Thursday the bank called my answering machine and informed it, to the extent that information can be conveyed in thirty seconds, that there was some suspected fraudulent activity on my account. On a good day, I’ll get home about an hour after bankers’ hours run down, and this had been not too bad of a day, so I rang in to the bank operator, and finding the caller to have departed, I left a message. I then tried jumping through the voice-mail system in the hopes of finding a customer-service person somewhere in the maze. Which, eventually, I did. We reviewed the last ten transactions, none of which were fuzzy-looking, although the guy did speculate that simultaneous renewals of two magazines from the same publisher at the same price might have looked a little weird to their Central Scrutinizer. Satisfied, I rang off.
Friday afternoon, about the same time as yesterday, I open up the machine and find a message from the same person, who of course had already gone for the day. This should have set off some sort of alarm in my head, but didn’t.
Which brings us to Saturday, when the ATM stubbornly refused to cough up anything beyond “You are not an authorized user on this account.” Perplexed, I sought out a teller, who after punching several dozen buttons told me that somebody in Nebraska was apparently trying to pass my Visa card number, and as a precautionary measure, they had killed the card in its tracks. Well, okay, fine, they didn’t get away with anything. On the other hand, it will take them at least a week to scrape up enough plastic to send me a replacement card with a new number.
None of this presents any particular difficulty, except for one minor detail: one of my automated payments, charged to that card, goes through today. Or, more precisely, doesn’t go through.
One morning in 1983, after about six months on the job, I was standing on a street corner in Lincoln Park waiting for the bus to work, when the CEO pulls up in his Turbo Porsche and offers me a ride. “Sure!” But, the stoplights on La Salle Street heading toward the Loop are not optimized for a CEO who floors it at every green light and thus gets caught by every single red light. So, every block consisted of us going 0-60 in five seconds, with my head being shoved back into the headrest, followed by 60-0 in five seconds (with my forehead just about bouncing off the dashboard). When we got to work, the CEO offered to pick me up every morning on that corner, but, feeling pummeled by G-forces and whiplash from the ride, I went back to taking the bus.
Contemporary turbo Porsches, of course, will now do this in less than four seconds. Jackasses and jackrabbit starts, however, remain mostly unevolved.
[T]he new Chickenfoot release [is] curiously titled ‘III’, as though their command of math in naming their second studio release was a desperate plea for a U.S. Treasury job.
It could have been worse. Says the Wikipedia page for the album: “Other rumored titles that have been mentioned include Chickenfoot IV.”
The 1-3 skip is not unprecedented, though: see, for instance, the Traveling Wilburys. And the first Smothers Brothers best-of compilation was dubbed Golden Hits, Volume 2. (Even better, it contained no previously-issued material.) I forget how many books Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker trilogy contained — five, was it?
Another odd little dream sequence, which perhaps someone can parse. I’m still perplexed by it.
I’d been separated from a tour group somehow, and was wandering around loose on foot in some of London’s less-tony northern districts, though the journey was pleasant, and there were always people to talk to.
And then a series of wrong turns led me back to our West End hotel, where the lifts were out of operation. I headed for the stairs, where a repairman was attempting to reposition a rung — several inches above where I thought it ought to be. “Bloody regulations,” he muttered. I said something to the effect that we had such back home.
Dinner was underway. My daughter was unwrapping her dish; a former crush and her current boyfriend were at the other end of the table. Since the last time I’d seen her, she’d apparently learned how to pass through solid objects: she appeared to be embedded in the table somehow. I opened a box with my name on it and found a rather curious-looking vegetarian dish: the actual vegetables were not identified, though the stuff looked like, and tasted like, shavings from green and orange Lego blocks. It proved to be filling enough, however. The bill was not enormous, and popping open my wallet, I shuffled through my banknotes, some of which inexplicably were not actual banknotes anymore. (This situation has now shown up often enough to qualify as a Recurring Theme.) Former crush and company had just left through the north wall; daughter was out of earshot, so I proffered my American Express card, which inexplicably caused the entire staff to revert from some semblance of English to something I hadn’t heard before.
The story ended there, thanks to a truck bouncing noisily down my actual street.
(Linked to this.
Last time I mentioned Freezepop, I said something to the effect that “I am not inclined to underestimate a band with songs in the Guitar Hero series that don’t actually have any guitars in them.” And that’s quite apart from the fact that lead singer/lyricist Liz Enthusiasm looks like this:
What shoes do you wear with tights like those?
Photos by Violet Shuraka of Cheap & Plastique, appropriately enough. Lots more at the link.
Addendum: Shortly after stumbling across these pictures, I found something even more unexpected: Liz and bandmate Sean T. Drinkwater (the other one) unplugged. Oh, and there’s an actual guitar, too.
They’ll have to make a pitch like that to sell this European Union proposal:
Experts in Brussels believe that insects could be a vital source of nutrition that will not only solve food shortages but also help save the environment. They have launched a €3 million project to promote the eating of insects.
Proponents of entomophagy — insect eating — argue that bugs are a low-cholesterol, low-fat, protein-rich food source. According to one study, small grasshoppers offer 20 percent protein and just 6 percent fat, to lean ground beef’s 24 percent protein and 18 percent fat.
I can walk into several stores in this town and snag ground beef way leaner than that.
Crickets are also said to be high in calcium, termites rich in iron, and a helping of giant silkworm moth larvae apparently provides all the daily copper and riboflavin requirements.
Something to look forward to: “Just think, if the geniuses at the European Union get their way, roach coaches may soon be selling actual roaches.” In vain will we point out that those creatures aren’t kosher.
“Braai” is Afrikaans for “barbecue,” sort of, and every September, South Africans chow down on Braai Day:
Braai Day is a celebration of our great country and its unique national pastime. It aims to unite all South Africans on 24 September by encouraging them to partake in a fun and tangible activity shared by all demographic groups, religious denominations and body types.
And there being no Rebecca Black news to speak of — the five-song EP due out in August seems to have mutated into a ten-song album due out around Halloween — here’s the inevitable “Braaiday” video, courtesy of Derick Watts and the Sunday Blues:
(As seen on Memeburn.)
Undoubtedly there was a somber ceremony at Pearl Harbor, but I wonder, was there a week-long national dirge leading up to the day? We got Tojo; we got OBL. Yeah, there’s still a bunch of wretched weasels out there who hate the West, the U.S. especially, and work to do harm to persons and property; but Americans are not incompetent, and we’re no longer unaware. It might be time to take off the sackcloth and ashes.
A commenter subsequently noted that there wasn’t that much of a ceremony, inasmuch as there was work to be done, what with troops in Korea that needed support. There’s a great deal to be said for keeping busy.
Okay, maybe not the best, but the following decrees by our Benevolent Dictatrix have only our best interests at heart:
There would be “quiet hours” in most neighborhoods from 9 pm until 7 am. Anyone caught driving a boom car, mowing, leaving their dog staked outside to howl, whatever…they pay a fine. If they persist in violating, the noise making object is taken away from them. (People who work nights? There would be specially zoned neighborhoods with “quiet hours” from 9 am to 7 pm, with that information posted at every entrance to the neighborhood).
I expect swing-shifters to demand equal time.
Also, grocery stores, supermarkets, hypermarkets, megalomarts, whatever — they would not be permitted to mount televisions in their store that would blare advertising at the shoppers. They also wouldn’t be permitted to play music that was advertisement of products they sold.
I wonder: would there be an exemption for record stores? (Then again, would there even be record stores?)
But I’m not complaining. I must note, though, that every time I think that the world would be improved by throwing [name of disfavored group] into the sea, someone reminds me about the hazards of water pollution.
“The needs of the many,” said Spock, “outweigh the needs of the few.” Or maybe not so much:
Years ago I was pressured to release the confidential medical records of patients operated on at our facility. I didn’t release the records and it got very ugly, but ultimately we prevailed. During the very threatening discussions a physician who was a hired gun by the folks who wanted these records told me that patient confidentiality was not important if this data collection made a difference in someone else’s life. I argued that individual rights distinguished our form of government from those that championed the “collective.” I tried to point out that a possible benefit to one individual doesn’t justify the violation of the rights of another.
He quoted Mr. Spock, as I have above. I pointed out that Mr. Spock’s actions were those of a volunteer. “It is one thing to throw yourself on a grenade to save your foxhole buddies. It is quite another to be shoved onto the grenade against your will,” I said. This hired gun still didn’t get it. We wound up filing a lawsuit against this bunch of fascists and the patients’ data remained secure.
So far as I have been able to ascertain, the fascists did not respond with a countersuit complaining about being called “fascists.”
It’s the stupidity of the thing. You’re driving quickly, making good time, when oops, time for everyone to slow down, fan out into a highly wasteful 12 or maybe 24 lanes (obtained how? is there no better use for this land?), stop at a little hellish booth in which it’s some poor soul’s actual job to sit 8 hours a day, and hand the poor overweight lady, like, $1.15. Then maybe like 4 miles later, you have to hand over 75 cents to some other poor schmoe.
Is there anything more idiotic? And the entire East Coast is like this!
Before you ask: he doesn’t think the switch to automated toll-collection systems (E-ZPass et al.) is sufficient to boost the concept to the correct side of the Boon/Boondoggle continuum.
What do I think of them? Depends on whether I’m in a hurry.
During my days in New England, I discovered something called Filene’s Basement, oddly enough underneath a Filene’s store. Items relegated to the Basement were marked down some startling amount, and further markdowns were taken if they survived ten, then twenty, days. After 30 days, anything left was donated to charity. I learned to keep well back as shoppers fought each other for items on Day 29.
Then again, I’m a guy. I don’t have the killer shopping gene. I’d never survive this sort of thing:
Got a Lord&Taylor end-of-season coupon in the mail (something useful in USPS pulp download, for a change) and went to get my “20% of our sale items” bargain. Naturally, same idea occurred to other 759 women, all wandering in pandem0nium around same 4 1/2 stands with all left-shoe sale merchandise and then shuffling among settees with boxes and single shoes strewn all over them in insane hope to find something wearable AND moderately priced — unlike a pair of some-designer-I-never-heard-of podium-rough creation which was generously discounted from “suggested” $1,400 to mere $850. And who, incidentally, are those crazies who’d suggest such a thing? I want to look into their shameless eyes.
She did, however, score:
Marked down from $69 to $55 at Zappos, our heroine snagged a pair of these for a mere $30 (marked down from $125 because it’s Lord & Taylor fercrissake). For absolutely no reason I can see, Franco Sarto calls this shoe “Quilt.” I definitely like the look of it: it seems more insubstantial than it really is, though it’s hardly gossamer.
Inevitably, we must bow to the wisdom of Douglas Adams:
A towel … is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
The legislation will address two issues. First, it will require people who are nude in public to place an item — for example, a towel — underneath them when they sit down. This will avoid situations, as currently occurs, where nudists sit down on public seating without placing anything between their body and the seat. Second, the legislation will require nudists to don clothing before they enter a restaurant.
“San Francisco is a liberal and tolerant city, and we pride ourselves on that fact. Yet, while we have a variety of views about public nudity, we can all agree that when you sit down naked, you should cover the seat, and that you should cover up when you go into a food establishment.”
The quote comes from the man who proposed the measure, Supervisor Scott Wiener.
(Scraped from Lisa Paul’s Facebook wall.)
Europeans are plagued by mental and neurological illnesses, with almost 165 million people or 38 percent of the population suffering each year from a brain disorder such as depression, anxiety, insomnia or dementia, according to a large new study.
With only about a third of cases receiving the therapy or medication needed, mental illnesses cause a huge economic and social burden — measured in the hundreds of billions of euros — as sufferers become too unwell to work and personal relationships break down.
Whatever can they mean, listing insomnia and dementia right next to each other? Are they somehow comparable? Or do they need insomnia to pad the numbers?
With almost four out of every ten Europeans ‘suffering’ from what the survey defines as a ‘mental illness’ (many of which I would dispute are mental illnesses at all), European psychologists and their allies can now argue for massive increases in their State funding.
That phrase “social burden” gives it away, doesn’t it?
(The preceding has been brought to you by the Ministry of Love.)