, or obfuscated, the green stuff.

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Still more random rants

Or, “Things stuck together for no reason other than that I happened to be thinking about them this week.”

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You’d think we’d have heard about it by now

What’s more, there’s absolutely no mention of the Koch Brothers. I have to assume this is purely accidental.

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A vision of Lumleyness

You probably remember Joanna Lumley for one of two roles: Purdey in The New Avengers (1976-77), or Patsy Stone in Absolutely Fabulous (1992-1995, plus several revivals). Forgetting her, of course, would be out of the question.

Joanna Lumley on a billiard table

Joanna Lumley on the telephone

Joanna Lumley not on the wagon

Roles in which you might not remember her:

  • She had two lines in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, the seriously underrated James Bond film with the competent George Lazenby.
  • She had one line on several million personal computers: she was the “You have email” voice of the British branch of AOL.

And she’s still busy at sixty-eight:

Joanna Lumley on the High Street

Peter Bogdanovich’s She’s Funny That Way, which debuted at this year’s Venice Film Festival, features Lumley as the ethanol-poisoned mother of a therapist played by Jennifer Aniston. The booze, we know, she learned from Patsy Stone.

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Keep stirring

Nobody sells software anymore. What is sold is “solutions,” amalgams of the stuff you wanted and the stuff they surrounded it with, neither of which works worth a damn after combining. A recent example:

[S]tuff needs to be simple and just work. Unfortunately, no one seems to be willing or able to design a system that works with default browser settings. In particular, everyone wants to design their software to require popups. I have no idea why. But time after time I put a system out for a subset of my employees to test and I immediately get 19 people calling me back saying that it does not work, they can’t get in, etc. The typical problem is that most of this software seems to require that the browser’s popup blocker be turned off. Why in the world would you design software for a feature that 99% of browsers today have turned off by default? And worse, that require users to change a setting that only exists deep in setup menus most users don’t even know exist. I am pretty capable and it took me some poking around to find the popup options in Chrome.

Not that you can complain about it, of course:

I had a long talk today with my onboarding company trying to explain why getting rid of an hour of HR time with their software at the cost of an extra hour of IT support time for each new employee trying to access the system does not save me any freaking money.

Went right over their heads, I’d wager.

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