Richard the 150th

The first three Richards were kings of England; Richard IV was a fictional character in two British television series (The Palace and Blackadder). I have no idea who this guy is:

In CNN’s defense, there was no plane crash involved.

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Surrounded by voices

Were you ever in a darkened room with a fan running? And if so, did you ever hear what seemed to be fragments of voices coming from its general direction?

I have.

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Permanent exhibition

If you were a fan of the rollicking space opera Temporary Duty by the late Ric Locke (my review is here), you’ll be pleased to know that a fansite-plus-sort-of-wiki is being built at temporaryduty.org. The site is officially titled “Peters Pa’ol,” of course a reference to protagonist John Peters. For now, Under Construction applies, but progress is being made.

If you haven’t read the book, it’s still available for your Kindle from Amazon: link at the site. And at the very least, you ought to look at the cover art, by the estimable S. Weasel, who wrote thusly about this project:

It sold well enough that he spent his last days arguing with the IRS. Yes, sadly, that rat bastard cancer got him in the Summer of 2012.

Welp, I got an email earlier this week from a dude called Yuris Daudish, who read Ric’s book and thought it deserved a public fandom. He put out the call for anybody who might have had dealings with Ric who could share anecdotes or insights into the man or the book. Or might want to join the discussion forum. I promised to go through what emails we traded back in the day to see if anything interesting turns up — and to spread the word to any reader here who might have had some interaction.

And I’m happy to provide a signal boost.

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It wasn’t part of the plan

The IMDb page for actor Gregory Walcott lists over a hundred credits, but there’s only one everyone seems to remember: Jeff Trent, the pilot in Plan 9 from Outer Space, the glorious mess created by Edward D. Wood, Jr. Even Walcott’s Wikipedia page has a picture of him as Jeff Trent.

From The Hollywood Reporter’s article on Walcott’s death last Friday at eighty-seven:

“I read the script, and it was gibberish. It made no sense, but I saw Ed Reynolds [J. Edward Reynolds, nominal head of the production company] as a naive, sweet man. I had done some pretty good things prior to that, so I thought I had a little credibility in Hollywood. I thought maybe my name would give the show some credibility… The film was made surreptitiously. My agent didn’t even know I did it.”

For years, Walcott sought to distance himself from Plan 9. But eventually he came to terms with Jeff Trent: he appeared in a brief role in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, playing a character not unlike Ed Reynolds. And he later conceded: “It’s better to be remembered for something than for nothing, don’t you think?”

Besides, as we learned from Mystery Science Theater 3000, there are plenty of films out there that made Plan 9 look like Citizen Kane.

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Gooder vibrations

The Friar, in the process of snickering at those folks who will pay four digits for very early record pressings, issues the following explanation of the record-making process, mechanical division:

Sound in vinyl records is encoded in the grooves, which are played when the turntable needle moves over them at the proper speed. The grooves are pressed or stamped into blank vinyl discs, and like all mechanical systems the stampers were subject to wearing out. Records pressed earlier in a stamping run were more likely to have grooves that are cleaner and more accurately reproduce the full range of the sound.

Ideally, the cutting speed and the playback speed should be identical, except when they’re not:

Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs stepped in to fill the audiophile niche market. Their Half Speed Masters were special pressings of the albums. They (smartly) realized that not all audiophiles were classical music buffs, and that the rock generation was beginning to come into its own, with big bucks to spend. Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs had made superior quality pressings of albums by using thick, virgin vinyl, and by locating low-generation copies of the master tapes and using those as a source for their albums. The term “half-speed” refers to slowing the cutting lathe to half-speed while cutting the album stamper, resulting in a more accurate and deeply etched groove that held low tones better.

Yep. Those platters were cut at 162/3 rpm, to be played back at 331/3. The short-lived CD-4 quadraphonic LPs were cut at even lower speeds, in an effort to get a 45-kHz signal onto the vinyl.

Still, all these “improvements” aren’t always obvious to the ear, either mine or the Friar’s:

Too many loud concerts have helped my ears have trouble distinguishing all of the Vitally! Important! Distinctions! that are supposed to be in all of this stuff. Those distinctions themselves may be a whole lot of suggestion bias: When you’re told a particular copy of a record sounds much much better than what you’ve been listening to and you agree to part with a few Ben Franklins in order to acquire it, the chances are pretty good that you’re going to believe it sounds better. Sure, a good LP sounds better than an MP3 file, but 1) almost everything does and 2) the idea that there is an experience of listening to some record that’s “worth” four figures is a product of a mindset that is so far removed from the everyday reality most people live in that it ought to draw its own “Occupy” protest.

Had I a bunch of thousand-dollar records, I probably wouldn’t play them at all, lest I reduce their value. Then again, I have always had the most middling of hi-fi systems, to the extent that those systems had any fi at all.

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Your attention, please

This is what happens in its absence:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Incorrect and Misleading information on Car Finance documentation?

Well, let’s see:

I took a secrured [sic] car loan in Jan 2013 for a MINI Cooper S Turbo. This is the car on the finance documentation. I have realised since that I have actually got a base model MINI Cooper. The signed loan docs are wrong. Where do I stand legally? I was lied to at the dealership by both the Vehicle and Finance sales people into thinking I have the MINI COOPER S TURBO. Will I be entitled to a refund of the money paid so far?

It took you two fricking years to discover you didn’t have the turbo? It’s a darn good thing you’re in Jolly Old, Dickie-boy, because you’d be laughed out of an American court with a tall tale like that.

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Getting through the morning after

I’ve never tried this, but Bill Quick swears by it:

A solid dollop of amphetamine will fix any hangover within 30 minutes. I have dozens, maybe hundreds, of personal experiments supporting this remedy. Worked every time. Worked for everybody I ever knew who tried it, too.

Most prescribing notes fail to define “dollop,” but I’m betting it’s more than one 20-mg tab of Adderall. Still, so-called “recreational” use of the drug calls for a hell of a lot more than 20 mg, so this would seem to fall purely into the therapeutic range. The drug warriors won’t like it, but then they don’t even like Sudafed.

And besides:

[I]f you’re slugging down half a quart of bourbon to produce that hangover, spare me the lecture about drug abuse, please.

Remember that just about anything can be abused in some fashion, from benzedrine in your Ovaltine to Krispy Kreme.

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Strange search-engine queries (477)

To much of the nation, the first calendar days of spring looked pretty much indistinguishable from the latter days of winter; logically, the first of these romps through the logs this spring should look rather a lot like the last few, and of course it does.

why weren’t brian hyland’s songs released in stereo?  They were cursed by a gypsy woman.

how do you adjust throttle pressure in the transmission of a 1995 ford conto:  That’s “Contour,” and if you have to ask, you don’t need to be trying it yourself.

meaning of “ask me about my vow of silence”:  I can’t answer that, for reasons which should be obvious.

bandage mummification:  Preferred for longevity reasons over, say, Saran Wrap.

Namenda XR Impurities:  Well, yeah, that’s what you get from using those mysterious online pharmacies who send you email.

“Strategic Resource” hack company:  They’ve never struck me as being hacks.

85yrs.old granny and still having sex:  And most assuredly, not with you.

1998 Mazda 626 transmission filter how much is a new one:  About thirty bucks, plus two thousand to install.

average weight of a mazda:  With or without a new transmission filter?

it’s the plastic warner brothers:  Except for Jack L. Warner, who was always aluminum.

If you were designing a new luxury car:  I’d want it to have a comfort level appropriate to Princess Celestia, but with controls that wouldn’t baffle Fluttershy.

rainbow dash car:  It needs to be about 20 percent faster.

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Quote of the week

The next bozo who goes on some ranty rant about “cultural authenticity” has earned a bitchslap from Jack Baruth:

Peter Green was a white Englishman who heard the Chicago blues on pirate radio and wanted to imitate it. Robert Cray grew up in a middle-class household and was performing for a living before he turned twenty. Even Albert King, who picked cotton on a plantation in his teens and then drove a bulldozer, was firmly into the pro-musician groove by his early twenties and could afford a Gibson Flying V. None of these guys ever shot anybody or went to prison or got poisoned by a woman or worked on a chain gang or plumbed the depths of human sorrow before they started making records. They didn’t live the blues — they played the blues.

Muddy Waters reportedly told Little Walter, “We don’t live the blues, we play it.” Miles Davis said something similar to his bandmates. I repeat: The best musicians to ever play the blues didn’t live the blues. You think that’s unique to the blues? Ask Dr. Dre how much crime he’s actually done in his life, how many people he’s shot. Rick Ross was a correctional officer, not a gangster. Ice-T was a gang member once — but he’s spent a much larger portion of his life playing a cop on television. Axl Rose wasn’t born in Los Angeles. Robert Plant wasn’t actually a character in a Tolkien book. Barry Manilow wrote a lot of songs but “I Write The Songs” wasn’t one of them.

Musicians are performers, assuming a character for the purpose of performing music. If you want authenticity in your life, you’d better look somewhere else besides music, maybe “upcycling” or “curating” or something like that.

And if you ever hear me claim this five-million-plus-word unauthorized autobiography to have been “curated,” you can slap me.

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Only embers remain

The revolving door for the wounded continues to spin: Enes Kanter was back today, but Andre Roberson rolled his ankle in the first 90 seconds of play and did not return. Still, this wasn’t going to be a tragedy for the Thunder, and the one play that epitomizes the whole game — maybe the whole season — was yet another pass by Russell Westbrook to Steven Adams, who dunked the ball while drawing a foul from Hassan Whiteside. The sixth foul, natch. Adams missed the free throw, but no matter: Westbrook had yet another triple-double (12-10-17), and the outcome of the game wasn’t even close to being in doubt: the benches were cleared inside the three-minute mark, and the only question left was whether OKC could finish at 100 points or more for the twenty-third time. They couldn’t. Still, dispatching the new, improved Heat by a 93-75 count points to something we’d been hoping to see for some time: darn near lockdown defense.

And the Heat were indeed throttled. From the floor, 39.5 percent; from outside the circle, 3 of 18; from the free-throw line, 8 of 15. (Not that OKC can claim any credit for the latter.) While Miami had five players in double figures, team-high was Whiteside, who collected 13 points — 6-8 from the floor — before fouling out. Dwyane Wade, who’d been on fire of late, was held to twelve.

Now look at that Westbrook triple-double again. Only 12 points. He was an iffy 5-16 from the floor. Still, it’s his tenth of the season; the rest of the league has only 17.) And Kanter was there to catch passes, collect rebounds, knock down shots and maybe even chew gum: he finished with 27-12. Adams squeaked in with ten points and ten boards. Mitch McGary led the bench with 14, two ahead of Anthony Morrow.

Oklahoma City is now 40-30, which is a fairly remarkable recovery from that 3-12 start. (Do the math. Over the last 55 games they’re 37-18 for .672.) Fifty wins is not out of reach, but they’d have to go 10-2 the rest of the way. First obstacle: the Lakers, on Tuesday.

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A nightmare dressed like a sugar rush

The little girls sell lots of cookies, but they’re not too proud to tap the resources of a big girl:

(Via Hello Giggles.)

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Should’ve said no

The government of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations needs more money, perhaps for signage, and they plan to get it from Taylor Swift:

The world-famous singer bought an oceanfront mansion in Rhode Island in 2013 that may now have her seeing red. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo proposed a statewide property tax on second homes worth at least $1 million in her budget, now widely hailed as the “Taylor Swift tax.”

The tax would raise an estimated $12 million in tax revenue, far short of the $190 million budget deficit the state government needs to close.

If this was a movie — but never mind. You knew this was trouble when you started reading the article.

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Flattening news

And another piece of the dumb-jock stereotype is chipped away:

John Urschel recently co-authored a paper in the Journal of Computational Mathematics. It is titled “A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians” and apparently includes “a cascadic multigrid algorithm for fast computation of the Fiedler vector of a graph Laplacian, namely, the eigenvector corresponding to the second smallest eigenvalue.” I understand close to none of the words in that sentence, which comes from the paper’s abstract. I probably never will. The rest of the study is similarly accessible.

For what it’s worth, a Laplacian is a differential operator given by the divergence of the gradient of a function on Euclidean space, while eigenvectors point in a direction which is invariant under an associated linear transformation. I have at best a vague idea about those two words, not so much about some of the others, and it did not become less vague after looking through the actual paper [pdf].

Mr. Urschel, associated with the Pennsylvania State University, is currently an offensive lineman with the Baltimore Ravens.

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H-1B about the cheap

Remember when farm workers were imported en masse to California? Today tech workers are being imported en masse to California, and for much the same reason:

The current system to bring in high-skill guestworkers — on H-1B, L-1, and OPT visas — has become primarily a process for supplying lower-cost labor to the IT industry. Although a small number of workers and students are brought in as the “best and brightest,” most high-skill guestworkers are here to fill ordinary tech jobs at lower wages.

The most recent firing of 500 Southern California Edison IT workers, after they trained their guestworker replacements (as a condition of receiving their severance package), is being repeated by the tens of thousands across the country — Disney, Harley Davidson, Home Depot, Pfizer, and Xerox are just a few among the many companies that have all been doing the same thing.

The practice of using the H-1B program to replace American workers is widespread. In fact, currently as many as two-thirds of new IT hires are guestworkers; not because there aren’t enough skilled Americans but instead because guestworkers are cheaper. And if current bills … become law, the number of guestworker visas will be over 100 percent of new hiring needs — if it so chooses, the IT industry can legally hire only guestworkers without even having to look for an American to fill all new IT jobs.

Congress, of course, thought it was clever enough to ward off this easily predictable situation by requiring the Labor Condition Application with each H-1B, which must certify that the incoming worker is being paid no less than the prevailing wage. Now if everyone is on an H-1B, guess what? They’re being paid the prevailing wage by definition.

So I expect the new expansion to pass: Big Tech wants it, and Big Tech is willing to buy the allegiance of Congress to get it. I’m betting it passes by 31 March — which, in California, is César Chávez Day.

(Via Will Truman.)

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No Coke

Today we, or at least I, celebrate the birth of Turkish model-turned-actress Aysun Kayacı, who is 34 today. Of late, she’s been a presenter on the NTV television network out of Istanbul, and she does have that not-entirely-scrubbed TV-hostess look:

Aysun Kayacı photo

Aysun Kayacı photo

Why “No Coke”? Because of this Pepsi commercial from 2007:

Try that with your diet soda.

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Birdeen

A few years back, I came up with “guanophenia” as a euphemism for the state or condition of being batshit crazy. Multitudes suffer from, or perhaps enjoy, this particular ailment. The problem with that particular neologism, of course, is that the production of guano, per any dictionary you’re likely to find, is not at all limited to bats. For example, my trusty Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, Eighth Edition, which has been at my side for three decades and more, says that “guano” is “a substance composed chiefly of the excrement of seafowl and used as a fertilizer; also: a similar product (as of fish-cannery waste).” More bird than bat, then. What to do? When in doubt, ask Nancy Friedman:

I once worked for a group of civil engineers who referred to birdshit — an occupational nuisance because it interfered with electrical transmission, or something — by the Irish-sounding euphemism birdeen. I have never seen or heard this circumlocution before or since.

“Birdeen” apparently was a not-so-rare given name in the 1930s: among the first eight items from a Bing search were the obituaries of two women (and one man) named “Birdeen” who passed away in 2014, all born in the early Thirties. But the name existed before the turn of the century. From Fiona Macleod’s The Dominion of Dreams, 1910 edition, written in the 1890s:

They were happy, Isla and Morag. Though both were of Strachurmore of Loch Fyne, they lived at a small hill-farm on the west side of the upper fjord of Loch Long, and within sight of Arrochar, where it sits among its mountains. They could not see the fantastic outline of “The Cobbler,” because of a near hill that shut them off, though from the loch it was visible and almost upon them. But they could watch the mists on Ben Arthur and Ben Maiseach, and when a flying drift of mackerel-sky spread upward from Ben Lomond, that was but a few miles eastward as the crow flies, they could tell of the good weather that was sure.

Before the end of the first year of their marriage, deep happiness came to them. “The Birdeen” was their noon of joy. When the child came, Morag had one regret only, that a boy was not hers, for she longed to see Isla in the child that was his. But Isla was glad, for now he had two dreams in his life: Morag whom he loved more and more, and the little one whom she had borne to him, and was for him a mystery and joy against the dark hours of the dark days that must be.

They named her Eilidh.

Macleod, otherwise known as William Sharp (1855-1905), assumed the pseudonym circa 1893; his widow Elizabeth subsequently compiled, and in some case edited, his works. I still don’t know, however, how this mystical, and presumably airborne, child is connected to the stuff that lands on your windshield 45 seconds after departing the car wash.

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