Second thoughts

There are times when it seems that national patience is at an all-time low:

[S]omething has happened to us as a society since about the end of the 1970s. We’ve lost track of time.

Arriving at a party plus or minus 30 minutes was typical. When you took some photos, it then took a few days to have them processed and get the prints back. Waits of 25-35 minutes between ordering your meal at a restaurant and the arrival of the entree were considered normal. Just the very idea of “waiting” was okay — it wasn’t a big deal. Time was divided into blocks of 30 minutes; it was rare to have to narrow things down to 15 minutes. To put it simply — life was slower, more relaxed, and less clock-driven.

Now, with computers, cell phones, iPads, and their ilk, we have instantaneous communication. And we time things in MINUTES. Not half-hours, quarter-hours — our days seem to get eaten up as fast as we can live them, with nary a spare few moments to catch our breath.

“But what about productivity?” they ask. Tell me why it’s worth my time, my health, my life, to live on your cockamamie schedule.

There are darned few things that can’t be put off for a few hours, or even a few days.

Tell that to the manager whose entire self-image is based on wishful thinking masquerading as scheduling. Surely you know one, or more.

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Nay, they may say

I’m pretty sure I would, anyway:

Note the semi-subtle misspelling to avoid running afoul of Federal food definitions.

In other news, expeller pressed oil is evidently a Thing. No substitute for Valvoline, though.

(Via Dawn Summers.)

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Springtime, if you will

Some time in early 2016, the first German edition of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf since the end of World War II will be hitting bookstores and libraries, and to no one’s surprise, some people have a problem with that:

Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Jewish community in Munich, said she had not vigorously opposed it when the project first surfaced. But her position, she said, hardened after hearing from outraged Holocaust survivors.

“This book is most evil; it is the worst anti-Semitic pamphlet and a guidebook for the Holocaust,” she said. “It is a Pandora’s box that, once opened again, cannot be closed.”

Mein Kampf was never actually banned in postwar Germany, though the copyright for the book ended up in the hands of the state of Bavaria, which never granted permission for reprints. (Prewar copies still exist, but they are generally kept out of sight.) And under German law, that copyright expires on the first of January after the author has been dead 70 years. (Hitler himself expired on 30 April 1945.)

The book’s reissue, to the chagrin of critics, is effectively being financed by German taxpayers, who fund the historical society that is producing and publishing the new edition. Rather than a how-to guidebook for the aspiring fascist, the new reprint, the group said this month, will instead be a vital academic tool, a 2,000-page volume packed with more criticisms and analysis than the original text.

I suppose there will be a Downfall parody video showing what happens when Hitler finds out Mein Kampf is going to be back in print. He wouldn’t be pleased, I’m sure; after becoming Reichskanzler, he distanced himself from the book:

[Hitler] dismissed it as “fantasies behind bars” that were little more than a series of articles for the Völkischer Beobachter and later told Hans Frank that “If I had had any idea in 1924 that I would have become Reich chancellor, I never would have written the book.”

Based on my own copy of an English translation, which runs just over 1,000 pages, I have to assume that this is indeed a hell of a lot of criticism and/or analysis.

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Maybe you shouldn’t ask

Bark M. doesn’t have time to waste on stuff like Yahoo! Answers’ Cars & Transportation section, but he knows precisely what sort of questions are posed therein, because he gets hit with them himself, and they all boil down to this:

“Can you use your years of knowledge, experience, and expertise to give me an answer to a wildly uneducated, unrealistic, and ill-informed question that I will then entirely ignore and do what I wanted to do in the first place?”

Further, Bark reports that exactly one person, out of hundreds, has actually followed his advice. This is, I suspect, one better than I’ve done.

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Thirst priority

Lawton is considering cloud-seeding to try to get some additional water into the city’s supply:

The Lawton City Council will consider adding a $1 surcharge to residents’ water bills to find alternate water resources.

Councilman Doug Wells, who put the item on the agenda, wants it to go toward cloud seeding. If passed, the surcharge will take effect on March 1.

He says it is an emergency situation and we can’t wait another month to make a decision that could be made now. The drought is one of the biggest problems plaguing the city, and he says something needs to be done immediately.

Wells says that over a year, this surcharge could bring in $400,000, enough to hire an expert for 12 months.

Some of us can remember when you could bring in a proper rainman for $100:

Then again, that was a long time ago.

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Studied indifference

Some, in fact, majored in it, and this is the sweatshirt for them:

I Literally Do Not Care shirt

The UK branch of Forever 21 has this garment for £12. Size 12 is as far as they go, though: the model here appears to be a 5, maybe. And what’s with the comma after “literally”? Is this a Briticism I’d not previously seen?

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Your Cake, and Edith too

The article is called “How your pretentious local record store asshole got that way,” and it’s a simple collection of incredibly dense questions, observations, and God knows what, posed by the customers to this very store. Some of them are just misreadings: “Do you guys have ‘If I Gotta Love Edith’ by Iron Butterfly?” Others are just a little more complex:

A grown man comes into the store pulling a little toy red wagon…”Do you guys have that movie Alive about a rugby team that crashes and they have to become CARNIVORES?”

At least you can see his interest, though the Radio Flyer is probably harder to explain. And then there’s this:

“You ever listen to the Yardbirds? … Oh man yeah, Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Sammy Hagar!”

Regular infusions of this sort of thing would render me sphincteresque in no time.

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Wanderers dispatched

Sometimes streaky is good. The Thunder took a 30-20 lead over Indiana in the first quarter, kept the Pacers somewhat at bay in the second, and watched uncomfortably as that lead shrank to one in the third. (In fact, it looked like Indiana had tied it up, but a Pacer trey was later ruled to be a two-pointer.) And then the Thunder hit 15 points in a row — on two triples from Dion Waiters, two from Anthony Morrow, one from D. J. Augustin. It was almost 18 points: Morrow hoisted yet another trey at the third-quarter horn, which was too late to count. But by then OKC had built a twenty-point lead, and for the next few minutes the Thunder and the Pacers traded buckets — which does no good when you’re behind 20 points. The OKC starters were not seen again, and after 5:02 of garbage time, the Pacers pulled within 11, only to lose it 105-92.

Oh, the starters? Well, Russell Westbrook had a triple-double (20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists), Serge Ibaka piled up 23 points and retrieved 10 boards, and Enes Kanter knocked down 15 points. That’s 58 points; Andre Roberson hit one bucket to make it 60, but 45 came from the suddenly-mighty bench, led (unsurprisingly) by Waiters (14) and Morrow (12). Indiana, which is known for its bench strength, what with guys like Ian Mahinmi and Rodney Stuckey and Luis Scola manning the second unit, produced only 30 from its reserves. Then again, the Pacers had four starters in double figures — C. J. Miles 21, George Hill (no relation) 13, Solomon Hill (no relation either) 11, and David West 11. Roy Hibbert, perennial man in the middle, collected six points and 10 boards.

Indiana wound up with a better shooting percentage (43-42), what with the Thunder sort of nodding off at the end, but OKC, as usual, owned the glass (57-48), and coughed up only ten turnovers. (Which explains this: steals, OKC 10, Indiana 5; blocks, OKC 10, Indiana 3.) And the Pacers put up only 11 free throws all night, making seven, while the Thunder were 16-18 from the stripe.

And now, it’s Way Out West: Phoenix on Thursday, Portland on Friday, wrapping up with the Lakers on Sunday before returning home long enough to take on the Sixers.

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O R’lyeh?

The correct pronunciation of “Cthulhu,” from H. P. Lovecraft himself:

I referred to this story one day, pronouncing the strange word as though it were spelled K-Thool-Hoo. Lovecraft looked blank for an instant, then corrected me firmly, informing me that the word was pronounced, as nearly as I can put it down in print, K-Lütl-Lütl.

Why? Because reasons. (Read the whole thing.)

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Criteria established

A female friend of Neil Kramer’s offers some dating advice to us guys:

Think about her. What can you offer her? If she is a single mother, her children will come first. Can you be a good father figure? A role model? Can she look up to you as a man? Can you be patient and understanding, and appreciate her for her true self, and forgive her for any of her bad moods? Can you look into her eyes, and without words, tell her that she has someone she can always count on? Do you cuddle?

A male friend offers decidedly different advice, at the very same link.

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Truth spoken

An enigmatic statement from Tim Blair:

Full disclosure: I am an investor in the Alaskan Rock vodka company. Another full disclosure: Charlotte Crosby is made almost entirely out of legs.

I had to follow up on that second link, and this is what I found:

The “gshore” business refers to Charlotte’s leading role in MTV UK’s Geordie Shore, which I assume means to compare Newcastle to New Jersey. As a sort-of-manufactured celebrity, she of course makes the rounds:

Charlotte Crosby out and about

Charlotte Crosby out and about

Her latest accomplishment, though, is shedding 35 pounds, and not sterling either.

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Worldwide poultry

“Get ready for $10 oil,” says A. Gary Shilling at Bloomberg View, and he’s not kidding:

What is the price at which major producers chicken out and slash output? Whatever that price is, it is much lower than the $125 a barrel Venezuela needs to support its mismanaged economy. The same goes for Ecuador, Algeria, Nigeria, Iraq, Iran and Angola.

Saudi Arabia requires a price of more than $90 to fund its budget. But it has $726 billion in foreign currency reserves and is betting it can survive for two years with prices of less than $40 a barrel.

Furthermore, the price when producers chicken out isn’t necessarily the average cost of production, which for 80 percent of new U.S. shale oil production this year will be $50 to $69 a barrel, according to Daniel Yergin of energy consultant IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates. Instead, the chicken-out point is the marginal cost of production, or the additional costs after the wells are drilled and the pipes are laid. Another way to think of it: It’s the price at which cash flow for an additional barrel falls to zero.

Last month, Wood Mackenzie, an energy research organization, found that of 2,222 oil fields surveyed worldwide, only 1.6 percent would have negative cash flow at $40 a barrel. That suggests there won’t be a lot of chickening out at $40. Keep in mind that the marginal cost for efficient U.S. shale-oil producers is about $10 to $20 a barrel in the Permian Basin in Texas and about the same for oil produced in the Persian Gulf.

Which is not to say that there might not be creatures other than poultry in this farmyard: we still don’t know what effect ISIS will have on the Iraqi oil fields, and it’s been suggested more than once that ISIS’ major goal on the way to Caliphate is to knock out the Saudi royals. Not that we should be shedding any tears for Riyadh, of course.

(Via Fausta, who notes that Venezuela is already broke, and will be much, much broker with oil below $40.)

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There are no more

Not that you had all that much of a chance of getting one anyway, but Volkswagen’s Bugatti unit has sold the 450th and final Veyron 16-cylinder supercar to an unidentified buyer in the Middle East.

Around 100 Veyrons found their way to the States, at an average price of €2.3 million each; despite that lofty price tag, VW Group may have lost as much as €2 billion on the production run. Not to worry about Vee Dub, though: a few well-stuffed Porsche option packages would put a serious dent in any red ink from Bugatti.

The successor to the Veyron may appear as early as next year.

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Turn up the defroster

About a decade ago I issued this plaintive whine, or whining plaint:

Am I the only person in this city who ever buys Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts in the unfrosted-blueberry variety? Their status as one of the original flavors hasn’t done anything to insure their presence on the grocer’s shelf; they seem to show up in the stores about twice a year if I’m lucky. Meanwhile, the sickeningly-sweet frosted versions get more shelf space than ketchup, despite their lack of palatability and their incompatibility with my old-style, uncomplicated toaster. (Something in the frosting seems to melt down into a nasty brown slag; for all I know, there could be plutonium in there.)

I still have the same toaster, a bit more elderly and rachitic — the lever works, sort of, but it’s no longer a straight shot from top to bottom — and I’d pretty much abandoned the search for unfrosted blueberry.

But the last two times I’ve looked, I’ve found them. Now I don’t need to feed a Pop-Tart addiction, obviously, but a pair of them once a week isn’t the end of the world, and if the Food Police come calling, I’m going to point to the box, where an illustration of the frosting isn’t.

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Unpredictably so

First, it was one to three inches. Then it was a dusting to one inch. And finally, it was something like 3.4 inches. (I was able to drive up my steepish driveway; it becomes impossible to do that, at least in my existing car, at 3.5 or more.) On the basis that the promised 41 degrees for tomorrow isn’t going to happen either, I took off early, got home in 41 minutes (normal is 18), and ran The Pusher over most of the afflicted surface.

As I was putting away The Pusher, this came down the wire:

Personally, I never believe anything more than twelve hours out, and by “twelve” I mean two and a half, if things look bad.

Already the hype machine is cranking up for the next round, starting Thursday night (maybe) and running through Sunday morning (possibly). The latter is consistent with that old saw about March, carnivorous at the beginning, a gentle herbivore by the end. After forty years in this town, I figure either way it’s going to eat my lunch.

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You’re never supposed to hear this

“Tom’s Diner,” the a cappella song by Suzanne Vega, was used for testing the original MP3 encoding system. Says Dr. Karlheinz Brandenburg, whose idea it was:

I was ready to fine-tune my compression algorithm … somewhere down the corridor, a radio was playing “Tom’s Diner.” I was electrified. I knew it would be nearly impossible to compress this warm a cappella voice.

Brandenburg persisted. But in 2009, he reported:

I was finishing my PhD thesis, and then I was reading some hi-fi magazine and found that they had used this song to test loudspeakers. I said “OK, let’s test what this song does to my sound system, to mp3”. And the result was, at bit rates where everything else sounded quite nice, Suzanne Vega’s voice sounded horrible.

Now MP3 is a lossy compression scheme: to obtain the file-size shrinkage desired, the algorithm throws away some of the original sound, parts you presumably would not hear anyway.

So what happens if you invert the circuit, throw away the sections you’d ordinarily keep and retain the parts that would normally be thrown away? This happens. It’s fascinating — and it will make you wonder just how much you’re giving up by buying the download instead of the CD (or, heaven help us, the vinyl).

(Via Jesse Emspak.)

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