I never would have guessed

Now here’s a tactic I hadn’t seen: a spam that tells you it’s the last spam for a while. Really:

Dear Loyal Customer,

On behalf of Superfresh, we thank you for your loyalty. We have decided to take a brief break from sending email communications to you in order to improve your email experience.

There is, of course, a warning at the bottom:

We will be back soon … and better than ever.

So this is less of a kindness and more of a “We’re spending some money on a bigger SMTP server” kind of deal.

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20R Us

Murilee Martin turns up a 1978 Toyota Celica GT in a Denver junkyard, which promptly called up memories of my ’75 GT, which I was still driving in the early ’90s.

It’s all about the engine:

The very sturdy 2.2-liter 20R engine made good torque, as befitted an engine well-suited for hauling Hilux-driving, Soviet-fighting mujahideen over mountain passes. You couldn’t spin the R much, as many LeMons racers have discovered, but it would outlast the rest of a Celica.

Indeed. The tinworm would burrow into this buggy at several points and would never, ever go away.

Still, the 20R was hard to kill, though it expected you to fiddle with the valve clearance every 60,000 miles. In return, it delivered 96 hp at 4800 rpm — redline was a lowish 5500 — and 120 lb-ft of torque at 2800, on the crummiest gas you could find on the wrong side of town. And one night when a throttle spring broke, I discovered that it would run for extended periods at 5200 rpm, though this far beyond the power peak it produced more noise than power. When I gave it up in 1995, it needed new rings, but was otherwise in pretty decent shape for 195,000 miles.

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Have a nice drip

Maryland, you may remember, is taxing rainwater. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City wants to encourage you to collect it rather than tax you for letting it fall. From this month’s City News (with the utility bill):

Oklahoma City and the Central Oklahoma Storm Water Alliance (COSWA) are partnering to encourage residents to conserve water and reduce pollution through the use of rain barrels. The organizations are offering discounted rain barrels online at www.upcycle-products.com starting at $59 plus $2.50 online handling fee. Click on “order forms” on right side of web page and choose “Oklahoma City.” The deadline to order is March 28.

Moore and Norman are also playing. Now what’s the catch?

City Council recently passed an ordinance that allows a maximum of two 85-gallon rain barrels in the front yard. Any number of rain barrels can be placed on the side or back of a property as long as they are not visible from the street. The containers must be securely covered and any openings must be covered with a screen that prevents pest infestation.

Take that, mosquitoes!

Fortunately for me, I get more rain in the back yard than in the front.

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Supergirl gets a lift

Over the weekend I mentioned that Laura Vandervoort had been featured in the new Maxim, but did not include any pictures. After several hours of guilt and remorse, I decided to atone for this failing with one of Superb Wallpapers’ offerings, in which the actress occasionally known as Kara Zor-El stretches out in the back of an Audi A8L:

Laura Vandervoort takes a ride

Or, I suppose, this could be Lisa in the 2009 reboot of V — or her alleged twin sister.

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Bureaucrats in love

I mean, it sure as hell doesn’t sound like a proper space opera:

In William Forstchen’s new science fiction novel, Pillar to the Sky, there are no evil cyborgs, alien invasions or time travel calamities. The threat to humanity is far more pedestrian: tightfisted bureaucrats who have slashed NASA’s budget.

The novel is the first in a new series of “NASA-Inspired Works of Fiction,” which grew out of a collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and science fiction publisher Tor. The partnership pairs up novelists with NASA scientists and engineers, who help writers develop scientifically plausible story lines and spot-check manuscripts for technical errors.

I expect this series to contain lots of weather-related stories, because NASA’s been pumping out climate fiction for years now.

This is, of course, the new NASA. The old one — well, remember the old one?

Anyone remember when NASA put people in space or on other worlds? I am too young to actually remember.

They’ve objected to actual space travel ever since some wise-guy astronomer pointed out the existence of binary star systems.

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Punched out

My workweek is typically 47 hours or so; this is to give me a chance to look over the system before the crowd comes filing in, and to avoid anguished cries of “How come he got to go home early?”

It’s not at all that I’m bragging:

There is a sense of pride over being able to state that we worked an exorbitant amount of hours this week, last week, or last month. I know because I’ve done it in the past, and probably still do it *sigh*. After all, saying you worked a 60 hour week is indirectly telling the listener how busy your design firm is; how successful your product is; how important you are to your employer. It’s essentially a humblebrag.

We have departments which routinely put in 50-60 hours a week. I don’t think they’re bragging either; I think they’re just trying to keep up with a work volume that hasn’t diminished as rapidly as the available staff. But that’s another issue entirely.

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Strange search-engine queries (420)

Polished off about one-quarter of a mislabeled “red velvet” Valentine’s Day cake, purchased the day after for 62 percent off, just working on this list. Damn munchies.

“Tropermic Calculus”:  Never heard of it, but it sounds kinda derivative.

how do i find transmission code on 2002 mazda 626:  If you have to ask, it’s already too late.

searching their bras:  Usually not difficult, there being only two places to look.

Is there a connection between teh Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas and the one in Central Florida?  No. The ones in Florida are attended by actual Baptists.

The incidence in the bible in isrealites where somebody contacted with leprosy is tie will bell on the neck and kept at outsketch of the tent:  This twisted syntax can only be a product of Westboro. The Kansas version, I mean.

i couldn’t disagree less:  Sure you could. You’re just not trying.

jerk stocking:  This is very important here at the Jerk Store, where we don’t want to run out of you.

forum winstar casino exhibitionist:  Isn’t everyone at the casino kind of an exhibitionist? I mean, if they win, anyway; losers tend to huddle in the dark corners.

And during the New York leg of her book tour last month, promoting her new erotic novel, she made several messy television appearances in which she did not appear lucid:  Is it really necessary to pick on Nancy Pelosi at this late date?

motorcycle clear plastic temporary universal disposable rain dust garage san antonio:  Take it upstairs. The landlord won’t mind, as long as you don’t have an oil leak.

maaterial safety data sheet cover girl naturluxe silk foundation:  I think we can safely assume that it’s inedible.

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What’s the name of the game?

If you remember ABBA from the Seventies and Eighties, you probably also remember that while they weren’t the least bit ugly, their mama, or somebody, dressed them funny. Turns out that this was a matter of cold calculation:

Swedish supergroup Abba have revealed they had good reason to wear such garish stage costumes — because it saved a little money, money, money on their tax bill.

The band, whose spangly flares, catsuits and platform heels were considered naff even in the 1970s, exploited a Swedish law which meant clothes were tax deductible if their owners could prove they were not used for daily wear.

Gotta love those capitalist Swedes.

(Via Fark.)

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Why software sucks

Oh yes it does, believe you me. And if you don’t believe me, believe Jack Baruth:

Once upon a time, software was written by people who knew what they were doing, like Mel and his descendants. They were generally solitary, socially awkward fellows with strong awareness of TSR gaming. They were hugely effective at doing things like getting an Atari 2600 to run Pac-Man or writing operating system kernels that never crashed, but they weren’t terribly manageable and they could be real pricks when you got in their way. I once worked with a fellow who had been at the company in question for twenty-three years and had personally written a nontrivial percentage of the nine million lines of code that, when compiled, became our primary product. He was un-fire-able and everybody knew it. There were things that only he knew.

I am not a developer, but this is what I aspire to. (In fact, apart from not being a developer, this is about where I am.)

This kind of situation might work out well for designing bridges or building guitars (not that Paul Reed Smith appears to miss Joe Knaggs all that much, to use an inside-baseball example) but it’s hell on your average dipshit thirty-five-year-old middle manager, who has effectively zero leverage on the wizard in the basement. Therefore, a movement started in the software business about fifteen years ago to ensure that no more wizards were ever created. It works like this: Instead of hiring five guys who really know their job at seventy bucks an hour each, you hire a team of fifty drooling morons at seven bucks an hour each. You make them program in pairs, with one typing and the other once watching him type (yes! This is a real thing! It’s called “extreme programming”!) or you use a piece of software to give them each a tiny bit of the big project.

Actually, I think the going rate for drooling morons is now $7.25.

This is what you get from a management perspective: fifty reports who are all pathetically grateful for the work instead of five arrogant wizards, the ability to fire anybody you like at any time without consequence, the ability to demand outrageous work hours and/or conditions (I was just told that a major American corporation is introducing “bench seating” for its programmers, to save space), and a product that nominally fulfills the spec. This is what you get from a user perspective: the kind of crapware that requires updates twice a week to fix bugs introduced with the previous updates. Remember the days when you could buy software that simply worked, on a floppy disk or cartridge, with no updates required? Those were the wizards at work. Today, you get diverse teams of interchangeable, agile, open-office, skill-compatible resources that produce steaming piles of garbage.

What can I say? “Arrogant wizard” is surely somewhere in my DNA. The kids have it, for sure.

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There can be only one way

In retrospect, I suppose it was my fault for being on May Avenue on a Saturday in the first place, May Avenue being basically where strip malls go to die. (There’s exactly one stretch of May between 10th and 150th with no discernible commerce: east side between 43rd and 47th.)

6900 block of North MayThis strip mall at 6900 North May is largely indistinguishable from other strip malls: there are two entrances, one in front of the north building, the other in front of the south. (If you live in these parts, the north building is distinguished, if that’s the word, by the Honeybaked Ham Company; Ted’s Somewhat Mexican Restaurant Escondido Cafe is near the opposite corner.) I’m southbound on May at 4:00 or so when the lumbering SUV ahead of me pulls to a stop, just before the north entrance. There being no left-turn facilities between 69th and 65th, I figure someone a block or two ahead is making a left turn. The flow of northbound traffic ceased for a moment, and up ahead, barely, I could see someone indeed making a left turn.

We plow ahead, slowly, and then the SUV signals a left turn into the southern entrance. Now there was a window of about 30 seconds when the driver could have pulled into the northern entrance while that other character up the street was turning; but no, it’s got to be the southern entrance. This is the sign of a person who not only hasn’t developed Plan B, but who is several steps away from a workable Plan A.

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Darn siblings

This month’s Maxim contains some nifty pictures of Laura Vandervoort, an “uncensored” interview with Fozzie Bear (!), and this woeful letter from the recipient of a gift subscription:

Last year my brother, Jack, gave me one of the coolest presents ever, a one-year subscription to Maxim! I was so excited, but month after month passed and I never received it. Finally I wrote your customer service team. Turns out the USPS postman was sending them back as “undeliverable.” I confronted him and found out that my brother had bought the subscription for Jacks Littlebitch. The postman found this offensive and has delivered only one magazine and refuses to deliver anymore until the name is changed. And we wonder why the USPS is going bankrupt!

I figure this carrier has a lot of free time. On my block, I’m very likely the only person who gets both Maxim and Out, which generally show up on the same day, and I have yet to hear a word about it.

Maxim’s advice: “Tell him you’re French and that your name is actually Jack Litt-Lebitch and that this is discrimination!” Yeah, that’ll work.

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Once more upon a dream

Usually when I get two recommendations for something, I have to go check its papers. This was the case with “Once Upon a Dream,” remade by Lana Del Rey for Maleficent, Disney’s upcoming prequel to Sleeping Beauty: Mr Pergiel calls it “compelling,” and Trini wrote me to tell me she found it “haunting.”

You definitely want to size this one up for yourselves. Del Rey, to me anyway, sounds thin here, even gaunt; however, for a spectral enterprise like Maleficent, it’s wholly appropriate.

Still undetermined: whether someone mispronouncing the title of the film will assume that it has something to do with, um, males.

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Crease is the word

Yahoo! has an interview with Al Jaffee, who created the MAD Fold-In 50 years ago. How it’s done is interesting enough, but what I did not know is this: there was one Fold-In that was pulled after the magazine had gone to press, resulting in several hundred thousand copies being sent to the shredder.

It’s a video, but a shortish one. And Al, now well into his 90s, sounds a lot more on-the-ball mentally than I do.

(Via Joy McCann.)

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Mastery demonstrated

Well, not really; it’s just something fished out of the spam trap. This is what it said:

I like this website its a master peace ! Glad I found this on google. “Tears are the rinse water of an unhappy heart.” by Raynor Schein.

I suspect this might not be the Raynor Scheine who played Ernie Crane in My Cousin Vinny, but I could be wrong. The master clearly has no peace.

The “author” credited to that spam was “buy short prom dresses,” which I endorse as a concept but refuse to link.

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Yolavero

Or, “I will have only lived once.”

And in the time of that life, it perhaps would not have occurred to me that #yolo, the hashtag, might have been a first-conjugation Latin verb, until I saw this, which admittedly is not complete.

(Via Fark. Working title for this was “Yolare, oh, oh.”)

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No synths to it

For some time now, I’ve been entertaining the notion that contemporary pop songs might actually work better were they treated as songs instead of cogs in the Great Rhythm Machine. Some of this stuff — obviously, not all of it — is highly singable, after all.

Toward this end, I give you Postmodern Jukebox, headed by pianist Scott Bradlee, who once issued an album called A Motown Tribute to Nickelback, with a ragtime version of a possibly recognizable tune. The vocalist is Robyn Adele Anderson, and she’s waiting for your call below the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

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