Keeps the creepers away

Or at a distance, anyway:

Subway creepers may have met their match in artist Kathleen McDermott’s new frock, a techno-laden dress that’s all about personal space. The DIY dress, designed to slowly expand when it detects someone getting too close, is actually part of a clothing series or, better yet, clothing devices, developed by artists and designers for Urban Armor, a project focused on what it calls, “… playful electronic wearables for women which investigate the ways women experience public space.”

These are truly DIY, if you’re handy with certain not-especially-specialized tools: the Personal Space dress requires some familiarity with the Arduino programmable circuit board, and the ability to wield a soldering iron.

This is not, incidentally, the first I’ve heard of an Arduino-operated dress; seven years ago I found out about a club dress with lights that synchronize to the music.

(Via Fark.)

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Money taken, run executed

There’s one problem you’re likely to encounter while immersing yourself in 1970s “classic rock,” and Robert Stacy McCain is quite familiar with it:

Nobody had more lame-crap hits than Steve Miller Band, and don’t get me wrong: I liked Steve Miller back in the day, and still enjoy listening to his hits, but from the standpoint of songcraft, the guy sucked. The closest he ever got to writing lyrics that made any sense at all was “Take the Money and Run,” but that song is a celebration of murder and robbery, so it kind of proves the point.

On the other hand, there’s a bit to the effect that the detective “makes his livin’ off of the people’s taxes,” useful information in case you’ve never seen an actual government employee.

Here’s the way I figure Steve Miller operated as a songwriter: He would come up with a nifty little guitar riff, and then a catch-phrase to be repeated in the chorus. Once he had the guitar riff and the chorus, he would be like, “Yeah, OK, gotta write some verses now.”

Which may explain why my favorite Steve Miller track is “Jet Airliner,” which he didn’t write. The Paul Pena original from 1973 is decidedly bluesier; unfortunately, it was never released until 2000, by which time Pena, who died in 2005, was living mostly off the royalties from the Steve Miller recording.

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Portion overcontrol

These aren’t here yet, but it’s just a matter of time before they show up:

Disposable pre-filled measuring spoons. Need a half-teaspoon of ground cardamom, or two tablespoons of organic cocoanut oil? Here they are, with no messy cleanup. Later we can market refill containers. And maybe a decorative rack in which to keep those refill containers.

Maybe I’ll divert one of my spice racks to this Higher Purpose.

The expensive stuff, like saffron, I suppose they can sell by the particle.

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Advice to the thug wannabe

After Marisa’s Rude Bumper Invasion on the city’s south side, she offers the following suggestion to those who would do likewise:

If you ever want to commit a crime in Oklahoma City, do so on Airport Road. As the officer told me, there are no cameras in the area, and what happens there apparently stays there. Or rots in the median. Or gets cat-called by creepers who see it sitting there on the side of the road while waiting for an officer after a hit-and-run.

Airport Road, you will have noted if you’ve ever driven on it, conveys a small number of travelers at relatively high speed. I suspect it to be ODOT’s model for the proposed Oklahoma City Boulevard, inasmuch as the only two criteria they use are “How fast is it?” and “How cheap can we build it?”

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Yeah, like that’s gonna happen

“Make women want you,” said the come-on, so to speak. This showed up as a bogus pingback; WordPress, as it does lately, disclosed that there really was a page with something like that as the title.

I decided to look at it. It’s on Blogspot, there’s only the one post, and it consists of several paragraphs of questionable how-to-get-the-girl advice, interrupted a couple of times by a big DOWNLOAD NOW! box. It is implied that there’s a PDF under that link. There isn’t. Instead, it’s a fairly stock-looking phishing lure.

This thing came to me from, but I suspect that copies of it are scattered all over Botsylvania.

Addendum: A few hours later, there came an email spam offering me a “Love Spell.” I suspect such a thing would take more magic than can be packaged in a mere executable.

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And the earth swallowed them whole

If nothing else, we learned tonight that the one starter the Thunder cannot do without is not Kevin Durant, not Russell Westbrook, but the wounded-in-action Serge Ibaka. Royce Young called it correctly: “[T]he Thunder have developed bad habits in their on-ball defense because of the safety blanket Ibaka provides.” Scott Brooks, long before the end, saw it coming; he pulled both Westbrook and Durant with 1:47 left in the third. At the time, it was 87-58 Spurs; the planet shuddered in response. (Maybe a 3.6 earthquake is more than just a shudder. This time, you make the call.) On the upside, something this horrendous to behold tends to end quickly, and losing 112-77 to the Spurs is pretty horrendous.

We also learned this: Jeremy Lamb apparently didn’t get enough minutes in recent weeks to develop those bad habits. In the fourth quarter, he hit six of eight shots, none of them from farther than two feet from the rim. With 13, Lamb was the leading scorer on either bench. To emphasize the point: take out those 20 three-point shots, 18 of which the Thunder missed, and they’re shooting 33-69, a reasonable 48 percent. (The Spurs hit exactly 50 percent.) Look at these lines. Durant was 6-16 for 15 points. Westbrook was 7-24 for 15 points. The rest of the starters contributed four points. If nothing else, this is an argument for playing Hasheem Thabeet: he makes few buckets, but few get past him either.

Tony Parker led San Antonio with 22; Danny Green chunked in 21 on seven treys; the Old Man of the Mountain, Tim Duncan, collected 14 points, 12 rebounds, and one technical foul. The Spurs had a 53-38 advantage on the boards, and missed only two free throws out of 23. (OKC missed five — out of ten.)

Game 3 isn’t until Sunday. At that time, we should see if the Thunder are completely, or only partially, demoralized. If I’m Scott Brooks, and you should probably be grateful I’m not, all previous rotation schemes are null and void.

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Before the Breathalyzer

When Professor Harold Hill hit River City, one of the plagues he predicted as a result of the presence of a pool table was tobacco, and the concealment thereof:

While they’re loafin’ around that hall
They’ll be tryin’ out Bevo, tryin’ out Cubebs
Tryin’ out Tailor Mades like cigarette fiends
And braggin’ all about how they’re gonna
Cover up a tell-tale breath with Sen-Sen

At the time, I understood about a third of this: I knew from Bevo — before it was a University of Texas symbol, it was a near-beer — and cubebs were a sort of spice that occasionally found their way into smokes, sort of like cloves only more so. “Tailor-Mades,” it turned out, described a bevy of bottom-of-the-line off-brands, purchased by those who could not afford the Good Stuff. But I never had a clue about Sen-Sen back then, and had pretty much forgotten about it until now:

As a kid, I judged that Sen-Sen was the worst candy ever made. A number of years later, I learned that Sen-Sen was primarily used to mask the smell of alcohol on a drinker’s breath.

The last packets of Sen-Sen, amazingly, were produced in the summer of 2013.

Suddenly I have an urge for a cup of cider.

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Gimme back my internal combustion

Our highly valued reader canadienne recently mentioned on these pages the joy of Tesla, as experienced by Model S owner Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal, prompting this complaint:

It’s an entertaining story even though I disagree with just about everything he says, mostly on account of the price tag, but also on the basis of it can’t be a real car because it doesn’t have a real engine and it doesn’t burn gasoline, but that’s just my 60 years of being in thrall to the American automobile industry. (I’m not sure ‘thrall’ is the right word, but work with me here, alright?)

See also Jagger, M., “He can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke the same cigarettes as me.”

And these people are getting away with murder, or at least with tax evasion:

Electric cars don’t use gasoline, therefore their owners don’t buy any gasoline, which means they aren’t paying any road use taxes! Unfair! Strike! Strike! Strike! If there were more than 2 or 3 of these things on the road this argument might carry some weight, but as it stands I find it hard to get worked up over it. After my initial outrage, anyway.

The real problem, however, is farther up the road:

The biggest problem with electric cars is that if they become successful they are going to make entire industries obsolete, which is going to throw more people out of work. Yes, new industries require new workers, but we see how well that has been working out. Not. If anything we need to go back to mechanical lifters so you would need to get your valves adjusted monthly, which would put a whole boat load of people to work, but then some wise guy would invent self-adjusting lifters and that would be the end of that. Oh, wait, that’s where we are now.

Of course, in the days when you had to take a shim to an offending lifter on a regular basis, we had a lot of people who actually knew how to do that. Today we trust our maintenance, such as it is, to a minimum-wage guy at the Spee-D-Loob, and we pester the clerks at AutoZone to come read our codes because we’d rather spend $500 for randomly selected parts we think hope will fix the problem than spend $120 for an hour’s worth of dealership diagnosis.

(My own automobile has twenty-four valves, and it takes about three and a half hours to check their clearance. I figure I’ll need this somewhere around the 200,000-mile mark.)

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Songs that mattered

The Big Question on the back page of The Atlantic: “What is the most influential song of all time?” Lots of interesting answers, and two picked Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”: Rhett Miller of the Old 97s, which doesn’t surprise me, and Carly Rae Jepsen (“Call Me Maybe”), which does. Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! comes out for Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on the basis of sheer ubiquity: even old pharts like me know it. Still, I have to follow the lead of “Weird Al” Yankovic, who justifies the Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” this way:

Not many people had the courage to equate the word with the bird back in those days, but now it’s a widely accepted fact.

Except, perhaps, by James Lileks.

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Close your eyes and pick a target

Congressional Republicans, miffed that their Democratic counterparts got to screw up an entire industry — health care — with the least possible GOP input, are now looking for an industry they can screw up themselves. The lucky recipients of this attention? The nation’s songwriters:

Last week, Senate Republicans introduced their version of the Songwriter Equity Act, with much ado, at Nashville’s famous Bluebird Cafe. Some well-known Nashville songwriters were there to promote the legislation. So were music-publishing and royalty-collection companies. Everyone used carefully poll-tested phrases like “level the playing field,” “road to fairness,” “fair market value,” and “unsung heroes.”

And what will this act actually do?

The proposal in Congress would do two things, primarily, both aimed at increasing the amount that accrues to songwriters (and thus music publishers and [performing rights organizations] like ASCAP and BMI). The first would be to expand the criteria the rate court judge could consider when determining the fair performance royalty rates, notably adding the performance rates paid to musicians and record labels (though SoundExchange).

The second thing would be to urge the three-judge Copyright Royalty Board to scrap the 9.1 cent mechanical royalty in favor of rates that “most clearly represent” the fair market value. The CRB currently is asked to determine rates based on what “would have been negotiated in the marketplace between a willing buyer and a willing seller.” The new language would add that the CRB should also take into account “marketplace, economic, and use information presented by the participants,” as well as the royalty rates paid out for “comparable uses and comparable circumstances under voluntary license agreements,” like film and television.

The CRB already has an essentially impossible task: that theoretical “willing seller” does not actually exist. Once a songwriter has permitted one use of her song, the compulsory license kicks in: anyone who pays the mechanical royalty, the 9.1 cents (up to five minutes), gets to use that song. Throwing in “marketplace information” will almost certainly mean a variable scale based on existing sales, meaning that the new kid starting out will get less, while the old pro collects more. (Why, yes, it does sound like the [cough] Affordable Care Act, except in one regard: it’s possible to read the whole thing.)

Still, there are some things that can’t be permitted to stand:

And yet Pandora is hardly rolling around in a roomful of gold. (Incidentally, that’s the wrong Twitter ID for Pandora.) Let’s hope these GOP guys and The Industry can come up with something that works — but if I’m writing songs, I’m not putting a down payment on anything until I see something tangible coming in.

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A marked absence of seamen

I really did not need to see this while polishing off a bowl of stew. (I do spectacular, if untidy, spit takes.)

Tourism ad for Key West: Not a dinghy in sight

(Page 57, The Advocate, June/July ’14. If “dinghy” goes right over your head, Professor Ruth Wallis will set you straight, so to speak.)

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Hello, Aunt Zelda

Beth Broderick is best known to some of us as Zelda Spellman, one of the aunts keeping watch over Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, which ran for seven years as part of ABC’s TGIF lineup. I stumbled across this picture, with the caption “Bad Dates,” and, well, it had to be here.

Beth Broderick in Bad Dates

Bad Dates is a hilarious play by Theresa Rebeck; I saw it locally at CityRep in ’06, starring Stacey Logan. It’s easy to imagine Broderick in this role. (And yes, there’s a reason she’s holding a shoe.)

More recently, Beth’s done an episode of Melissa & Joey, reuniting her with Sabrina herself, Melissa Joan Hart.

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The Scrutinizer sneaks in

As always this time of the (half)year, I run my finger over the print on the auto-insurance bill and compare notes with last time.

This time around, it’s gone up $26.10, distributed thusly:

  • Liability (injury): up $3.50.
  • Liability (property): up $7.80.
  • Uninsured motorists: up $0.20.
  • Comprehensive: up $11.20.
  • Collision: up $3.40.
  • Road service: no change.
  • Rental reimbursement: no change.

This is after the application of applicable discounts, which increased $5.60. I’m not complaining. You might well ask why I’m still carrying collision on a 14-year-old car; I figure, it’s a relatively small fraction of the total premium, and the actual value hasn’t quite bottomed out yet, one of the (marginal) advantages of buying a semi-luxo brand.

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Ayapa, when the walls finally fell

From a couple of springs ago:

The Ayapaneco language, one of several dozen tongues indigenous to Mexico, is down to only two speakers, and they aren’t speaking to one another.

Well, they are now:

A centuries old language that was close to extinction has been saved after the last two speakers decided to end a feud that has lasted decades.

Manuel Segovia, 78, and Isidro Velazquez, 72, stopped speaking to each other after a disagreement and it was feared that Ayapaneco could die out.

Ayapaneco is spoken at Ayapa, a village six miles east of Comalcalco, in Tabasco, Mexico.

I had mentioned that work was continuing on a dictionary of Ayapaneco; Vodafone has jumped in with a Web site and an adopt-a-word program.

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Kindred spirits, once removed

I was perusing the logs Sunday afternoon, what with Monday coming up and Monday meaning yet another list of strange search-engine queries to be posted, and I discovered an incoming link from

In the wake of 4chan, I tend to be somewhat cautious around anything -chan, but curiosity would not leave me alone, so I went to the source, and found this explanation:

Wizardchan is a Japanese-inspired image-based forum (imageboard) for male virgins to share their thoughts and discuss their interests and lifestyle as a virgin. The name of our website is inspired by the term wizard, a meme of Japanese origin that means 30-year-old virgin. In contrast to other imageboards, Wizardchan is dedicated exclusively to people who have no sexual experience and may be NEET or hikkikomori.

I am disinclined to mock these guys, having been within shrieking distance of “been there, done that”; my own period of activity, so to speak, was the middle third of my life, and nothing much happened on either side of it. And the discussion thread in question (which links to this page here) is a bit more thoughtful than I had anticipated. These are not generally vindictive souls, though you can hear the frustration from time to time; their rules seem eminently reasonable. (Compare to, say, this ill-tempered wretch.) Still, I wonder how I managed to miss this site, and “You can’t read everything,” while true, isn’t much of an explanation.

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Fark blurb of the week

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