Close quarters

I caught this bit of weirdness on the west end of the flower box, as though the Head Rose had ordered everyone to squeeze into a small area:

Roses in a small space

You can tell it’s fall, what with that yellow leaf at one o’clock about to fall off a redbud.

(Other sizes at Flickr.)

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But no smaller

How minimal can a minimal government be? Not very, suggests Roberta X:

Here’s a thought: you’d think if “that government which governs least, governs best” is correct and the closer it gets to zero the better, then a snarled-up mess of a government that can’t do much of anything — a negative value — might be better still; but the reality is that it’s as least as bad as a big, caring Nanny-state, if not worse. (This explains places like Somalia, where there’s actually too many “governments” — warlord fiefdoms, etc. — than too much government.) “Zero” is still a thing approached but never reached; too many people want to make sure their neighbors color inside the lines all the time (and never make the giraffes green or the grass purple), and that’s before you address the irreducible minimum of criminally-inclined individuals.

Combine both those horrible populations — pickers of nits and seekers of graft — and you have, well, the current occupants of Mordor-on-the-Potomac. (I wish I could remember where I swiped that; it’s such an apt phrase.)

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Refined tastes on display

It’s presented as a slideshow, which is an insult in itself, but no matter: the British radio station Classic FM presents 21 of the best insults in classical music. I’ll just quote one, from Louis Schneider on Debussy’s La mer:

“The audience expected the ocean. Something big, something colossal. But they were served instead with some agitated water in a saucer.”

I mention this one in particular because La mer may have been a target more than once. Meredith Willson (The Music Man) once told a story about Erik Satie, who had accompanied Debussy to a performance: after the “Dawn to noon on the sea” movement, Satie is supposed to have said sort of loudly, “I just love that part at about a quarter to twelve.” Debussy promptly unleashed a few French translations of Anglo-Saxon, concluding with accusing Satie of being an inept and unlikable composer. I’m not so sure about this, since Satie is supposed to have taken his umbrage to his desk and pounded out Trois morceaux en forme de poire; but said morceaux were completed in 1903, and La mer wasn’t finished until 1905. Maybe an early version getting an airing?

(With thanks to Rand Simberg.)

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Time being taken

Oh, how I can relate to this:

For those of you who can get from paint in the cans/linens in the bags to 90% done in a week or so, know that we don’t work that way around here. We’re more like My Year In Provence speed. If you remember, the den from start to finish, if you can call it an actual “finish” and not just a “work stoppage” — took about 8 months.

When I moved into the palatial estate at Surlywood, I set up the “more important” rooms first, and pitched everything else into the room left over, with the intention of cleaning it up later.

That was November 2003. It looks no better today.

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Young virtuosi

You usually don’t figure on a team being depleted by injuries in the first week of the season, but there were the Jazz, coming out with only nine available players. It didn’t make much difference, really: after the Thunder took a 15-point lead in the middle of the third quarter, Utah pulled to within one with 4:34 left, and OKC had to fight them off all the way to score a 101-98 win.

The OKC starting five were no surprise: Jackson, Sefolosha, Durant, Ibaka, Perkins. What we didn’t expect: Perk putting in 25 minutes, reeling in eight boards. (Then again, Hasheem Thabeet was suspended for some preseason roughhousing.) Also what we didn’t expect: Serge going 4-15 from the floor. He had some decent looks, but the ball and the cylinder were snubbing one another or something. Thabo and Reggie both came up with double figures to compensate. The weak bench contributed 19 points, or five fewer than Utah reserve Alec Burks. KD, who was probably due for a 42-point night, came up with a 42-point night, including the last two free throws.

These Jazz, despite not looking much like last year’s Jazz, are very young and very good. Six of the nine got double figures, led by Burks with 24. And they move the ball: they logged 25 assists. (The Thunder could manage only nine.) They outshot the Thunder from the floor, 45 percent to 40, though OKC, as is its wont, ruled the stripe: 29 of 33, including 22 of 24 by Durant, while the Jazz hit 20 of 30. They wouldn’t have gotten so many had not OKC run off a string of delay-of-game offenses, earning the Jazz technicals. (Then again, the Jazz didn’t hit them all either.)

So: 1 and 0. Means very little for the moment. Next stop: Minnesota, where the T-Wolves always have something to prove.

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A unified theory of shoving

After Nicole’s paean to online shopping, as distinguished from the madness that seems to overtake people actually shopping in person this time of year — I riffed on it hereLynn comes up with a thought experiment of sorts:

I do not loathe the rest of humanity, at least not most of the time. I even sort of like the idea of shopping in actual stores. But then there’s Walmart. And I don’t think it’s actually Walmart per se that’s the problem. It’s just what happens when you get a large number of people in one space who independently have the same goal: to buy stuff and get out as quickly as possible. Seriously, have you ever been in Bass Pro Shop in December?

Such observations over the years have prompted one of our resident scientists to formulate a hypothesis:

I have a hypothesis that between five and ten percent of the population is just going to behave in really annoying ways to everyone else. If you’re in a store with 20 people that’s not a big deal because that’s only one or two people. But if you cram 500 people in the store, you could be looking at 50 Special Snowflakes.

Perish the thought.

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Much was made over the sheer bulk of The Chicago Transit Authority, from “Introduction” to “Liberation”; nobody debuted with a two-LP set, even in semi-freewheeling 1969. Still, CTA, at only 77 minutes, fits on a single CD, and there are, after all, only twelve songs.

Consider that old and busted. Here’s the new hotness:

Hi I’m Rob Lincoln and I need your help in making music history with me!

According to my research, the longest debut album to date is that of Welsh songwriter Desmond Star who had 124 songs on his 2010 release.

I plan to more than double that.

Lincoln’s debut album 5 Cents a Song will be issued, not on Red Book audio CDs, but on two data CDs; otherwise, you’d never be able to fit in all three hundred songs.

He says his musical influences “range from Tom Paxton and Phil Ochs to Townes Van Zandt and Gordon Lightfoot, from Robbie Robertson and The Band to the Jefferson Airplane, and the Monkees.”

And this is a Kickstarter, but it’s already funded and over its original goal. I’m just sorry I found it late.

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Definitely all that

How is it possible that Gabrielle Union just turned forty?

Then again, she was still clinging to 39 when she showed up in this teensy Zac Posen number for the BET Awards in late June:

Gabrielle Union at BET Awards 2013

And what color is that, exactly? It’s not really orange, but it’s something distinctly different from your garden-variety red.

Being Mary Jane, her series for BET, bore the working title Single Black Female, which kind of gives away the premise. The pilot episode aired in July; the regular season begins in January 2014, but BET apparently has already committed to a second season.

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Scammer resents scammage

Truly, it is to laugh:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Has anybody used the site to buy a fake id?

He continues:

I am looking around trying to buy a fake id, but I want to be sure the site i get it from is not a scam. This site seems the most legit to me. But if anybody has bought an id from a site online and it worked, let me know where from. Thanks!!

This is almost on par with a burglar taking a prybar back to Sears to get his money back under the Craftsman warranty.

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Good deeds for a big need

This is reprinted more or less verbatim from Erin Palette’s place, because she’s in charge of the operation. Well, maybe not the operation exactly:

You know I’ve been spearheading the effort to secure enough funds for Squeaky Wheel’s surgery, and then post-surgical care/ medications/ bills/ unexpected crap that always happens, right?

Good news: Her surgery [took place on] October 18.

Bad news: She doesn’t have enough to pay for the deductible and needs at least $1800 more.

OCD news: This makes the needed total a nice round $6000, and $4200 of that has already been funded.

Shiny news: I’m going to be running a raffle filled with lots of really cool things designed to fill you with enough OMG WANT! that you’ll gladly empty your wallet for a chance to get them.

The actual raffle will take place on the third of November, so you need to get yourself moving.

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If you like your spam, you can keep it

As received in the mail, with some minor spacing adjustments:

Medicare –
Xy2eFb2k6uLfM7C-4559b9a3b76170576178358c1b805d48Re: please sse your plan. A, B, D – mmt 6890766791 4559b9a3b76170576178358c1b805d48
U.S. Coverage Options
Medicare Enrollment Center

Deadline Approaching: Open Enrollment has started.

OK sounds like a good idea. Let me know what else you were thinking.
Lets Get Started:
This tool will help you locate the best coverage suited to your needs.

Step 1: Enter your Zip-code below

The Deadline is almost here….
Failure to enroll by the deadline will result in penalties. Please review your outlined options. Part A, B, D.

Medicare Type: 480316

Seems like there are a lot of birthdays in our family today! My brother, my nephew and two friends. WOW. I’m leaving something for the family made of turkey breast. I found a good deal on them at the grocery store, so that’s the main meal. I’ll also leave steamed grean beans (last of the garden crop) tossed with parmesan and rosemary salt. I’m thinking that quinoa will be the easiest starch for them as well. That might change once I decide what to do with the turkey breast. If I bread them I’ll leave the US coverage options are sent from RRX Enrollment Center 115 REDBAY LN Clayton NC 27527 (Email sending optinos can be changed here)quinoa, if I do some kind of sauce or stewing with them then there will be pasta to soak up the sauce. I’ll update later. Dessert will be cake. I’m going to go make a pound cake. That one of .40’s is a favorite around here. We have some blueberries to go with. Mmmmmmm.

In the HTMLed original, all the food references are in white text on a white background, meaning you weren’t supposed to see them, but the mail server’s spam filter was.

I’m assuming that the address is real enough; the domain certainly is, and both Sender and Message ID refer back to

Google, asked for “hodwag,” will ask if you meant “hodag”; on receipt of a click to the contrary, they will cough up a Google Books passage from The Spiritualist: A Comedy in Four Acts, an 1882 play by Joseph Marion Baker. Here we have Mr. Quattlewich declaring his innocence:

Melissa, do you think that the President of the Hodwag & Southwestern Railroad Company could descend to such a petty act as the slaying of a dog?

Baker also wrote Meladore: A Tale of the Battle of Saratoga (1877).

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While we’re drinking 3.2

Supposedly, this is the World’s Strongest Beer:

Snake Venom is the latest pushing-the-limits beer produced by Scottish outfit Brewmeister. The 135-proof concoction beat out the previous record-holder, Armageddon, also made by Brewmeister.

“Unlike Armageddon, Snake Venom is not designed to mask the taste of the alcohol,” reads a statement on the company’s site. “The alcohol is very strong but the beer still tastes like a beer rather than a spirit. It’s hoppy, malty and very pleasant.”

A bottle of Snake Venom will run you about $80 (if you can find it) and contains a warning label cautioning imbibers from drinking too much.

Let’s see. 67.5 divided by 3.2 is, um, 21.1. This is, therefore, the one beer to have when you’re not having twenty-one.

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Kiss your CAPTCHA goodbye

It’s now software-readable, assuming one has the correct software:

An artificial intelligence system has cracked the most widely used test of whether a computer user is actually a software bot. And according to its designers, it is more than a curiosity — it is a step on the way to human-like artificial intelligence.

Vicarious, a start-up firm in Union City, California, announced this week that it has built an algorithm that can defeat any text-based CAPTCHA — a goal that has long eluded security researchers. It can pass Google’s reCAPTCHA, regarded as the most difficult, 90 per cent of the time, says Dileep George, co-founder of the firm. And it does even better against CAPTCHAs from Yahoo, Paypal and

Fortunately for us lowly bloggers, Vicarious isn’t planning to sell this algorithm to the sly, the slick and the wicked:

Vicarious will pit its tool against more Turing tests. The aim is for it to tell what is happening in complex scenes or to work out how to adapt a simple task so it works somewhere else… This kind of intelligence might enable things like robotic butlers, which can function in messy, human environments.

As a messy human, I suppose I must approve. But for now, I’m waiting for someone to jack their code and turn it into a bot function.

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Revisiting the question of the ages

Women, I am told, can bike in heels. Or they can’t. Inasmuch as at the moment I own neither heels nor a bicycle, I am not in a position to go Full Empirical.

Someone who is has fabricated the appropriate shoes:

I was inspired to make these shoes on my ride home one evening when I witnessed a beautiful woman riding in high-heels along Market Street in San Francisco. True to form, I will acknowledge that I noticed the sexy handmade bike before the woman, and what was (perhaps, unfortunately) most noteworthy to me was how awkward the connection was between the pedals and the shoes.

Having recently built up a bike for my beloved, I was immediately taken with idea of making high-heels with a clipless cleat. I had been keen to build a pair shoes for a while and the curves of a high-heel shoe seemed like an inviting challenge.

And so he did:

Low-heeled shoe for bicycling by Corwin

I make no judgment one way or another: I merely seek to continue the conversation.

(Via The Atlantic Cities.)

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Introducing Minihappy

Not-quite-post-Chávist Venezuela apparently viewed George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four as an instruction manual:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the creation of the “Supreme Happiness Under Secretary” to address social debt shortcomings and which was in honor of the late Commandant and president Hugo Chávez and the country’s liberator, Simón Bolívar.

“Comrade Rafael Rios will be responsible for implementing and coordinating the famous missions created by our ‘perpetual Commandant’ with the purpose of ensuring ‘supreme social happiness’,” said Maduro on a national address from the Miraflores Palace. Rios is a former lawmaker and military.

The Ministry’s first task, you ask?

The Orwellian and Kim Il Sung style announcements coincide with the creation of the “Loyalty and Love to Hugo Chávez Day” and come a few weeks ahead of the 8 December municipal elections which could bring surprises to the Bolívarian revolution ravaged by the most serious economic shortcomings in a decade particularly the lack of sufficient food and basics in the country’s stores.

The Venezuelan military, however, did demonstrate its capacity to almost smuggle a ton of cocaine.

And before we get around to promoting the idea of “Bolívarian revolution” — there is apparently no revolution Washington won’t promote, other than the American, which was more than 100 years ago — it might be well to remember that, as Kinky Friedman once said, “Simón Bolívar is the only person in history to be exiled from a country named after him.”

(Via Fausta’s blog.)

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Sartre, grey discourtesy phone, please

There’s much to be said about the hurly-burly of the big city, but I’m fairly burly in my own right, and sometimes it makes me want to hurl. Nor am I at all unique in that latter sensitivity:

It takes less than 10 minutes in a crowd situation before I’m really, really wanting to hurt people. The most amazing and rage inducing portion of being in crowds is the total lack of awareness that the rest of the world has of their surroundings. People who elbow into the 10 inches between me and what I’m looking at, groups of people who walk side by side everywhere and apparently expect everyone else to get out of their way, and that isn’t even getting into the whole oblivious cell phone user dynamic.

Which is why shopping is best done at your desk:

The internet has been a truly amazing invention for those of us who loathe the rest of humanity most of the time. :) I can spend unwise amounts of money on gifts for the season without ever leaving my cats, my slipper socks and my hot tea or encountering the masses of asses.

About the only enjoyable aspect of shopping these days is scoping out the babes, and at my age, that’s an act of sheerest futility.

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