MegaCloroxification

Last time I had the plumber out here, he observed the toilet in action, and pronounced its flush “good.” On the downside, it uses, if not a literal ton of water, certainly more than would be permissible in eco-conscious San Francisco. Then again, they’re having some unexpected issues these days:

Skimping on toilet water has resulted in more sludge backing up inside the sewer pipes, said Tyrone Jue, spokesman for the city Public Utilities Commission. That has created a rotten-egg stench near AT&T Park and elsewhere, especially during the dry summer months.

In response, they’re taking a time-tested approach to de-stenching:

[O]fficials are stocking up on a $14 million, three-year supply of highly concentrated sodium hypochlorite — better known as bleach — to act as an odor eater and to disinfect the city’s treated water before it’s dumped into the bay. It will also be used to sanitize drinking water.

There are drawbacks to this approach — chlorine oxidizes organic contaminants, which have to be screened out before the bleach goes in — but let’s face it, they’re not going to issue a Please Flush Twice order.

Somewhere, Al Bundy is snickering.

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The soul of the city

Remember when City Council elections were non-partisan? Oh, I know there’s no actual label on the ballot, but just the same, labels have been handed out left and right — and with this bunch, I’m inclined to veer toward the left.

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You will not see this on a Dodge Viper

P. J. O’Rourke drives a Fiat 500 for Car and Driver (April), shows it to the journalism class he teaches at Hillsdale College, and he has some good news — or is it bad news?

[What] I think is the 500′s best marketing point [is] its appearance. This came from my star pupil, Ms. B. On one hand, she was referencing an international design icon that drives sales in more than 4000 retail outlets in the U.S. alone and generates half a billion dollars in annual revenue. On the other hand…

When Ms. B saw the Fiat 500, the first words out of her mouth were “Hello Kitty.”

Not just hers, either, I suspect:

Fiat 500 Hello Kitty

Compare to, for instance, this Kitty-oriented smart fortwo.

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Motley crew cab

One of my Cardinal Rules of Driving is “Do not attract undue attention to yourself.” Sooner or later, someone with a badge will take note, and you will probably not like the results:

Officials said a sheriff’s deputy responded to a report of a suspicious pickup truck east of Lincoln [Nebraska]. The deputy said he stopped the truck to question the driver and found everyone in the vehicle was unclothed. The deputy said their clothes were in the bed of the pickup.

Definitely unwise. If you’re going to drive without any clothes on, you need to be able to pull something on in a big hurry Just In Case.

Officials said there’s no law against driving naked on county roads as long as no one is alarmed. But authorities said the driver, Nickolus Borgman, 32, was cited for third offense aggravated DUI, open container, no seat belts and for having too many people in the front seat of the pickup.

Yet another example of how drinking impairs the driver’s judgment.

And if there’s a sudden increase in nude driving in Nebraska, well, I had nothing to do with it.

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Been there, run that

State representatives hiding out beyond state lines? Believe me, this is anything but unprecedented:

In the interests of full disclosure, I must confess that, during my time in Evanston, I too crossed the Illinois-Wisconsin border from time to time to further my avoidance of certain residency-based requirements. In my case, these requirements were age-based and involved something known as “Blatz.” You need not know more, except that the cheeseheads across the line soon matched the oppressive, fascist and un-American restrictions of both my adopted and my native state. At least, that’s how I saw it at the time.

Some Blatz background, should you be interested.

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Pure poplets for now people

This audio concoction contains, per the description, “5 Seconds Of Every #1 Song Ever,” and by “ever” they mean roughly 1955-1992. It went viral last week, and I decided I’d hold off listening to it until the weekend.

Observations:

  • From the beginning up through the middle Seventies or so, I have just about every one of these records.
  • Sound quality is decidedly limited, which helps to keep the bandwidth down, but a lot of these sounded much punchier in those old mono mixes than they do in “New Improved Full Dimensional Stereo” or whatever.
  • Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” uniquely among this bunch, made #1 in two separate chart runs: summer 1960, on its first release, and at the very end of 1961, after Checker sang it on The Ed Sullivan Show. And yes, it’s in there twice. I was most pleased.

American Digest has a brief explanation of where this collection came from in the first place.

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Strange search-engine queries (265)

In days of old, stuff like this was kept in a mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnalls’ porch. Today, you (well, I) find it in the records dutifully kept by Site Meter and other chroniclers of site activity, and hope it gets something resembling a response.

475.00:  “What is the average ticket at your typical Spee-D-Loob place?”

once a day man:  The sixty-minute man can’t do sixty no more.

stepped on sweetgum seed pods:  A compelling argument for shoes.

synthetic stucco disclosure law Indiana:  Victory for the operators of several small stucco mines near Evansville.

paul mccartney 226 maintenance company fort sill ok:  He thought the Major was a little lady suffragette.

how did franz joseph dispose of his bodily waste:  Haydn it in other people’s manuscripts.

are grackles edible:  I suspect they taste something like chicken.

movie quote “I reject technology”:  Well, that lets out James Cameron.

trees strike back:  See? They don’t care if you hug them.

can an impotent man emulate?  He might even be able to simulate. But he’d better do something.

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They don’t make bits like they used to

The problem with Digital Rights Management is not so much that it’s a dumb idea — were I an actual content provider, I presumably might like to get paid once in a while — but that its implementation inevitably leads to ideas that induce guffaws. For instance:

In the first significant revision to lending terms for ebook circulation, HarperCollins has announced that new titles licensed from library ebook vendors will be able to circulate only 26 times before the license expires.

Given the typical two-week lending period, this means one year. And indeed, that’s what they’re thinking:

Josh Marwell, President, Sales for HarperCollins, told Library Journal that the 26 circulation limit was arrived at after considering a number of factors, including the average lifespan of a print book, and wear and tear on circulating copies.

Because, as we all know, librarians are keen to weed out any item in the collection with even a hint of staleness, and a book in its 53rd week is definitely beyond saving.

And you have to feel for that 26th borrower, who must endure dog-eared virtual pages and other digital anomalies before the publisher, taking pity on the poor fellow, calls a halt.

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Lucking fakers

It’s hard to say what was more disheartening: the Lakers grinding out a 90-87 win at the New Round Barn, or the robocalls on behalf of various City Council candidates during the second half. (Brad Henry, in particular, should farging well know better than that.) The Thunder offense, which hoovered up 56 points in the first half, couldn’t manage but 31 in the second, and two quite-reasonable three-point attempts in the last ten seconds failed to drop.

In the main, it’s a story you’ve heard before: the youngsters burn themselves out quickly, and the veterans clean up the mess. Five points up at the half, OKC found itself going nowhere in the third quarter, opening the door for Los Angeles. Both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were able to post double-doubles, and if Kobe Bryant isn’t quite the Kobe of old, the Kobe of now is still pretty darned impressive. (It was Bryant’s fadeaway just inside the one-minute mark that put the Lakers up three.) None of Phil Jackson’s crew played more than 37 minutes, which suggests a lack of urgency that only a Zen master like Jackson can pull off.

Scott Brooks stuck to his regular rotation, and it’s easy to say that yeah, maybe he should have let the new guys play, but I suspect the results would have been just about the same. Apart from a rather appalling number of turnovers — 19 of ‘em — the Thunder didn’t do a whole lot wrong. When your shooting percentage drops from better than 60 to less than 45 over the space of 24 minutes, though, you’re doing something wrong. Russell Westbrook had 17 points in the first half, but finished with only 22. Kevin Durant went 8-19 from the floor to collect 21 points. Serge Ibaka got more boards — thirteen — than anyone. And Thabo Sefolosha not only kept Kobe largely at bay, he picked up 10 points. But somehow, the machine ground to a halt in the third quarter, and it never did quite come back to life.

So February ends at 6-5, which isn’t that bad, but which isn’t that good either. March beckons with sixteen games, and perhaps fortunately for the Thunder, the first half of it is loaded with games against the East. Then again, the Pacers, who arrive in the city on Wednesday, aren’t just going to roll over and die.

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And the wall’s come tumbling down

I suspect I am not alone in my dislike for technical support via chat window. It would never have occurred to me, however, to try to turn the experience into a quasi-Biblical epic:

WELCOME TO SOFTWARE TECHNICAL SUPPORT. PLEASE IDENTIFY THE NATURE OF YOUR PROBLEM.

I came unto my computer, there to design a web page, and lo! An angel appeared. And with a voice that sounded with all the symphonies of morning, it cried out, “YOUR COMPUTER IS NOT PROTECTED. YOUR FIREWALL IS NOT ACTIVE. ACTIVATE TO PROTECT YOUR COMPUTER FROM THREATS!” And as the birth-cries of the Christ drove all the false gods, once cast down from Heaven, from the shores of Earth, to the Hell in which they belonged, so did the firewall flee from my touch. And when I asked, O firewall! Why do you flee from me? For you are like the shadow that alights before the dawn, and I am like the lion, roaming over the hills, crying out for the only lamb that can sate its hunger, it responded, PLEASE GO TO OUR WEBSITE AND RUN THE TECHNICAL ADVISOR.

This continues for nearly an hour. (Note that if you were actually speaking with a tech, it might have been finished in ten minutes, plus or minus 90 seconds for the Universal Translator.)

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You only give me the one direction

And in the middle of a street selection, things break down. From the summer of ’05:

North of Britton Road in The Village is a noncontinuous residential street called Abbey Road. When I was househunting, one of the first notions I got was to go look on this street, for obvious Fab Four-related reasons, but houses on those few blocks seldom seemed to be for sale, and the neighborhood in question seemed to be out of what I thought to be my price range anyway, so I gave the matter no further thought — until today, when I was stuck in the usual May Avenue traffic, and ducked down a side road to evade it. A couple of turns, and there I was — except that, contrary to the standard prevailing on other Village street signs, the sign for Abbey Road (this one, anyway) merely says ABBEY, with no further designator; for all the casual visitor could tell, it could be Abbey Drive or Abbey Place or even Abbe Lane. Have people been stealing street signs from The Village? And should we blame Polythene Pam?

This month, Goldmine (#797) reports:

Abbey Road NW8An Abbey Road street sign sold at auction in 2009 for $5,976.20. This tin sign was last used in the 1970s, before they began to be replaced with signs painted on buildings. Even Abbey Road street signs in America have had value. Last year, a steel street sign from an unspecified Abbey Road in the States sold for $286.

Definitely not from The Village. The one pictured in the magazine, paired with an actual British tin sign, was green — Village signs are blue and white — and indicated the 4000 block, which would land it several hundred feet into Lake Hefner. The only place I know of that has a 4000 Abbey Road is Syracuse, New York.

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Film a cow, go to jail

This is apparently somebody’s idea of a sensible piece of legislation:

[Florida] SB 1246 by Sen. Jim Norman, R-Tampa, would make it a first-degree felony to photograph a farm without first obtaining written permission from the owner. A farm is defined as any land “cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production, the raising and breeding of domestic animals or the storage of a commodity.”

A first-degree felony can get you 30 years. Human trafficking in Florida is a second-degree felony — maximum of 15 years — so Norman is evidently serious about protecting those cows.

But as always, there’s something else going on:

Wilton Simpson, a farmer who lives in Norman’s district, said the bill is needed to protect the property rights of farmers and the “intellectual property” involving farm operations.

Simpson, president of Simpson Farms near Dade City, said the law would prevent people from posing as farmworkers so that they can secretly film agricultural operations.

He said he could not name an instance in which that happened. But animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Animal Freedom display undercover videos on their web sites to make their case that livestock farming and meat consumption are cruel.

Passive-aggressive much?

Actually, this threat seems a bit exaggerated: your random J. Sunshine Activist wouldn’t last four hours feigning farm work. It makes more sense just to capture the trespassers and send them off to work in the secret Bacon Mine.

(Via Fark.)

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It’s worse than that; it’s debt, Jim

This post at Investors.com says that not only is the Social Security Trust Fund empty except for IOUs, debt service on those IOUs makes the value of the Fund effectively less than zero: while Congress treats it as an asset, it’s turned into a liability.

Then again, you already knew that, so I’m going to focus on a peripheral issue: the site’s dumb word filter. One comment contains the expurgated term “do***ented”; another, “gim****”.

On a different thread I found “***bersome”, a kissing cousin to “do***ented”, and “p*****”, which is presumably a verb. But the real zinger is this one:

Tranbarger, Daniels, ******ie, and a few other GOP leaders have walked the walk as governors.

Jesus H. ******! I thought we’d gotten past the technology of Evil Text Strings way back in the 1990s. Evidently not. I wish someone would explain why this antiquated technique is still in use today. Maybe Governor Tranbarger, whoever the **** he is, can shed some light on the matter.

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That little old bullet-dodger, me

So I’m unloading a trunk full (okay, five bags) of groceries, three the first trip, two the second, and in between I spot something on the garage floor that wasn’t there before: a wood screw with a hex head. “Damn good thing I didn’t drive over that,” I thought as I picked up the last two bags.

And then, of course: “Where the hell did it come from?” It’s not like hardware blows around in the Oklahoma wind or anything.

Well, wind has its own subtle effects. One of them is rattling the garage door in its tracks. And after rather a long period of rattlement and several hundred up-and-down trips, one of the screws that holds the door hardware onto the actual door had backed itself far enough out to be subject to routine gravitational forces.

I replaced the screw and checked the others in the door: two more were loose, though nowhere near that loose.

Now this is an old door, though I can’t vouch for its age. The garage was added onto the house in 1951, so it’s at most sixty years old. The mechanical (chain-driven) opener is newer, but not impressively so. And one of the big coil springs fragged a couple of years ago and was replaced. Having no desire to replace any more of this stuff if I can help it, I will consider myself fortunate for having been semi-attentive for once.

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Death of a bookstore

What really happened to Borders? Some say e-books, some say Amazon. Meanwhile, D. G. Myers offers a different explanation:

Borders tried hard to look like a salon, not a bookstore. Whenever I would climb upstairs where “Literature” was located, I would be struck by the open space with its loosely arranged furniture. I could not help imagining the shelves that were lost to reading nooks and gathering spots (to say nothing of the vast expanses handed over to the coffee shop and musical recording sections). After a while, I felt strange and out of place, even unwelcome, in the store. The accidental discovery was unlikely to occur there, unless I stopped reading the book pages or listening to literary gossip, and the comprehensive plunge into an unfamiliar sub-world of books was impossible, because (except for popular and “literary” fiction) the sections of the store got smaller and smaller every year.

If Amazon ever figures out how to make accidental discoveries possible, we’re going to lose a lot more than just half of a retail book chain.

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Everything falls back into place

“Dialing the creep factor up to eleven” is the apt title of this photoessay, an examination of an abandoned theme park with a Chinese theme, west of the Maustrap in central Florida. (They didn’t name the park, and therefore neither will I, though the details aren’t even slightly Google-resistant.)

I’m wondering, after looking at that — and decades after seeing Carnival of Souls, shot largely at an abandoned resort in Utah — if the descent from Tourist Destination to Eventual Ruins tends to exacerbate the creep factor: these are supposedly among the happiest places on earth, to borrow a Disneyism, yet here they are, utterly rejected, the very antithesis of collective joy.

Says blogger wRitErsbLock, who compiled the essay, of the general atmosphere:

Due to the desolation, the creep factor, and the trespassing, we were whispering. Any time we stepped on crunchy leaves or acorns, the explosion of sound was eerie… We wanted to see as much as possible and get out before dark. Always with the hope that we’d encounter no one.

As Herk Harvey could have told you, this is the stuff of nightmares.

(Via the Blogfather.)

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And such a Jones

Today we take a peek at Rashida Jones, daughter of Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton, thirty-five this week. This particular photo was taken by Lee Broomfield for the Russian edition of InStyle in 2009:

Rashida Jones in Russian InStyle

Later this year, she’ll be appearing in the film My Idiot Brother, with Paul Rudd as the doofus in question.

Obligatory disclosure: Zooey Deschanel is also in said film; she and Jones play tormented — and not just by Rudd — lovers.

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Transition offense

On the off-chance that someone will ask: yes, I was astounded by that last-minute act of Prestidigitation, and yes, I think it will pay off in the not-so-long run. In Sam we trust. And if what a team needs is a Kendrick Perkins type, the most efficient way to acquire one is to sign Kendrick Perkins. Damned few GMs would have been able to pull off such a deal.

Then again, Perk will be out for at least a week, and in the interim, the Thunder still have issues, just about every one of which the Magic were able to exploit tonight in Orlando en route to a 111-88 win. Of course, no issue was greater than “What do we do about Dwight Howard?” The answer, as it was last time these teams met, was “Not a damned thing.” In 42 minutes, Howard rolled up 40 points on 16-20 shooting, not to mention the 15 rebounds and six blocked shots. (Or a technical, his 15th of the season.) The Magic shot 50 percent and pulled in 53 boards.

The surviving Two Amigos did what they could, but one thing they couldn’t do was get any shots from anywhere near the rim: Kevin Durant went 7-22 for 23 points, Russell Westbrook 7-19 for 18. The distance shooters, Daequan Cook and James Harden, rose to the occasion — OKC was 10-25 from beyond the arc — but that leaves a meager 19-62 from inside the arc. That’s barely 30 percent. Serge Ibaka was expected to start at the four, and he did; he was not expected to foul out in 18 minutes, but he did that too. Cole Aldrich got 15 minutes as a result, and was one of exactly two of the Thunder who finished on the good side of plus/minus. Do we miss Jeff Green yet?

Come Sunday, we should see some adjustments. And we’ll need them, because the Lakers are in town. During this transitional period, things might get even uglier.

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Quote of the week

The borders of the United States of America are generally well defined and occasionally well defended. Neither of these conditions is exactly common in the Middle East, as KingShamus points out:

The passage of time tricks us into thinking a nation’s borders are more permanent than they actually are. The British basically drew the map from the Eastern Mediterranean to Persia. Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Oman, Yemen: all of their borders sprang from the minds of English dudes. In the aftermath of this extreme redistricting, the delineations probably made very little sense to the people on the ground. Nowadays, if you ask a Saudi what differentiates him from other people in the region, political geography will invariably be a part of that person’s rationale.

It’s only when something major happens, like a violent governmental collapse, that we sit back and wonder why the hell the country exists in the first place. “Oh, there’s a dozen ethnic/religious/tribal/ideological/linguistic groups who despise each other that are all supposed to coexist under one flag? Huh.”

Mapmakers are going to be extremely busy the next few years, I suspect.

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For to carry you home

Things you need to know about Oklahoma’s soon-to-be-designated State Gospel Song:

  • Composer “Uncle” Wallace Willis was one of the Choctaw Freedmen, emancipated after the Civil War by treaty between Washington and the Choctaw Nation. “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” dates to somewhere in the 1840s.
  • You can hear echoes of “Swing Low” in Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World.” Maybe.
  • And yes, Zooey Deschanel has sung it.

Senate Bill 73, by Eason McIntyre (D-Tulsa), which passed the Senate 46-1, should have no trouble in the House. (The, um, “1″ was Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, who is not the sharpest tool in the shed, if you know what I mean.)

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