Toss up some more word salad

This item came into the spam trap yesterday, and it came this close to making some sort of sense:

One of the nice things about Trash the Dress photography shoots is that most shoots are done outdoors, allowing the natural light to become another element in the photo shoot. Scientists believe that if nothing is done to stop global warming, by the year 2100 the earth’s temperature will increase by 3.

Tax Assistance by your leading governance in addition to the company-pilot provinces but cities bankruptcy responsibility. A bright scarf or jacket in a color that looks good on you can be worn with a white dress. That means having at least a jean jacket and a cotton one available. Full sleeves, narrow sleeves, sleeveless styles have come and gone and come again. In the study, the researchers had a number of women from two groups, the frequent high heel wearer and the women that typically steered clear of the dangerous footwear.

Later, more stuff of this sort came in, linking to the same 404ed Web site. If nothing else, this indicates that you can teach a bot only so much.


Bigger than big game

One thing I hadn’t noticed about the great outcry over the dentist who killed that lion in Zimbabwe: pretty much all of the outcryers were your white middle-class types. And perhaps there’s a reason for that:

What was done to Cecil was barbaric. I have not seen people show anywhere near the interest in the conditions suffered by millions of Zimbabwean people that they have in one Zimbabwean lion, though. My heart finds it difficult to process this.

Out of sight, out of mind? No. Worse than that:

There is a reason why the aforementioned view seems to exist so much more predominantly in Caucasian people — a deep-seated and resonant reason. And it is one that you simply cannot understand if you walk through this world with fair skin, because it has never applied to you.

Black people, from the moment they were first encountered in Africa until this very day in 2015, have been compared to animals.

This is not something that has happened occasionally. It is not a rarity. It is something that has happened for hundreds of years. Every attempt by black people to stand up for their rights, to raise their voices, to show basic human frustration at a system that was designed to ensure their subjugation, to simply live their lives — has been met with “They’re a bunch of animals!” This justification was used to whip slaves in 1815, and it is used to shoot blacks in 2015.

And furthermore, most of those bleeding-heart middle-class whites are women:

In our society there is no life considered more precious than that of a white woman or girl. That isn’t my opinion. That is fact. Black men were lynched for even looking at one for too long. If you want to know who is valued most, look at 99% of the persons who become the 24-hour news cycle when they go missing or fall victim to violent crime. A white female disappears and it becomes a natural story. Meanwhile, black and brown women and girls vanish year after year while devastated loved ones sit and watch their disappearances garner nary a fraction of the media attention.

Black girls are not peaches-and-cream. They’re not considered the everydaughter. They’re not the girl-next-door.

On my block, at least, they’re the girl across the street.

But I can see some of this. And in some of the bewailings over Cecil’s death, I picked up a vibe resonating with noblesse oblige: it is our duty, as the favored ones, to take a stand on behalf of the less favored. Rather a lot of American political activity operates on that same frequency — and several of its odd harmonics.

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Nothing of glass, probably

Our New Jersey friend Cripes Suzette spotted this while visiting Orange County, California:

Cinderella of Boston

Of course, I had to follow up:

For over 70 years we have been the leader in women’s petite fashion footwear. Sizes range from 2 to 5½ Medium or Wide and are specially crafted for a woman’s foot. Regardless of your age or lifestyle, you will find styles to fit your fashion needs. Casual to sophisticated, low heel to high heel, Cinderella of Boston has a shoe to satisfy all your petite footwear needs.

Many years ago, I had a girlfriend who wore a 4, maybe 4½. I think she’d have liked some of these. (I saw her in flats maybe twice.)

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Droning on and on

We were talking drones at lunchtime, and I vouchsafed some conventional wisdom about Amazon delivering stuff via drone. “Not a good idea,” came the reply. “Some people will see them and shoot them down.”

And not only people object to the little flying doomaflatchies:

Said the drone operator:

Do not fly drones near birds of prey, they clearly attack seeing you as a threat or the right sized dinner. This will cost you money and potentially harm to the bird. This one was fine … the drone needed some attention before it could fly again.

More successful photos by the operator here.)

(The Friar caught this before I did.)


Nowhere plans for nobody

The folks at mental_floss suggested this as Watercooler Ammo, and, well, I have the day off so I’m pasting it here:

Next time you feel wracked by stage fright, don’t imagine the audience in underwear–pretend you’re invisible. Researchers from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm recently used virtual reality goggles to trick people into experiencing invisibility. (Participants were asked to look down at their torsos. Thanks to the goggles, it looked as if their bodies had disappeared.) When the researchers brushed the people’s bellies with a paintbrush, the participants saw it brushing thin air. The experience made them feel invisible. When they placed the “invisible” people in front of an audience of strangers, participants reported significantly less social anxiety. No word on whether the goggles will be available for your next job interview.

This seemed crazed enough to check out, and, well, it was apparently a side effect:

In an article in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers describe a perceptual illusion of having an invisible body. The experiment involves the participant standing up and wearing a set of head-mounted displays. The participant is then asked to look down at her body, but instead of her real body she sees empty space. To evoke the feeling of having an invisible body, the scientist touches the participant’s body in various locations with a large paintbrush while, with another paintbrush held in the other hand, exactly imitating the movements in mid-air in full view of the participant.

“Within less than a minute, the majority of the participants started to transfer the sensation of touch to the portion of empty space where they saw the paintbrush move and experienced an invisible body in that position,” says Arvid Guterstam, lead author of the present study. “We showed in a previous study that the same illusion can be created for a single hand. The present study demonstrates that the ‘invisible hand illusion’ can, surprisingly, be extended to an entire invisible body.”

We’re getting awfully close to that Star Trek holodeck.

In another part of the study, the researchers examined whether the feeling of invisibility affects social anxiety by placing the participants in front of an audience of strangers.

“We found that their heart rate and self-reported stress level during the ‘performance’ was lower when they immediately prior had experienced the invisible body illusion compared to when they experienced having a physical body,” says Arvid Guterstam. “These results are interesting because they show that the perceived physical quality of the body can change the way our brain processes social cues.”

If you’d like a look at the report, go here.


The greatest rivalry of them all

Okay, maybe not the greatest. It was certainly, however, one of the longest:

Sixty-three years ago, [Harlem] Globetrotters founder Abe Saperstein asked Red Klotz to create an opponent for the Globetrotters. While the guys in the red, white and blue did their tricks and made crowds of all generations laugh and applaud, the Generals just did their thing — try to win.

It didn’t always work. OK, it never worked — except for a night in 1971, in Tennessee, when Klotz himself hit a shot at the end to beat the clowns of basketball.

The Washington Generals, with a lifetime record of 6 and God Only Knows, are still a team; but they’re no longer playing the Globetrotters, who announced earlier this week that they were seeking new opponents.

Still, the Generals will be remembered, perhaps not so much for beating the Globetrotters (in overtime!) in 1971, but as the perfect sports metaphor for half the world: the half that didn’t win, or that thinks it didn’t win.

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Forever 21st

Actually, Australian model Madeline Stuart is only 18, but 21 is the number that rules her life: she has three, rather than two, copies of the 21st chromosome. This is Down syndrome, and as a general rule, women with Down syndrome don’t walk the fashion runways.

Until now:

The fashion industry is often criticized for lacking diversity on runways and in fashion campaigns. But, after years of fighting for equal representation of every type of woman, new headway is being made. This year, Madeline Stuart, the Australian modeling sensation with Down Syndrome, will walk the runway during New York Fashion Week.

Serving as an inspiration to many around the globe, the 18-year-old is on a mission to change the way people think about those with disabilities. According to her website, Stuart sees Down Syndrome as “a blessing” and “something to be celebrated.”

“People will stare,” Harry Winston once said. “Make it worth their while.” Stuart has set this as one of two quotations on the front page of that site.

Madeline Stuart in florals

Madeline Stuart in florals

And you know, just seeing a runway model not scowling is something of a delight.

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This is their jam

Who will rid us of these bothersome spammers? Lynn proposes a technological solution:

Someone once said that spammers should be crucified alongside the Interstates. Honestly, I don’t want to live in a society that crucifies people but a little part of me thinks that this would not be too harsh a punishment for spammers. And you can put trolls right there with them. Anyone whose behavior makes it necessary to restrict free and open communication. You know what we really need is some kind of device that these people could be sentenced to wear — like a type of ankle bracelet — that would automatically shut down any electronic device when they came within, say, three feet of it. If this sounds like too humane a punishment just imagine for a minute never being able to use a computer or smartphone again. Hey, all of you clever inventor folk, get on that will you?

“Someone,” in case you’d forgotten, was Eric Scheie of Classical Values, circa 2003.

And I hate like hell to say so, but there are nimrods out there who would willingly saw off a limb or two in order to perpetuate their perversity.

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As though the moment had passed

Possibly the best article ever written about Rebecca Black — I figure my prodigious body of work is tied for third — showed up in, of all places, BuzzFeed. BF’s Reggie Ugwu gets the overview in order, makes a couple of unexpected disclosures, and comes up with paragraphs like this:

Maybe more than any other 18-year-old alive, Black is all of our anxieties about oversharing online made flesh: the fact that more than 350 million photos are shared to Facebook each day and 300-plus hours of video hit YouTube every minute; the nagging sense that kids born into a world where social networking exists are worse off — when it comes to college applications, job prospects, romantic relationships. For most of us, these fears are as vague as they are persistent, a concern filed somewhere in the back of the brain near jury duty and gum disease. But for Black they’re reality. And, as luck would have it, her overexposure came just moments too soon in the history of the viral video industrial complex to translate into anything resembling a sustainable career. When it comes to making traumatic first impressions on the internet, Black is patient zero.

While she did make six figures off “Friday,” her million and odd YouTube subscribers likely bring in enough these days to pay the rent, or at least her half of it anyway.

Besides, music is coming:

The artist Black says she would most like to emulate, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Taylor Swift, whose ability to successfully switch genres — and to be graceful under intense spotlight — she finds inspiring. “She’s the best businesswoman in music right now,” Black gushes. “She’s killing it.” Black’s new songs, based on two nearly complete demos she sent me, sound like Swift — bright and confident with soaring rock drums and dramatic hooks that work best sung at the top of your lungs while cruising down the highway. Her voice is capable and Auto-Tune–free.

We will forget what I said on the release of “In Your Words” back in 2012:

I’m thinking that if Taylor Swift is wanting to be Katy Perry these days, surely Rebecca Black is bidding here for Swift’s niche: songs simultaneously wistful and accusatory.

Still, if she’s cruising down the highway, we now know she prefers the front seat.


It’s the yeast they can do

People with pain, of which there are an abundance, swear by hydrocodone, an opioid obtained from poppies. Yes, those poppies. But what if you could make the stuff without having to go to the very same plants that support the heroin trade? It’s actually been done, on a small scale:

Over the past several months, scientists from around the world have published bits and pieces of a fascinating feat: In an effort to create pain medication components like hydrocodone — the main ingredient in the pain killer Vicodin — without the help of poppies, scientists have engineered simple baker’s yeast to synthesize these medicinal compounds from sugar. One by one, labs figured out how to get the yeast to turn A into B, and B into C, Y into Z, and so on and so forth.

Now, for the first time, researchers at Stanford University have done it from start to finish. In a paper published Thursday in Science, they report the successful synthesis of hydrocodone from sugar, thanks to genetically engineered yeast.

The abstract:

Opioids are the primary drugs used in Western medicine for pain management and palliative care. Farming of opium poppies remains the sole source of these essential medicines despite diverse market demands and uncertainty in crop yields due to weather, climate change, and pests. Here, we engineered yeast to produce the selected opioid compounds thebaine and hydrocodone starting from sugar. All work was conducted in a laboratory that is permitted and secured for work with controlled substances. We combined enzyme discovery, enzyme engineering, and pathway and strain optimization to realize full opiate biosynthesis in yeast. The resulting opioid biosynthesis strains required expression of 21 (thebaine) and 23 (hydrocodone) enzyme activities from plants, mammals, bacteria, and yeast itself. This is a proof-of-principle, and major hurdles remain before optimization and scale up could be achieved. Open discussions of options for governing this technology are also needed in order to responsibly realize alternative supplies for these medically relevant compounds.

I interpret that last sentence as “Those who wage the War On [Some] Drugs will have a coronary if this technology becomes widespread.” To them, Schedule II is the Voice of God.

Tangential: Apparently all five members of the research team — four are pictured at the WaPo link — are women.

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All bent out of shape

I have to figure that this product name is, let us say, a trifle optimistic:

Maybe if it had an infinite power source. (Repeat: “maybe.”)

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My kind of research

The judicial system, however, vigorously dissents:

A “doggedly unrepentant” lawyer who billed her wrongful death clients for watching reality crime TV shows has been suspended for a year from law practice.

The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the suspension of Knoxville lawyer Yarboro Sallee, who was accused of billing her clients hourly fees of more than $140,000 for less than three months of work and insisting that they pay a contingency fee as well. The Legal Profession Blog, the Chattanoogan and the Knoxville News Sentinel have stories. The July 23 opinion is here [pdf].

The supreme court said Sallee had engaged in “a prodigious amount of wheel-spinning” during her work on her clients’ case, yet she maintained she had done nothing wrong. “Since when is television not a respectable avenue for research anyway,” she said at one point to a trial judge.

I suppose it’s probably better than Wikipedia, but I suspect that’s not saying much.

The ethics case stems from Sallee’s representation of the parents of a woman who died during a fall down the stairs in October 2009. The death was found to be accidental, but the clients suspected their daughter’s husband caused the death to collect on a $1 million insurance policy. Sallee estimated the entire case would cost $100,000 in legal fees, and the clients orally agreed to pay Sallee $250 an hour, which she held out as her “discounted” rate…

“She had taken no witness statements,” the court said, “prepared no expert statements, taken no depositions, propounded no discovery requests. She had, however, engaged in a prodigious amount of wheel-spinning, spending countless hours, charged at a lawyer rate, in activities such as watching 48 Hours television episodes, waiting in hospitals for medical records, and doing Internet research on strangulation.”

You’d think at the very least she’d have watched Criminal Minds.

(With thanks to Nancy Friedman.)


The beef retains the name

McDonald’s Quarter Pounder has always started with a 4-ounce — 0.25 pound — beef patty, before cooking. It was down to 2.8 ounces once done, but hey, everyone understands beef shrinkage, right?

Well, it’s still going to shrink, but now they’re starting out bigger:

Fast food giant McDonald’s has quietly made a change to one its most popular items: the Quarter Pounder.

The sandwich now defies burger math and includes 4.25 ounces of beef, slightly more than its former size of 4 ounces before cooking.

Assuming the same shrinkage rate, it should end up at 2.975 ounces.

Still unknown: (1) whether the price will be raised; (2) whether they’ll change the name in France.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Whoever has the most balls

Los Angeles, in a good year, gets around 15 inches of rain. (The single rainiest month, generally, is February, which clearly demonstrates the divine sense of humor.) Good years have been few and far between of late, which is why the Department of Water and Power has been doing something, well, ballsy:

Here you see 55,000 little polyurethane balls, filled with water, floated on top of the water in the reservoir at Silver Lake last year. It took 96 million of the plastic spheres to cover the entire reservoir, at a cost of around $35 million; however, reducing evaporation is a must in these droughtful days.

Okay, they’re not festive-looking, exactly, but black resists UV rays from that warm California sun, so the balls should last at least ten years. Let’s hope the drought doesn’t persist that long.

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A dime’s worth of difference

And hey, ten cents isn’t worth a nickel anymore:

Think Bush v. Gore in 2000. I was no big fan of Dubya, but oh God, the thought of Al Gore in the White House gave me the shivers. But now?

I maintain that the only thing left for most people is anger. Hillary, Jeb, Sanders, Rubio, whomever — they’re all on the same team. We could take every single non-Trump candidate and make them all president, collectively, and we’d never know the difference. Did Bobby Jindal just sign that deal offshoring more of our jobs, or was that Sanders? Was that Hillary’s massive subsidy to the college racket, or Fiorina’s? Did Jeb just sign that massive amnesty, or was it Hillary? Or Rubio? Or Sanders? Or Biden? Walker? Jindal? Perry? Let one of them sign things on Tuesday, another when the wind’s north-northwest … could anyone consistently tell the difference?

Only three things are certain, no matter who signs: The fucking borders stay open, the banksters get richer, and the rest of us bleed for it.

Sanders, at least, gives the impression that he believes in something other than his own care and feeding, something that has never been said, and never will be said, of Hillary. Still, almost everybody in this race is vanilla, and artificially flavored vanilla at that. Even your putative Ethnic Candidates — Jindal, Carson — are largely inseparable from the rest, indistinguishable from the collective din.

I am, let us say, not hopeful.

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The bigot on the front line

Roger tells of a spectacularly blatant bit of racial and class prejudice:

It was the early 1980s, and I was moving to a new apartment in Albany. In those days, I had to actually GO to New York Telephone and Niagara Mohawk, the power company at the time, to get my services connected. So, I took my lunch hour from FantaCo, the comic store I worked at the time, to arrange these things.

My New York Tel experience was great. These flirty, attractive women were trying to upsell me for services I didn’t want, or need, and didn’t buy. Still, it put me in quite the good mood.

Then I went to NiMo, and talked with this woman at length about getting my gas and electricity. I filled out the form, and she went over it. A previous ZIP Code I lived in was 12309, with included a well-to-do suburb of Schenectady called Niskayuna, though in fact I was living in the part of Schenectady adjacent to it.

“THAT’S a very expensive neighborhood,” she said, sounding as though she didn’t believe me. I replied, “um-hmm.”

“And who are you to live in a very expensive neighborhood?” Even though he didn’t. Stereotype by ZIP code! (Think “90210.”) Which may explain “um-hmm”: he saw it coming.

Inevitably, of course, it did:

We get to the part of the process where we arrange to have the service started. I was moving only three blocks from work, off Lark Street. I suggested that the service person call me at work, and I could run over and be at my apartment in five minutes.

She countered: “Why don’t you leave the door unlocked? You don’t have anything of value anyway.”

Dayum, girl. Could you possibly be any more hateful?

I was angry. No, I was livid. I was enraged. Yet, I found the place in my voice to say, “Actually, I DO have things of value.” Eventually, and unhappily, she capitulated to my request.

A couple of days later, Roger recovered his cool enough to send a letter to the utility, which was properly contrite. But suppose he hadn’t?

Now I COULD have lost my cool at the NiMo office. I would have felt totally justified. The problem is that I would have come across as a crazy black man, who just went OFF for no apparent reason.

She’d never have said that to a white guy, and if she had and he’d gone off, managers would be summoned and collars would be cooled, and the word “crazy” would have never been mentioned.

Now this happened thirty-odd years ago. Are things better today? I wouldn’t bet on it: customer service seems to be at a low ebb these days, and anyone who thinks racism is dead is simply not paying attention.