Several last things

The other day I got Twitterspammed — if that isn’t a word, it should be — by someone whose main interest in life, judging by that day’s tweet production, was promoting this song:

“Good theme that swings”? Okay, I’ll look.

This was the song, and I liked it enough to snag it from iTunes:

I know from nothing here, except that Aldrey is from Venezuela, and that this video was shot largely at a pediatric hospital in Maracaibo — which makes its bucket-list lyrics just a hair more poignant.

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Hardly seems fair

Jennifer McClintock saw this being vended at the State Fair of Oklahoma this week, and decided “Pretty sure I’m going to pass on this one”:

Scorpion Pizza at State Fair of Oklahoma

Apparently it was a big hit in Calgary back in July:

The owner of the Pizza on a Stick stand says she’s the sole scorpion pizza vendor at Stampede, and confirmed slices are expected to return this week.

“I’m hoping Thursday, but definitely by Friday,” Percsilla Larue told the Herald. Her stand ran out of $10 scorpion pizza slices Monday after demand was higher than expected.

“People love it. I had one guy come back twice for more slices,” said Larue, who describes it as “crunchy.” She said staff were surprised by how many people came asking on last Thursday’s Sneak-a-Peek.

I dunno. You tell me that a pizza with scorpions on it is sixty bucks, and the first thing I’m going to ask is “How much is it without scorpions?”

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Old chum

This has nothing to do with Cabaret, or for that matter with cabaret — unless you were hoping someone would invite you.

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Ferric oxide never sleeps

My car’s otherwise pristine flanks are marred by none-too-faint traces of the tinworm along the rear wheel wells, the right worse than the left. (There’s another outcropping along the radiator support, less visible but more worrisome.) I tend to think of it as a reminder that unto dust we shall return, and that goes for our toys as well. And at least it was a good paint job at one time, unlike some we’ve heard about:

I finally got around to putting a bunch of Zaino not-quite-wax on the thing last week and I noticed that Honda’s inability to paint cars properly in the United States has yet to be completely addressed. After 12,000 miles, the Accord has more rock chip damage and wear on the front than any of my Volkswagens, BMWs, or Porsches had after three times that much distance. No orange in history has ever had as much orange peel as this Honda and where the paint has chipped off you can see just how thin it is. Oh well. My 1986 Jaguar Vanden Plas had brilliant and flawless lacquer that was approximately as thick as a trauma-plated bulletproof vest but it also failed to make it to 75,000 miles without requiring the replacement of every rubber part in the suspension and body. Choose your battles.

Indeed. (Gwendolyn has a shade under 153,000 miles at this writing.)

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The new automotive priorities

The big thing at General Motors this fall, apparently, is in-car Wi-Fi. A two-page Buick ad in the new InStyle (October) contains this image:

In the back seat of a Buick Regal

The young lady, resplendent in orange, is obviously making best use of her time in the back seat. (Of course it’s the back seat: you don’t want drivers doing this, the curve of the roofline gives it away, and anyway this is the view from outside the car.) Apart from telling you that you can get a mobile hotspot, though, this ad tucks in a couple of additional messages that aren’t spelled out:

  • The average age of Buick buyers has actually been declining, from recently deceased to somewhere in the fifties, but there’s really no percentage to marketing to us old codgers, set in our ways, so let’s show someone about half that age.
  • Fear of cramped back seats haunts us all, or at least those of us who occasionally might find occasion to carry someone in the back seat, so the fact that Miss Tablet can actually cross her legs back there is reassuring, though I’m not sure how close her head is to the ceiling.

This latter point is seldom made by automakers; I can remember only once in recent years when it was blatant, and even then it was only a tweet.

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Flagging interest

The national flag should embody the values of the nation, or so I was told back in secondary school, before Mozambique gained independence from Portugal and adopted this nifty little banner:

Flag of Mozambique adopted 1983

Why, yes, that is an AK-47. Says Wikipedia:

Green stands for the riches of the land, the white fimbriations signify peace, black represents the African continent, yellow symbolizes the country’s minerals, and red represents the struggle for independence. The rifle stands for defence and vigilance, the open book symbolizes the importance of education, the hoe represents the country’s agriculture, and the star symbolizes Marxism and internationalism.

Yellow minerals? Well, yes, they do mine gold there, but the volume items seem to be aluminum and natural gas.

A 2005 proposal to remove the rifle from the flag was defeated on a party-line vote.

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A two-octave range

I have always wondered — since the early 1970s or thereabouts, anyway — just how it was that Bernie Taupin could churn out the words first, and only then would Elton John come up with a melody to fit them.

I need no longer wonder:

(Via Maureen Johnson.)

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Where have all gozintas gone?

An interesting theory being put forth here: “Education reforms are driven mostly by what is fun for schoolteachers to teach.” Example:

After all, what is the standard rap against “traditional” math? The main complaint is that it’s “just” teaching “rote” memorization. But what’s wrong with rote memorization? Speaking as someone who got pretty far in math, I’d say that when it comes to the basic arithmetic kids are trying to absorb at the grade-school level, rote memorization is just fine. Arithmetic is one of those things that’s utterly boring once you know it, and once you absorb the patterns. But until that happens, “rotely memorizing” it is just as fine a method as any other. “Rote memorization” isn’t a bad way to teach, it’s just a dreary way to teach. So teachers refuse to do it, and will work up whatever education theories they need in order to not have to. Even if it works.

A lot of the pressure towards New, Fun Stuff originated with the fact that not everyone learns at the most effective rate in exactly the same way, but things just got out of hand after that:

It’s true that when it comes to a typical arithmetic problem, there are multiple ways to attack it, none of them “wrong.” If you get the right answer, using right logic, the method cannot have been “wrong.”

The problem is that this sort of observation — like the buzzword “STEM” — is dangerous. Once it trickles down into mainstream educational usage it becomes an elementary schoolteacher telling her class that this or that math problem “has no right answer.” Which is totally wrong! Of course there’s a right answer! There are even right and wrong (false logic/incorrectly-reasoned) methods! In the great game of telephone that is apparently schoolteacher theory, the (correct enough) view that “there’s no single correct algorithm, algorithms that use correct logic are all equivalent and must necessarily lead to the same right answer, so one should use whichever algorithm works for them” has gotten all garbled and reinterpreted to mean something like “all algorithms are equally ok and there’s no single right answer.”

Cue Professor Tom Lehrer: “But in the new approach, as you know, the important thing is to understand what you’re doing, rather than to get the right answer.”

Back in the Old Silurian times, we were told that 9 X 7 was 63 because if we had seven groups of nine items, or nine groups of seven items, we would perforce have 63 items, and we could test this on anything we had at least 63 of. Since counting items took up lots of time, it became easier just to memorize the tables up to 12 or so.

(You remember gozintas, right?)

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Too much legacy

@SwiftOnSecurity posted a screencap of this last night, then took it down within minutes for reasons unknown, but not before I’d gotten a screencap of my own, and I eventually turned up the source on reddit:

I tried to take care of a customer that has manufacturing equipment that required MSDOS on a 386. There’s no way it will run on anything newer because it was built with timing loops that expect a (33?)Mhz processor and the cards require an ISA bus.

It won’t run on a VM or on anything newer and I was unable to find hardware to run it and finally gave up and recommended they contact the original engineer for specs (custom built controllers, steppers, etc) and get ready for a rebuild and rewrite.

They never called back and I assume they’ll just run it until it dies, then close the doors.

I can’t help but think there’s someone out there with a twenty-year-old Packard Bell clunker who thinks he’ll get $100 for it in a yard sale.

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Definitely fishy

The local supermarkets seem to sell a ton of tilapia, probably because it’s relatively cheap. Fillyjonk, for one, won’t touch the stuff:

Actually, some of the Healthists claim that Tilapia really isn’t all that great for you after all — something to do with the balance of Omega 6 and Omega 3 acids. (The fact that it eats excrement apparently isn’t even a blip on the radar)

Me? I hate most fish and won’t eat it. I make an exception for freshly-caught panfish and the occasional wildcaught salmon.

This particular claim by “Healthists” (I gotta steal that term) drew this open letter from a consortium of scientific types:

US Department of Agriculture statistics indicate that farmed tilapia and catfish contain somewhat more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3. Most health experts (including organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Dietetic Association) agree that omega-6 fatty acids are, like omega-3s, heart-healthy nutrients which should be a part of everyone’s diet. Omega-6 fatty acids are found primarily in vegetable oils (corn, soybean, safflower, etc) but also in salad dressings, nuts, whole-wheat bread, and chicken.

Replacing tilapia or catfish with “bacon, hamburgers or doughnuts” is absolutely not recommended.

And that would seem to be that — except for this:

While working in Mexico I found that some Beltrán-Leyva Cartel types were feeding people they killed to farmed tilapia in the Puerto Vallarta area to hide the bodies. Other disturbing reports indicated that the Arellano-Felix Cartel people were doing it in Northern Mexico as well to get rid of their rivals. Apparently tilapia enjoy the meal and grow even more rapidly with the steady supply of protein.

Most of these fish find their way to tables in Mexico and to tourist destinations along the Mexican Riviera, so buying and eating them in the US is likely cartel-influence free. Personally I’ve been put off on eating them.

Beltrán-Leyva has supposedly been inactive for several years, but yes, that sort of thing is off-putting: you generally don’t see this issue with bacon, hamburgers or doughnuts.

(That cartel link via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Crewe cuts

Bob Crewe made great records in the Fifties, the Sixties, and into the Seventies and Eighties. When word came down that he’d died in a Maine nursing home Thursday — complications from a fall, which is something you don’t want to have at eighty-three — I slapped a bunch of them on the stereo, and finally declared two personal favorites, both by the 4 Seasons, both produced by Crewe, both co-written by Crewe with 4 Seasons stalwart Bob Gaudio, released within ten weeks of one another in that magical year of 1964. Fifty years later, these tracks still make me smile, and sometimes a great deal more than that.

“Rag Doll” (Philips 40211) hit #1; “Save It For Me” (Philips 40225) made #10. And the triple threat — the unshakable romanticism, the pristine Crewe production, and the “sound” of Frankie Valli (so declared on the 45 label) — make these two tracks stand out in a year the historians have inexplicably ceded to Beatlemania.

Also worth tracking down: the Motor-Cycle LP (1969) by Lotti Golden, then a New York City teenager, as forceful as Janis Ian and as lyrical as Laura Nyro. The seven-minute epic “The Space Queens (Silky Is Sad),” leading off side two, is sliced into four movements, just like “MacArthur Park”; for the second, Crewe fashions a Wall of Sound worthy of Phil Spector — and apparently without any overdubs, either.

And just to top it off: “What Now My Love,” the French standard “Et Maintenant” with English lyrics by Carl Sigman, previously charted by Sonny & Cher and by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, cast by Crewe as a psychedelic torch song (!) starring Mitch Ryder, so far over the top you can barely see it from the ground, which managed #30 in Billboard for Crewe’s DynoVoice label, then just starting a distribution deal with Dot.

(Extreme trivia: During the days when we had both mono and stereo records to pick from the racks, there were different catalog numbers for each variety, sometimes changing just a prefix, sometimes adding a digit — usually 7 — to the front, sometimes doing, well, whatever the hell it was CBS was doing in those days. DynoVoice of this era was the only label I ever heard of that added a 3, a bit of weirdness for which I am grateful to Bob Crewe.)

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Give ’til it hurts

Okay, maybe you’ve overdone it a little:

If nothing else, this proves that there is no substitute for hands-on experience.

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The future’s looking Tim

After the announcement of the fusion of Tim Hortons and Burger King last month, I expected some polite disapproval of the idea from north of the border. (Canadians are polite, right?) What I did not expect was this:

Tim Hortons is not a defining national institution. Rather, it is a chain of thousands of doughnut shops, several of which have working toilets.

Tim Hortons is not an indispensable part of the Canadian experience. Rather, it is a place that sells a breakfast sandwich that tastes like a dishcloth soaked in egg yolk and left out overnight on top of a radiator.

Tim Hortons is not an anti-Starbucks choice that makes you a more relatable politician or a more authentic Canadian. Rather, it is a great place to buy a muffin if you’ve always wondered what it would be like to eat blueberry air.

So if you were planning to boycott both BK and Tim’s for tax reasons, you may be assured that you’re not missing out on a whole lot.

(Via Kathy Shaidle.)

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The bogeyman from Fort Meade

The Z Man suggests that NSA’s espionage prowess might be the stuff of fantasy and nothing more:

The government buys all of its technology from the private sector. There are things done for the government by private contractors that are not for anyone else, but the government does not have special magic. Further, the government is not getting the best and brightest. There’s way too much money to be made in the private sector for the government to get the best and brightest. The Snowden affair shows you how sloppy this stuff is, even at the highest level.

More important, the volume of data involved is so large there’s simply no way to sort through it in a meaningful way. There are 150 billion e-mails sent every day. That’s 55 trillion e-mails a year. Searching that volume of records for useful data is simply impractical. Throw in the 100 trillion or so phone calls and probably the same number of texts and the volume of data is well beyond what could be useful. That’s why they don’t try, but they’re fine letting people think it. The Feds are relying on the CSI effect to convince the world they can read your mind.

What is this CSI effect?

The CSI effect … is any of several ways in which the exaggerated portrayal of forensic science on crime television shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation influences public perception. The term most often refers to the belief that jurors have come to demand more forensic evidence in criminal trials, thereby raising the effective standard of proof for prosecutors. While this belief is widely held among American legal professionals, some studies have suggested that crime shows are unlikely to cause such an effect, although frequent CSI viewers may place a lower value on circumstantial evidence. As technology improves and becomes more prevalent throughout society, people may also develop higher expectations for the capabilities of forensic technology.

Ever try to defuzz a fuzzy picture the way they do on TV? Not happening, folks. And even if it were, you wouldn’t get a 1000-pixel-wide pastel-colored box on screen that says “Completed.”

Then again, NSA could just be stockpiling all this crap in anticipation of the time when they can do something useful with it.

And, per the dreamiest security person on earth:

Obviously, the most immediate need is for more realistic TV procedurals.

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The adventures of Sophie

Once upon a time, there was a British band called “theaudience,” which was given to songs with fab titles like “A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed” and “If You Can’t Do It When You’re Young, When Can You Do It?”

Theaudience managed only the one album, back in 1998, before breaking up; lead singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor, then nineteen, went on to a solo career, and has now released five albums, the most recent being Wanderlust, from which we extract the current single, “The Deer and the Wolf.”

Definitely a departure from her dance-pop days. And this came out day before yesterday:

I sort of explained Pretty Polly last summer.

This is the cover art from Wanderlust:

Cover art from Wanderlust by Sophie Ellis-Bextor

Why the lapses into Cyrillic? Ellis-Bextor has said that the album is like “a soundtrack to an Eastern European film from the 1970s,” and indeed one track features a Bulgarian choir, recorded at the Bulgarian Embassy in London:

It’s not often I’ve stuffed a post into four different categories.

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Quote of the week

There has been much wailing and gnashing of lipstick-stained teeth over the continuing presence of those horrid little micro- (and sometimes macro-) aggressions known as gender roles; what’s more, a not-quite-insignificant percentage of one-half the species has sworn eternal enmity toward the entirety of the other half. James Lileks sums up (some of) the kerfuffle:

Modern-day sororal self-segregation is more of the same, and if they wish to form their own mutual-assistance societies of whatever form, go right ahead. No man will sue to join. To paraphrase Groucho, they wouldn’t want to join a club that wouldn’t want him for his member.

As for the male-free Internet thing, I can sympathize. Most of the vicious, idiotic, miserable, weevil-souled trolls are men, or rather largish boys who grew up on the internet and have not quite grasped the idea that there are true, actual human beings on the other side of the screen. Comments and tweets are just another form of electronic play; you shoot a hooker in the head in Grand Theft Auto, call a strange woman nasty names because she criticizes, say, the fact that you can shoot a hooker in the head in Grand Theft Auto. It’s just a game you **** and someone should do it to you. And so on.

It’s odd. You know most of these boy-men were brought up in solid homes with religious grounding, taught to respect women in the old chivalric sense of courtesy and respect, right? My heavens, what went wrong? You could say it’s confusion over how they’re supposed to behave: if you hold the door open for a woman, you’re a sexist, unless she likes you, in which case it’s romantic, although if you don’t hold the door open and it slams in her face you’re a jerk. But these roles were in flux when I was in my twenties, and we didn’t react by sending obscene postcards to strangers. It has to be something else. The internet, in general, has not created more idiots, fools, miscreants, pedants, and fiends; it has simply revealed their numberless hordes, and given them a limitless plain on which to play.

I’ve said this repeatedly at concentrations of douchery like, say, Yahoo! Answers: The asshats have always been with us. It’s just that they’ve made themselves marginally harder to ignore.

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