The great and powerful Twix bar

It resists your effort to extract it from the machine, and by “your” I mean this guy’s:

[Robert] McKevitt was working the second shift at Polaris Industries’ warehouse in Milford, Iowa, when he decided to break for a snack last fall.

He says he deposited $1 in a vending machine, selected a 90-cent Twix bar, and then watched as the candy bar crept forward in its slot, began its descent and was abruptly snagged by a spiral hook that held it suspended in midair.

What to do? McKevitt, they say, went hardcore:

McKevitt walked away and commandeered an 8,000-pound forklift, according to state unemployment compensation records.

He reportedly drove up to the vending machine, lifted it 2 feet off the concrete warehouse floor — then let it drop. He allegedly repeated the maneuver at least six times, by which time three candy bars had fallen into the chute for his retrieval.

Which cost him more than 90 cents:

He was fired five days later.

In a ruling that became public last month, a state administrative law judge denied his claim for unemployment benefits, saying McKevitt had demonstrated a willful disregard for his employer’s interests.

Wonder if Mars Inc. has considered this scenario for a commercial.

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No picks

The Midland Reporter-Telegram, a Hearst-owned newspaper with about 15,000 daily circulation in West Texas, is officially out of the endorsement business:

The Reporter-Telegram Editorial Board will not be making endorsements for the March 4 primary elections. And that will be our policy moving forward.

This is, they say, a sign of the times:

The information out there in this day and age doesn’t necessarily require news organizations to do what we did five, 10, 20 or 50 years ago.

A reader shrugs:

I don’t care one way or the other. Whether it arises from a multi-person board or a single editor, a newspaper or magazine endorsement carries no more weight with me than that of any other reasonably informed individual. In fact, an explicit endorsement is much preferred from the more insidious implicit endorsements that often permeate a publication through biased reporting and slanted coverage of the candidates and campaigns. Figure out a way to end that and I’ll support your Nobel prize nomination.

Nobel Prize? In what? Alchemy?

It could be worse. During the Gaylord years, the Oklahoman was fond of sticking certain of its editorial endorsements on the front page, thinking this sort of thing mattered to the readership. (One of the advantages of their afternoon paper, the Oklahoma City Times, was that its front-page design didn’t lend itself to that sort of thing.)

David Letterman, once upon a time, shied away from embracing candidates: he said he didn’t want people thinking “Well, hell, Letterman likes the son of a bitch, let’s vote for him.” (If I remember correctly, this was in his 1984 Playboy interview.) This is an attitude I can endorse.

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Whatever under the bridge

Most everyone here, I assume, will agree that trolls suck. And now we have scientific evidence to support that premise:

[Y]our run-of-the-mill backseat pokers, hair pullers, and forbidden cat petters don’t generally grow up to spend large portions of their time harassing total strangers on the Internet in search of “lulz.” They don’t, in other words, turn into Internet trolls.

That’s because the true troll has a lot more of the sadist hidden deep inside than you do, gentle reader — at least according to a new study, “Trolls just want to have fun,” which appeared in the academic journal Personal and Individual Differences. The Canadian researchers behind the study conclude that “online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists… For those with sadistic personalities, [their] ideal self may be a villain of chaos and mayhem — the online Trickster we fear, envy, and love to hate: the cyber-troll.”

And unfortunately, the sheer ubiquity of the Internet has caused the miserable bastards to proliferate:

The Internet’s amazing ability to create communities even out of the strangest or most repulsive of niche interests has also been a boon to trolls, who in the past could only make themselves unpleasant in local ways — bringing family members to tears at Christmas dinner, for instance. Thanks to the ‘Net, though, not only do they have a broader (and more anonymous) outlet for their urges, but trolls “have greater opportunities to connect with similar others and to pursue their personal brand of ‘self expression’.”

Let us always remember not to feed them.

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Quote of the week

A short note to twentysomethings, by someone who long ago left that bracket:

We are not ready to be put out to pasture yet. We are not obsolete. We are still taking names and kicking ass. We’re writing the things you read, making the music you listen to, starring in the movies you watch, creating the apps you use, writing the code you never even think about but are dependent on.

We’re not too old to be or do anything. We’re not too old to be beautiful. We’re not too old to be relevant. What we are is old enough to tell you to simmer down, child. You may be 20 but with a little luck and good fortune you’ll make it 40 or 50 and be half as cool as we are. And then it will be your turn to tell some 20 year olds to stop telling you you’re too old.

Hey, we don’t even mind if you occasionally get on our lawn, for certain values of “occasionally” — and, I suppose, of “we.”

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Entries from nonentities

These were received three hours apart, two copies each, just in case I missed them. (I would not have.)

Wonderful Article, it is nice to find some worthwhile information amongst the dross, I am pleasently grateful to discover a blog that is not full of the ubiquitous garbage, bless you.

Well, okay, but then there’s this:

On so many levels, I am more amazed by the “generic commenter” than I am by the blatant spammer. You might ask why, at least the spammer is more open and honest about their intentions! We know what they are trying to accomplish. The so called generic commenter is a cheat and a charlatan You can probably see that I have very strong towards this group of spammers

Very strong indeed. Incidentally, the links provided (and duly tossed) led to some place that vends, or claims to vend, the sort of insoles bought by short men to create the illusion of greater height. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” said the guy with the 28-inch inseam.

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In the King James tradition

One of the advantage of being LeBron James, I imagine, is that he can do some very un-LeBron-like things — tonight, eight turnovers and 2-5 from the foul line, before exiting with a flesh wound to the face — and still look very much like LeBron. At the time, James had contributed 33 points to the cause, and Miami was up 16. Things would not get better for the Thunder in his absence, however; despite the return of Russell Westbrook in sort-of-limited minutes, and despite 28 points from Kevin Durant, the Heat prevailed and then some, 103-81.

And you could make a case that the other two members of the Heat’s Big Three came up bigger than LeBron, with Dwyane Wade close to a triple-double (24 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds) and Chris Bosh knocking down 24, including 11-12 on free throws. The Heat shot a more-than-creditable 54 percent for the night, and — get this — every Miami starter had at least two steals. (James had four.) Against this onslaught, the Thunder might have been lucky to shoot a miserable 37 percent.

What saved the Thunder in the first game of the series, in Miami, was the long ball: 16 treys made. Tonight, OKC put up 20 and made only two. Percentage-wise, the best shooter in home white was Perry Jones III, who went 3-5 including one of those treys. Westbrook showed signs of his old self, with 16 points on an uneconomical 4-12 line, plus a technical for arguing a call. One could argue, I suppose, that Kendrick Perkins played twice as much tonight as in that first clash, but the difference between eight minutes and four minutes is not all that pronounced.

Sunday noon, the Clippers, minus Byron Mullens (traded to Philadelphia for a draft pick) and Antawn Jamison (traded to Atlanta for two balls and a box of Kleenex), will be here to test the Thunder’s mettle. Let’s hope it’s not altogether rusty.

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Only the fuse is burned out

Mars, said Bernie Taupin, ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids; what’s more, it’s cold as hell. But if this bothers the Rocket Man, it positively repels official Islam:

A Fatwa has been issued against living on Mars by clerics who say that trying to set up home there would be un-Islamic.

The fatwa — or ruling — was issued by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment (GAIAE) in the UAE after the Mars One organisation announced that it would try and establish a permanent human settlement on Mars.

The committee argued that an attempt to dwell on the planet would be so hazardous as to be suicidal and killing oneself is not permitted by Islam.

Unless, presumably, one self-identifies as a heretic.

I suspect, though, that this declaration is a tad less portentous than advertised:

The GAIAE has issued around two million Fatwas through its Official Fatwa Centre since its inception in 2008.

This is a fatwa every 90 seconds. And you thought official Washington had its thumbs in too many places.

(Via Francis W. Porretto.)

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Grade inflation

The phrase “parking lot” should not delight the heart — we have enough of those to accommodate every car in the world, albeit seldom conveniently — but it should suggest certain attributes, and one of those ought to be “flatness”:

I want to talk about parking lots built with a fairly steep incline to get out of them. Why do people DO this? I hate sitting and waiting on the incline for it to be safe to pull out because I’m afraid that if someone pulls too close behind me, and I take my foot off the brake to pull forward, and I slip back *just a little* (because of the incline, and because I don’t like doing “jackrabbit starts”), I’ll hit the other person. Also, the inclines often make it harder to see clearly up and down the road you’re pulling out on to. The grade needs to be more gradual; people who make parking-lot exits with steep inclines should have their engineer’s licenses, or designer’s licenses, or whatever, taken away. I don’t care if people think it looks cool; I don’t care if it would cost more to make a more gradual grade. I’m less likely to want to park somewhere where it feels hazardous to leave.

When I see one of those, I sometimes wonder if it’s a lake bed that dried up, and then converted at the least possible expense.

And I wonder if the existence of such things played any role in the near-extinction of the stick shift.

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Improvements from up North

I occasionally have to look up Canadian postal codes, inasmuch as the powers that be won’t pony up for a proper Canadian database, and I have not always been thrilled with Canada Post’s user interface.

The new version, though, rocks, or at least rolls. Instead of filling out the appropriate boxes of the form, you just start typing the address, and, Google-like, it suggests and keeps suggesting until you get to the one you want. (I was two letters into “Powassan” when it finished.) The amount of time gained is not substantial, but it’s something, and I suspect that when I have to deal with rural routes and sites and whatnot the advantage will become more blatantly obvious.

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Permanent adolescence

There is just so much wrong with this scenario:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: If I made 80K a year lived at home with my parents, had zero bills could I afford a used Lamborghini Gallardo?

That first $25,000 engine rebuild ought to discourage him, but it won’t.

The temptation is to conclude that this guy believes with all his glands that he’s never going to get laid unless he has an exotic car. Of course, living in the parental units’ basement pretty much assures a state of perpetual virginity anyway, and besides he’s Canadian — says so elsewhere on the page — so I’m putting aside my speculation that he’s hard up for health insurance.

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Very expensive dust

With developers coming in like a wrecking ball — literally, perhaps — to dispose of Stage Center, Steve Lackmeyer has seen fit to list nine other downtown landmarks, scraped off the face of the earth because demolition was Part of the Plan.

One of the saddest such removals involved the old Biltmore Hotel. What did we lose?

The Oklahoma Biltmore was without a doubt one of the finest hotels in the post-oil boom days of Oklahoma City. There were 619 rooms, each offering free radio, circulating ice water, ceiling fans with up-and-down draft, and later, air conditioning. In 1936 the Biltmore was headquarters for 104 conventions, served 284,604 meals, and had 114,171 guests! H.P. “Johnnie” Johnson, manager, always said in the advertising, “On your next visit to the Oil Capital be sure to register at the Biltmore.”

On October 16, 1977 the Hotel Biltmore was demolished by a team of demolition specialists. Hundreds of low-yield explosives were planted throughout the building so that it would collapse and fall inward into an acceptable area only slightly larger than the hotel’s foundation. The purpose was both to break the materials into smaller pieces that would be easily transported away, and to contain the blast and debris within the area, in order to minimize damage to surrounding structures. The razing was recorded by hundreds of camera buffs.

[Edwards, Jim, and Hal Ottaway. The Vanished Splendor II: Postcard Views of Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City: Abalache Book Shop Publishing Co., 1983]

And now, of course, we have to pony up zillions for a hotel more or less adjacent to the New Improved Convention Center. Your guess is as good as mine as to which of these elephants is whiter.

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I think it is wonderful for two reasons:

  • It’s capable of a sound-pressure level almost entirely unheard of;
  • There’s no way it can be installed in an ’89 Grand Marquis de Sade with dubs.

“It” is the European Space Agency’s Large European Acoustic Facility, and it can start things shaking you never imagined could move:

LEAF is an integral part of ESA’s ESTEC Test Centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, a collection of spaceflight simulation facilities under a single roof. One wall of the chamber — which stands 11 m wide by 9 m deep and 16.4 m high — is embedded with a set of enormous sound horns. Nitrogen shot through the horns can produce a range of noise up to more than 154 decibels, like standing close to multiple jets taking off.

The threshold of Actual Pain is generally quoted as 130 dB; if Nigel Tufnel’s amp went to eleven, LEAF does an easy fourteen.

(The Friar heard saw this first.)

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This could take a while

And not just loading; even picking it up will be tedious and painful.

Windows 8.1 on 3711 floppy disks

I remember when you used to be able to fit Windows on six floppies.

(A K. Latham pin from

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What’s in your shredder?

After you read this, probably your Capital One credit card:

Credit card issuer Capital One isn’t shy about getting into customers’ faces. The company recently sent a contract update to cardholders that makes clear it can drop by any time it pleases.

The update specifies that “we may contact you in any manner we choose” and that such contacts can include calls, emails, texts, faxes or a “personal visit.”

It gets worse:

The company’s contract update also includes this little road apple:

“We may modify or suppress caller ID and similar services and identify ourselves on these services in any manner we choose.”

Now that’s just freaky. Cap One is saying it can trick you into picking up the phone by using what looks like a local number or masquerading as something it’s not, such as Save the Puppies or a similarly friendly-seeming bogus organization.

“Why, yes, we are fundamentally dishonest. What are you going to do about it?”

Not a thing, except of course never to do even a dollar’s worth of business with you ever again, and I don’t care if you offer me zero percent APR in perpetuity and Zooey Deschanel’s cell number besides.

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Spammer defends spam

Neo-neocon gets a helpful spambot, sort of:

STOP! Don’t delete this post. Google is actually rewarding you for the traffic you are may not realize this fact but comment and URL posted on your site will help us both improve our Search engine performance. Some people call it spam but Google is looking at all that traffic coming to your site and is actually rewarding you by upping your search engine position. Google is thinking you must be important. Take a look at your stats and you will see what I’m talking about.

Hey, Mister Bot, I’ve already upped my search-engine position. Now up yours.

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Try it and see

Or if you’d rather not, well, the answer is No:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Can you drive without a fuel line?

In case you were wondering:

I don’t know much about cars. It is a 91 Honda Accord. The fuel line is bad. Can I drive the car without it or can I just drive with it until I can get a new one?

There’s always the chance that we’re being trolled, but this sounds too cosmically dumb.

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