Meanwhile on Orange Street

Last month, I extolled the manifest virtues of nine-year-old journalist Hilde Lysiak, editor/publisher of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania’s Orange Street News, and announced that I was going to take out an actual subscription — one year, $14.99 — to help support her effort. An issue, number 18, arrived this week, and it looks serious: eight pages, professionally printed and bearing a proper presorted postage inscription. (The mailing service is in Lewisburg, one county over.) Page 7 contains Community Announcements and about three-quarters of a page of actual advertising.

And there’s an editorial:

The front page story for the May issue of the Orange Street News is about how the vandal who has been terrorizing our community may have been caught. The police did a great job in catching the suspect and hopefully ending his reign of terror, but why did it take police so long to just give the suspect’s name to the media? […] The police in Selinsgrove need to remember that they work for the people. The people don’t work for the police.

Ms Lysiak appears to have been seriously ticked off.

Oh, and now she has a Wikipedia page, which reveals that despite her deep Pennsylvania roots, she was born in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York. Her dad used to work for the New York Daily News, and he “talks with Lysiak about her stories and occasionally helps tighten up a lede, but mostly leaves her in the driver’s seat.”

Comments (1)




Even bigger pharma

I was apprehensive when Target sold off its in-store pharmacy business to CVS, partly because the big drugstore chains have never given me any compelling reason to shop there, but mostly because I expected prices to rise. Late last month, the Target store nearest me — a third of a mile from the freestanding CVS store nearest me — underwent The Change, and I decided not to move any prescriptions for at least a month, so I could gauge what was going on. Having now received the first batch, I report.

Upside: CVS.com is less dumb than Target’s pharmacy site was, and way less dumb than the idjits to whom Target briefly tried to outsource the function. Once I learned the flow, which didn’t take long, ordering refills took about half as long. What’s more, CVS, if requested, will send text messages; at best, Target could have a disembodied voice in Minneapolis call you. Prices, at least for the moment, have changed hardly at all.

Downside: The polygonal Target pill bottle was a lot easier on the hands and eyes than is the standard-issue CVS (and everywhere else) cylinder.

Comments (1)




Sweet and simple

In an era of Rampant Overdecoration, I have to appreciate something like “Amanda” here:

Amanda pump from Shoesinitaly

That heel is 4.1 inches. And there are three non-black colors, should you prefer.

Comments (4)




Quote of the week

Robert Stacy McCain, scoffing at what we are being told is some sort of “masculinity crisis,” comes to Casablanca, not for the waters, but for a very specific character:

The weak and helpless need heroes who are strong and brave. Do not let weaklings tell you that your strength makes you a “bully,” and never let cowards make you ashamed of your courage. Do not seek praise from fools. They mock the hero because they resent his greatness, and express their envy by ridiculing his virtue. Do not let yourself become discouraged because you are misunderstood. To be insulted by fools is an honor.

Resist the temptation of self-pity. Never blame others for your own failures. When you find you must suffer for the evil that others have done, do not expect anyone to help you, but be grateful you have the strength to endure suffering. Survival is victory, when you are surrounded by enemies who wish you dead, as heroes so often are.

Laugh in the face of danger. You are a survivor. You have lived through hard times before, and have the scars to prove it. Hold your head high and be happy for each new day. Every new challenge is a chance to show those sons of bitches they can’t beat you. And if you ever find yourself in a moment of doubt, just ask yourself, “What would Rick Blaine do?”

Now I appreciate a interesting antihero as much as the next guy, but it’s the hero, the one who does the right thing because it’s the right thing, who’s going to save the world, or the part of it that’s worth saving anyway.

Comments




Don’t be Evil McEvilface

This is the sort of thing that makes me think I need a Why The Hell Not? category:

At Google, we spend a lot of time thinking about how computer systems can read and understand human language in order to process it in intelligent ways. Today, we are excited to share the fruits of our research with the broader community by releasing SyntaxNet, an open-source neural network framework implemented in TensorFlow that provides a foundation for Natural Language Understanding (NLU) systems. Our release includes all the code needed to train new SyntaxNet models on your own data, as well as Parsey McParseface, an English parser that we have trained for you and that you can use to analyze English text.

Did he say what I thought he said?

Parsey McParseface is built on powerful machine learning algorithms that learn to analyze the linguistic structure of language, and that can explain the functional role of each word in a given sentence. Because Parsey McParseface is the most accurate such model in the world, we hope that it will be useful to developers and researchers interested in automatic extraction of information, translation, and other core applications of NLU.

And why the hell not?

(Via Selena Larson.)

Comments (2)




Level perspective

There are some things we just don’t think about, because we don’t see them quite the same way. An example from yesterday’s tweetstream:

Frazer describes herself as a “wheelchair and chocolate user,” which seems sensible enough to me.

I really need to work something like this into a pony story, inasmuch as one of my recurring characters is a stallion about 9 hands who used to be a guy about 6 feet.

Comments




Get outta here, ya knuckleheads

Early in the second quarter, with the Thunder cranking up the intensity, it occurred to me what might have been said in the OKC locker room before tipoff: “Do we really want to play these guys one more time?” The answer seemed pretty obvious at the time, but the third quarter hammered it home. The Spurs, held to a miserable 31 points in the first half, got loose for 34; but the Thunder picked up 36, so San Antonio actually lost ground. So I decided to focus on Tim Duncan, the grand old man in grey and black, who had his best night of the series tonight, and just to make it interesting, the Spurs opened the fourth quarter with a 14-3 run, most of which seemed to come from Kawhi Leonard. The Thunder stumbled around a bit, as they’ve done too often in fourth quarters before, with Russell Westbrook inflicting a Flagrant One upon Danny Green. (Green, obligingly, missed one of the two free throws, and the extra San Antonio possession produced no bucket.) But order was restored to the universe, and Duncan and Andre Miller, possibly on their way to Retirementville, were allowed to finish things up in grand style. (Good call, Pop.) Oklahoma City 113, San Antonio 99, and if you had “Thunder in six,” step forward and claim whatever it is you’re supposed to be getting.

This is the juxtaposition that screamed at me from the box score: the Spurs were 13-16 on free throws. Kevin Durant was 12-12. (KD finished with 37 for the night.) And really, I’m not used to seeing San Antonio get a whole crapton of fouls; Manu Ginobili (how?) actually fouled out. Desperation will make you do strange things. And for a while there, the Spurs were flailing about like crazy. Still, you don’t get this far into the playoffs without something intangible. Maybe it was those two elderly gentlemen, Miller and Duncan, showing how it’s done. (Duncan was +13 for the night with 19 points; Miller dished up four assists and snagged three rebounds in a mere nine minutes.) You have to figure that next season’s Spurs will be plenty tough: they still have Kawhi and LaMarcus and maybe even Tony Parker. But, as the poet said, that’s next season. For now, our attention turns westward, where the Warriors will be waiting in Oakland, and they’re tough and scrappy and incredibly freaking dangerous, the way defending champions are supposed to be.

Comments




Insidiously hideous

This particular WordPress theme was two years old when I adopted (and to some small extent adapted) it, and that was eight years ago. Then again, we’re still talking the 21st century here, although the worst excrescences of the 20th seem to be coming back into style:

There’s an interesting trend in web design these days: Making websites that look, well … bad.

Look at Hacker News. Pinboard. The Drudge Report. Adult Swim. Bloomberg Businessweek features. All of these sites — some years old, some built recently — and hundreds more like them, eschew the templated, user-friendly interfaces that has long been the industry’s best practice. Instead they’re built on imperfect, hand-coded HTML and take their design cues from ’90s graphics.

Which is the way I learned to do things, back in the, um, Nineties. It has the advantage of familiarity.

Is there enough of this stuff to constitute a whole school of thought? Apparently so:

The name of this school, if you could call it that, is “web brutalism” — and there’s no question that much of the recent interest stems from the work of Pascal Deville.

In 2014 Deville, now Creative Director at the Freundliche Grüsse ad agency in Zurich, Switzerland, founded brutalistwebsites.com. He meant it as a place to showcase websites that he thought fit the “brutalist” aesthetic: Design marked by a “ruggedness and lack of concern to look comfortable or easy” in “reaction by a younger generation to the lightness, optimism, and frivolity of today’s web design.” (In architecture, brutalism describes a ’70s architectural movement characterized by large buildings with exposed concrete construction.)

I defend this sort of thing more or less reflexively. Then again, I defended Oklahoma City’s Stage Center for many years, and we all know what that got me.

“Bad is the new good,” tweeted Nancy Friedman.

Comments (2)




Squirrel update

Over the weekend, I discovered a dead bishop on the landing squirrel out by the curb. After contemplating the disquieting possibility of hoisting the poor deceased critter from his resting place and dropping him into the refuse bin, I decided that hey, I pay taxes for this, and Monday morning I left a note for the city’s Action Center.

Almost exactly 24 hours later, within the time frame expected, Animal Control failed to find the ex-furball, perhaps because it was in the shadow of said refuse bin. I know this because I sent a second note to the Action Center Tuesday afternoon, and that’s what they told me. Wednesday they were properly contrite, and promised to have it hauled off that day. Which they did.

I think this is only the second time I’ve dealt with the Action Center. Not bad for twelve and a half years, I guess.

Comments




This much and no lower

Meanwhile in London, they worry over whether you’re wearing shoes of the correct height:

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this. The British naturist Lady God1va, from whom I got this report, doesn’t think much of the petition:

After noting that it would be just about as useless to petition for nudity on the job, she added:

I can manage only so much empathy here: I can remember exactly one instance of a woman wearing heels to work on any day after her first, and I remember that only because — well, never mind.

In the meantime, this is the petition in question.

Comments (1)




Seems really legit

Somehow this struck me as odd:

Taylor Swift turned heads Tuesday night when she accepted two major honors — including one named after her — at the 64th annual BMI Pop Awards held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Wait a minute. Named after her?

The country-turned-pop star’s family joined her for the special ceremony where she was honored with the first-ever Taylor Swift Award for “incomparable creative and artistic talent and influence on music lovers around the world,” as described by BMI.

In other news, Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Comments




Potentially mortarfied

One of the great fears of our technological time is installing an update and then watching in horror as the device assumes the general position and activity level of a paperweight. I got a chance to anticipate just such a thing yesterday:

Some ASUS users are having UEFI-related Windows update problems that may brick their systems. A few news sites have stories on this:

[…] KB3133977, a security update for Windows 7, has been identified as the cause for this problem. Following its installation, it forces Windows 7 to enable Secure Boot, even though it is actually not supported by Microsoft anymore. This eventually prevents the system from properly rebooting. Microsoft has clearly stated that it is in no way responsible for this predicament. Providing clarification, a company spokesperson stated that the problem occurs because of how Asus has created some of its motherboards with its own modified version of the Secure Boot feature. In other words, users facing problems in this regard will have to contact Asus directly to have the issue addressed. […]

Well, actually, it was never supported in Win7; Secure Boot was an innovation, so to speak, that came with Windows 8. Still, I have an Asus mobo, I run Windows 7, and yesterday was the due date for Microsoft’s Patch of the Month Club. So when I got home, I dragged myself into UEFI — which, as the lovely and talented @SwiftOnSecurity reminds us, is not actually BIOS — drilled down a couple of levels, and hit the toggle on Secure Boot to match up, not with Windows, but with some mysterious “Other OS” that I don’t actually have on this machine.

And then down came fourteen patches, none of which turned out to be KB3133977.

I suppose I can toggle it back when I cede control to Windows 10 in the next couple of months.

Comments (2)




Neither Rand nor McNally

I suppose I could find a gizmo, or an app, that will find directions for me, but maybe I don’t want to:

The park rangers at Death Valley National Park in California call it “death by GPS.” It describes what happens when your GPS fails you, not by being wrong, exactly, but often by being too right. It does such a good job of computing the most direct route from Point A to Point B that it takes you down roads which barely exist, or were used at one time and abandoned, or are not suitable for your car, or which require all kinds of local knowledge that would make you aware that making that turn is bad news.

Death Valley’s vast arid landscape and temperature extremes make it a particularly dangerous place to rely on GPS. In the summer of 2009, Alicia Sanchez, a twenty-eight-year-old nurse, was driving through the park with her six-year-old son, Carlos, when her GPS directed her onto a vaguely defined road that she followed for 20 miles, unaware that it had no outlet. A week later, a ranger discovered Sanchez’s Jeep, buried in sand up to its axles, with SOS spelled out in medical tape on the windshield.

Too much faith in the machines, perhaps:

Most death-by-GPS incidents do not involve actual deaths — or even serious injuries. They are accidents or accidental journeys brought about by an uncritical acceptance of turn-by-turn commands: the Japanese tourists in Australia who drove their car into the ocean while attempting to reach North Stradbroke Island from the mainland; the man who drove his BMW down a narrow path in a village in Yorkshire, England, and nearly over a cliff; the woman in Bellevue, Washington, who drove her car into a lake that their GPS said was a road; the Swedish couple who asked GPS to guide them to the Mediterranean island of Capri, but instead arrived at the Italian industrial town of Carpi; the elderly woman in Belgium who tried to use GPS to guide her to her home, 90 miles away, but instead drove hundreds of miles to Zagreb, only realizing her mistake when she noticed the street signs were in Croatian.

I’m pretty good at fumbling with maps, if not with folding and refolding them.

(Via American Digest.)

Comments (4)




That wasn’t so easy

Staples and Office Depot will not be merging after all:

Office Depot and Staples called off their plans to merge, triggering a trading halt for the companies’ stocks Tuesday.

The retailers made the announcement after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday that had been requested by the Federal Trade Commission, which opposed Staples’ plan to acquire Office Depot for $6.3 billion.

Now the companies “plan to terminate their merger agreement,” Staples said in a statement.

The FTC’s position is simple enough [warning: autostart video]:

The agency pointed to the market for large business customers, where Staples and Office Depot are often the top two bidders.

“By eliminating competition between Staples and Office Depot, the transaction would lead to higher prices and reduced quality,” the FTC said in a statement.

At 42nd and Treadmill, we buy from both, and we have no qualms about playing both ends against the middle.

Comments (3)




Be true to your shool

And remember: they’re concerned.

This particular Marietta is in southeastern Ohio.

(Title inspired by Little Stevie Weingold.)

Comments




The Enucleator

Sounds like a straight-to-video semi-thriller, doesn’t it?

Oh, it doesn’t? Well, never mind then.

One thousand dollars Canadian

Pinicola enucleator, the pine grosbeak, is a Very Big Finch, and this is a very high-value banknote, as seen in a Guardian article on, um, high-value banknotes. Says the caption to this picture:

A Canadian $1,000 dollar note (£499), issued in 1988. It stopped being printed in 2000, but despite requests to return them to banks, nearly 1m of them are still unaccounted for.

“It stopped being printed.” Imagine the cry of the grosbeak: “Stop printing me!” The actual story is more humdrum:

The Bank of Canada will no longer issue $1,000 bills as of this Friday [29 September 2000] in an effort to fight organized crime and money laundering.

The bill’s extinction was made official Monday after formal approval from the federal government. It was the final step in a February proposal by the the Finance Department, the central bank and the RCMP to get rid of the bills which are favoured by criminals.

Nicknamed “pinkies” for their reddish-purple hue, $1000 bills were an easy way for criminals to hide and carry their earnings.

Of course, you’re looking at the back of the bill: Queen Elizabeth is on the front.

Comments (7)