An ill wind

I woke up about a quarter past one this morning to the sound of the worst oboe player on the planet: feeble blats and bleats and bloops that for some reason sounded like they were coming from the depths of my pillow. I roused myself and slammed the pillow against the wall, on the dubious basis that if something had crawled into the pillowcase and was advising me of its presence, well, it damned sure wasn’t going to escape.

Nothing there, so I reset the pillow arrangement and returned to a sleeping position. The sub-P.D.Q. Bach noises resumed. It took me about ten minutes to figure out that some combination of glottal position, snot distribution, and airway orientation was causing me to emit these ghastly sounds, which were of course duly amplified by ears in close proximity thereto. It took me another ten minutes to find a position in which I couldn’t hear them, and then I didn’t stir again until nearly 6 am.

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While your telephone goes unsanitized

“We gotta Do Something!” is the cry of 99 and 44/100ths percent of contemporary — I almost spelled that “contemptorary,” which is probably just as accurate — politicians, and of course, there’s a reason for that:

Where prior successful societies might have sent these people off to be officers in faraway wars, or to go convert savages to the faith, or to captain ships on long explorations, or to slay heathens in the Holy Land, or to the Moon, or something else meaningful and heroic, now we concentrate them into oak-paneled city councils and Roman-columned state houses with literally nothing heroic for them to do all day when they get there. Nothing, other than to try to enrich themselves as much as possible so they will feel good in comparison to the other would-be heroes around them who also have nothing heroic to do. So what do we expect? Of course some of them will run all over the place in search of plastic bags to slay, Mr. Pibb cups to shrink, lemonade stands to angrily overturn in the name of the one true Gov’t.

Then again, those were successful societies, the sort that are no longer allowed. Not only can you not slay heathens, but you must exalt them as a matter of diversity; and you dare not go on long explorations, because someone might get hurt. And so the worst and the wussiest, having long since ousted the best and the brightest (who had better things to do anyway), continue to accumulate in government offices from Seattle to Savannah.

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A polder way to travel

Tim Newman has ridden the train through the Netherlands, and he approves:

The Dutch railway system is run more along the lines of a metro than a national rail network. You don’t really need to see what time trains arrive, you just turn up and get on the next one. And almost every other train goes to or through Amsterdam. Of course, the Dutch have a lot of things in their favour to assist with this: a very small country, only a handful of cities, one national train company, no pesky tunnels restricting train heights, nice straight lines across nice flat land, etc. But even so, the Dutch made sure they didn’t fuck it all up as most countries would have done. For sure, the Brits would have conspired to ensure getting from Amsterdam to Eindhoven would have taken three trains, the first being undersized, the second leaving from somewhere near The Hague and costing a fortune unless you booked two months in advance, and the third running via Antwerp and taking as long as the flight into Holland.

Amtrak riders (both of them) are even now writing their Congressmen.

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Drawing attention

Back into the Vintage Hosiery drawer, where we find this circa-1952 illustration by the late René Gruau:

Illustration by Gruau for bas Scandale

Gruau, who died in 2004 at 95, was one of the last, if not the last, of the old-school fashion illustrators: the major magazines had long since gone to photographs rather than drawings — as though fashion had something to do with realism, fercryingoutloud. Here’s a Gruau illustration for Christian Dior, who hired him in 1947:

Illustration by Gruau for Christian Dior

Then again, I always was a sucker for dancers.

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As if I didn’t have enough to do

I registered yet another domain last night, my sixth. (Three, this one included, are sort of active, one is barely active, one is parked, and one is sublet to someone else.) Obviously I need to shift to the 26-hour Bajoran day, or something.

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I would totally watch this

To borrow a phrase, it makes those dueling Snow White films look like fairy tales:

CollegeHumor’s Favorite Funny Videos

Now if we could just get a lead on Carmen Sandiego.

(Seen at Marko’s.)

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Working within the Wals

I am not inordinately fond of Walmart, not for any of the usual reasons, but because of their comparatively liberal return policy, which has led people you might have thought were sane to get the urge to take their only-just-purchased motor vehicle back to the dealer the next weekend and get their by-gosh money back for reasons ranging from “the transmission fell out” to “it’s too hard to drive a stick.” Doesn’t work that way, kiddies. And you can find at least one of these deluded souls almost every damn day on Yahoo! Answers’ Cars section.

A slightly more sophisticated objection: Walmart moves stores around a lot, at least in metropolitan areas, and when they do, they leave behind these humongous boxes of concrete that no one wants and hardly anyone bothers to offer to subdivide.

So this report is heartening indeed:

The International Interior Design Association recently selected the McAllen [Texas] Public Library as the winner of their 2012 Library Interior Design Competition. The city inherited the former Walmart after the retailer closed the store and abandoned it. The decision was made to reuse the structure and create a new main library within. Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. of Minneapolis were selected to handle the interior design which the city required to be functional, flexible and affordable to construct. For a library, the existing 124,500 square foot space is huge. That’s the size of about 2½ football fields making the new library the largest single-story location in the US.

I note here, strictly for comparison, that the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library in Oklahoma City covers about 114,000 square feet — over four stories.

Did McAllenites go for the new library? “Within the first month following the opening, new user registration increased by 23%.”

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Some whiz kid thought this up

Why, it’s his number-one idea:

Michigan is hoping to keep drunks off the road with the help from a special bathroom message.

The state says talking urinal-deodorizer cakes have been distributed to Michigan Licensed Beverage Association members in Wayne, Bay, Ottawa and Delta counties. A recorded message will play reminding men who step up to the urinals to call a cab or a friend, if needed, to get home safely.

I tell you what, if I’ve gone to see a man about a horse and a voice comes to me from somewhere in the vicinity of the drain, I am running, Jack, out of that facility just as fast as I can. (And I’ll probably be hit by a car once I reach the parking lot.)

(Via the Consumerist.)

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This is called “research”

And this is how you do it:

I took a bracing, I-am-totally-confident-and-I-do-this-all-the-time-and-it-is-no-big-deal-and-I-am-not-acting-like-a-weirdo breath. “Yes, I have a question. I’m a writer and I need to speak to the owner of that cute little VW convertible out in the parking lot.”

One of the women stopped, scissors open above a clump of hair held up by a comb. She glanced down at my camera, then up at me. “That’s my car.”

I trotted over to her. “I’m a writer and I’ve just written a scene which takes place in your car, well, not your car, but a car just like yours, and I realized I wasn’t sure about the interior of the car. Would you mind if I get a few pictures of it?”

I’d have chickened out and bought a Volkswagen sales brochure on eBay. Then again, I’m not a writer.

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More GanderSauce™

It sounded so clever at the beginning:

As detailed by the Kansas City Star this week, 30-year-old Matthew Creed has developed and launched a site called BlabberMouth in order to bring public attention to local arrests. However, he’s also attempting to financially profit by collecting a sizable fee from an arrested person to remove information like name, home address, date of birth, mug shot and the reason that the person was arrested. On the home page of the site, Creed has included an embedded Google Map that allows site visitors to search for arrested people living in their neighborhood. According to the site owner, the purpose of the site is to deter crime by notifying the public of criminal actions. However, all this information is already public record.

The pricing scale:

According to the pricing information on the BlabberMouth site, an arrestee would have to pay $200 for a complete removal of their profile within twelve hours. A less expensive $150 option accomplishes the same thing, but can take up to four days. The Gold option costs $100 and only removes the home address along with the charges from the profile page. However, people searching the site can still find the arrestee on the Google Map. The Silver option costs $50 and only allows the removal of one item from the profile page.

There is, of course, a punchline:

Creed’s own home address was published within a thread on the popular KSLR forums after his home address was found within a lawsuit filed last year that was also public record. Creed requested that the entire forum thread be deleted, but Erik Radzins, the owner of KSLR, rejected that request. Radzins stated “I feel it’s everybody’s right to know his information if he’s going to publish this information for thousands of other people. It’s just the highest amount of hypocrisy.”

What, he didn’t offer to write them a check? Sheesh.

Now turned up to 11 on the Pariah Scale, Creed has announced a revamping of his site and his M.O.:

The site will be taken down TEMPORARILY on July 4, 2012 at 12:00 Noon, CDT to restructure our company, and we will reopen in approximately 3-4 weeks. We will be in transition to a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization during this time.

As of June 27, 2012, any money contributions received outside of our removal fee will go to victims of families of violent crimes and drunk driving, in addition to grow the NPO responsibility through a financial stewardship model designed by a church leader that I have come to know and respect. There was an initial start-up cost of $3,109.43 for BlabberMouth, LLC. After this initial investment is recovered, our money disbursement will be divided as follows: We will give away 40% to charity, invest 20%, and the remaining will go to pay the employees involved with BlabberMouth, including the owner.

When the site reopens, we will focus exclusively on: DUI arrests & convictions, driving while suspended, sexual charges, drug related charges, and non-payment of child support. We welcome any other suggestions for charges that should be included. All previous features on our site will still be available.

“Oh, well, if it’s a non-profit, that means it’s okay.” You’d be surprised how many people believe that sort of codswallop. (Or, if you’re a regular reader here, perhaps you wouldn’t.)

Update, 5:45 pm: According to Caller ID, BlabberMouthLLC just called here, from a Johnson County, Kansas exchange. Give the man credit for not spoofing Caller ID. He didn’t, however, leave a message. See also this OKCTalk thread.

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This week’s dating tip

There’s nothing quite so useful as a corroborating source:

A few weeks ago, Jonathon Allen, a biochemistry major at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was listening to the Nature podcast when he heard about a team of researchers in Japan who had found an odd spike in carbon-14 levels in tree rings. The spike probably came from a burst of high-energy radiation striking the upper atmosphere, increasing the rate at which carbon-14 is formed (see ‘Mysterious radiation burst recorded in tree rings‘).

But there was a problem: the only known causes of such radiation are supernova explosions or gigantic solar flares, and the researchers knew of no such events in AD 774 or 775, the dates indicated by the tree rings.

Which gave Allen an idea. He pored over the pertinent entries in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and in 774 found this:

Allen found a reference to a “red crucifix” that appeared in the heavens “after sunset”.

“It made me think it’s some sort of stellar event,” Allen says. Furthermore, he notes, the redness might indicate that the source was hidden behind a dust cloud dense enough to scatter all but a small amount of red light. Such a cloud might also prevent any remnants of the proposed supernova being seen by modern astronomers.

While Allen apparently wasn’t the first to spot this reference, give him credit for knowing what to do with the information once he got it.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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In ten seconds, flat

I suspect this beer stein is not Hasbro-approved merch:

Rainbow Dash beer stein from Bronycon

Will Greenwald from Aggrogate has more pix from the winding down of BronyCon, held this past weekend in the Ghastly Gorge Meadowlands.

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Strange search-engine queries (335)

Another Monday morning, another trip through the logs in search of cheap laffs. We’ve been doing this for more than five years now; the Chief Justice said we could.

why is “ever” overused?:  Because it adds emphasis to your hyperbole if you can assert that it’s the worst thing that ever happened.

man knocked on door in mcalester ok trying to sell magazines and said something inappropriate:  OMG, it’s the worst thing that ever happened!

June 11 2006 braum’s truck wreck gainesville tex:  And there was frozen yogurt, steaming in the sun; you don’t want to know what happens to yogurt when it gets warm.

marie antoinette transvestite:  “Let them wear corsets!”

black male model with huge penis in locker room:  Bet he wasn’t wearing a corset, either.

where is simolea:  On Lake Ontario. It’s expensive, so bring plenty of simoleons.

where to buy a large sheet of cardboar:  I’m guessing he means “cardboard,” which is easy to find, and not a 2D reproduction of a wild pig, which is perhaps less so.

radio smut:  Use your imagination for once.

how reliable is cd4e transmission after repair:  A hell of a lot more reliable than it was the week before it was repaired.

how to denote a blog title:  If it isn’t obvious, perhaps you should avoid the whole concept of blogging.

nylon stockings on sarah palin legs more:  More than what?

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Not an insubstantial threat

The LPGA had an event in Rogers, Arkansas this weekend — specifically, the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G — and apparently this sign was spotted at the Pinnacle Country Club, where the competition is taking place:

Any persons (except players) caught collecting golf balls on this course will be prosecuted and have their balls removed.

(Twitpic via @mdrache.)

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Meanwhile in Hong Kong

Fifteen years ago today, Hong Kong ceased to be a British territory, the 99-year lease having expired, and was handed over to the People’s Republic of China, which tagged it as a Special Administrative Region. Under the agreement between Beijing and London:

Not just the current social and economic system in Hong Kong will remain unchanged, also the life-style and rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of demonstration of choice of occupation, of academic research and of religious belief, inviolability of the home, the freedom to marry, the right to raise a family freely. Those will be ensured by law as well as the private property, ownership of enterprises, legitimate right of inheritance and foreign investment.

Geez. Where can we get some of that?

The agreement expires in 2047, and what happens after that is anyone’s guess, though it might look like the tumult in the streets of Hong Kong today. Juliana Liu reports for the BBC:

Elaine Mok, a demonstrator who took part with her extended family, told me she marches nearly every year in order to fight for justice and the rule of law, and to oppose mainland interference in Hong Kong affairs. They were there, she said, to remind their Chinese overlords that Hong Kong people want the right to vote, as promised when this city returned to mainland rule.

Most of the protesters were professionals like Ms Mok. Some families brought their young children. A broad cross-section of Hong Kong society gathered to agitate against one-party rule in China and to demand the right to universal suffrage, which people here increasingly believe is their natural birthright.

Hong Kong currently goes through a charade of selecting its Chief Executive by polling 1200 local businessmen and institutional officials. (By absolutely no coincidence, the new Chief Executive, CY Leung, took office today.) But it seems to me that the people of Hong Kong are taking the longer view by opposing the current one-party structure on the mainland: a different regime in Beijing might be more amenable to extending the freedoms enjoyed in Hong Kong beyond the 50-year term of the handover agreement — or, perhaps less likely, to extend them beyond Hong Kong to the rest of China. Certainly something is going to happen in China soon, as the population levels off and the economy continues to weaken.

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Up to 50 percent of customers are dumb

A recent FTC study says so, in fact:

The Federal Trade Commission recently commissioned a study that looked out how consumers perceive and comprehend the “up to” conditional in advertisements.

The researchers used different versions of an ad for windows — one that stated that the windows were “proven to save up to 47% on heating and cooling bills,” and one that simply stated, “proven to save 47%.”

Of those who looked at the “up to” version, 45.6% mistakenly said the ad promised to save 47%. Meanwhile, only 58.3% of consumers who saw the unconditional version said the ad promised to deliver 47% savings. According to the FTC, the small difference between the two results indicates that the use of “up to” did little-to-nothing to change consumers’ perception that the ad was promising the maximum level of performance.

“Good afternoon, [name and hair color redacted]. We’ve come to take back those windows we installed.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because we still haven’t received your check, and it’s been thirteen months now.”

“But you told me these windows would pay for themselves in a year or less!”

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