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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In dire need of feck

And possibly also some gorm:

[T]he level of fecklessness (or perhaps gormlessness, or perhaps both) that I have encountered in certain people recently leaves me shaking my head. How do people who behave like that manage to function, to hold down a job, not eat those little silica packets that say DO NOT EAT on them? Is it just that enough people just do “cleanup on aisle five” and fix things for them? (And I admit, I do that more than I probably should. But sometimes I prefer to put myself out and have things around me generally running smoothly than have someone else’s inability to manage their own life derail everything around them — as much as they probably need to experience the consequences of such.)

This is largely because there are no longer any penalties for stupidity: the species has “advanced” (yeah, right) to the extent that it can afford to indulge its least-productive members. The gormless of today are the Eloi of tomorrow.

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This schist is gneiss

Or some sort of rock, because it definitely doesn’t seem to be moo juice:

Might go well with a Cheese Sandwich, though.

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I never would have guessed

Now here’s a tactic I hadn’t seen: a spam that tells you it’s the last spam for a while. Really:

Dear Loyal Customer,

On behalf of Superfresh, we thank you for your loyalty. We have decided to take a brief break from sending email communications to you in order to improve your email experience.

There is, of course, a warning at the bottom:

We will be back soon … and better than ever.

So this is less of a kindness and more of a “We’re spending some money on a bigger SMTP server” kind of deal.

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20R Us

Murilee Martin turns up a 1978 Toyota Celica GT in a Denver junkyard, which promptly called up memories of my ’75 GT, which I was still driving in the early ’90s.

It’s all about the engine:

The very sturdy 2.2-liter 20R engine made good torque, as befitted an engine well-suited for hauling Hilux-driving, Soviet-fighting mujahideen over mountain passes. You couldn’t spin the R much, as many LeMons racers have discovered, but it would outlast the rest of a Celica.

Indeed. The tinworm would burrow into this buggy at several points and would never, ever go away.

Still, the 20R was hard to kill, though it expected you to fiddle with the valve clearance every 60,000 miles. In return, it delivered 96 hp at 4800 rpm — redline was a lowish 5500 — and 120 lb-ft of torque at 2800, on the crummiest gas you could find on the wrong side of town. And one night when a throttle spring broke, I discovered that it would run for extended periods at 5200 rpm, though this far beyond the power peak it produced more noise than power. When I gave it up in 1995, it needed new rings, but was otherwise in pretty decent shape for 195,000 miles.

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Have a nice drip

Maryland, you may remember, is taxing rainwater. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City wants to encourage you to collect it rather than tax you for letting it fall. From this month’s City News (with the utility bill):

Oklahoma City and the Central Oklahoma Storm Water Alliance (COSWA) are partnering to encourage residents to conserve water and reduce pollution through the use of rain barrels. The organizations are offering discounted rain barrels online at starting at $59 plus $2.50 online handling fee. Click on “order forms” on right side of web page and choose “Oklahoma City.” The deadline to order is March 28.

Moore and Norman are also playing. Now what’s the catch?

City Council recently passed an ordinance that allows a maximum of two 85-gallon rain barrels in the front yard. Any number of rain barrels can be placed on the side or back of a property as long as they are not visible from the street. The containers must be securely covered and any openings must be covered with a screen that prevents pest infestation.

Take that, mosquitoes!

Fortunately for me, I get more rain in the back yard than in the front.

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Supergirl gets a lift

Over the weekend I mentioned that Laura Vandervoort had been featured in the new Maxim, but did not include any pictures. After several hours of guilt and remorse, I decided to atone for this failing with one of Superb Wallpapers’ offerings, in which the actress occasionally known as Kara Zor-El stretches out in the back of an Audi A8L:

Laura Vandervoort takes a ride

Or, I suppose, this could be Lisa in the 2009 reboot of V — or her alleged twin sister.

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Bureaucrats in love

I mean, it sure as hell doesn’t sound like a proper space opera:

In William Forstchen’s new science fiction novel, Pillar to the Sky, there are no evil cyborgs, alien invasions or time travel calamities. The threat to humanity is far more pedestrian: tightfisted bureaucrats who have slashed NASA’s budget.

The novel is the first in a new series of “NASA-Inspired Works of Fiction,” which grew out of a collaboration between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and science fiction publisher Tor. The partnership pairs up novelists with NASA scientists and engineers, who help writers develop scientifically plausible story lines and spot-check manuscripts for technical errors.

I expect this series to contain lots of weather-related stories, because NASA’s been pumping out climate fiction for years now.

This is, of course, the new NASA. The old one — well, remember the old one?

Anyone remember when NASA put people in space or on other worlds? I am too young to actually remember.

They’ve objected to actual space travel ever since some wise-guy astronomer pointed out the existence of binary star systems.

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