Veni, vidi, Vicodin

This pitch landed in the spam trap last night:

Discount Hydrocodone 10/325, 60 p. – $199
NEW !!! Hydrocodone 10/500 mg (WATSON 540) – 60 pills $249, Hydrocodone 10/500 mg (WATSON 540) – 90 pills $339. Buy NOW!

Now any combo with under 15 mg of the opioid glides onto Schedule III, flying under the Feds’ Schedule II radar, presumably a Good Thing for prescriptions filled without a prescription. Still, this seems awfully spendy: last time I bought any of this stuff — admittedly, only 5/500, which is generally all I need, as my dentist understands by now — I shelled out just under 15 cents a tab, so low, even in aggregate, that the insurance doesn’t even notice it. Then again, I fall short of the level of addiction typical of the poor shlub who actually responds to such ads.

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First you must have Faith

Oh, wait. Tim McGraw has Faith. Doesn’t mean we can’t take a look now and then, though. On stage at the CMA Music Festival last week, here’s Faith Hill making some perhaps joyful noise:

Faith Hill at 2012 CMA Music Festival

I don’t know what she’s singing, but I’ll bet it’s not Taylor Swift’s song “Tim McGraw.”

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Dressing up to par

The 112th U.S. Open is taking place in San Francisco, and Lisa thinks she probably didn’t have to worry so much about What To Wear:

There were people in jeans, wearing crocs and even dressed in full on Larry the Cable Guy regalia. Not to say I looked out of place in my skort, collared golf shirt, tasteful cotton cardigan, spectator pumps and pearls. I’m just saying the Grumpy Old Rich White Men that I thought would be working so hard to enforce Eisenhower-era dress codes seemed to be asleep at the switch. Or maybe, their desire to have a sell-out event — which they did — and a massive buying spree in the merchandise tents — overrode their normal standards.

I can imagine no circumstances in which she’d look out of place, so I’m attributing this to a light case of Fear of the Unknown, coupled with her admission that she doesn’t know jack about golf. Besides, I seriously heart spectator pumps, Jazz Age throwbacks that they are. And it’s not like golfers themselves are exactly garbed in carefully-coordinated Garanimals.

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With the new HaltGrinder app

Day before yesterday, two other sites I run had bogged down to slower than a crawl, while this one, which gets roughly 100 times the traffic of the other two combined, was whizzing along as usual. I assumed this was a cache issue, inasmuch as this site is cached and the others aren’t, so I duly installed a cache plugin, and, while I was at it, moved up to WordPress 3.4. The gain in speed was microscopic, and after sweating it for entirely too long, I turned in a trouble ticket to the host.

The response was quick, and somewhat unexpected. The nature of WordPress is somewhat bifurcated: you have your Web server, but most of what it’s serving is coming from a separate database machine. I had guessed that communication between the two boxes had been severed, or at least impaired, and when a couple of tracert runs timed out, I was sure of it. Well, no: the requests weren’t getting to the database because procwatch was killing them. It goes like this:

The problem is not necessarily with either of the domains you listed, but with any domain or combination of domains hosted under [user name]. If domain-A is using 99% of the allotted memory and domain-B uses the other 1%, it will be domain-B’s scripts that get killed, even though domain-A is the one using all the memory. (For this reason, it may be sufficient to simply split up some of your domains among multiple users.)

See “100 times the traffic,” supra. And, of course, being lazy, I’d set them up over the years under the same user name, failing to anticipate that for convenience in administration they might eventually put them all on the same shared server. (I don’t have the traffic to justify anything more than that.)

So new users were created, and behavior returned to normal in a matter of minutes. And I’ve installed a little gizmo that calls out the memory usage at any given moment, along the bottom of the admin screen. (Which, of course, uses some memory, but TANSTAAFL applies, as it always must.)

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When mere tickets aren’t enough

From The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson (1997): “Dear motorist, your vehicle is illegally parked in the borough of Manhattan. If you do not remedy this malparkage within 72 hours, your car will be thrown into the East River at your expense.”

With all due respect to New York’s Finest, they’ve got nothing on the Brits:

Nima Hosseini Razi, a tourist hoping to enjoy some sightseeing in London, was having some car trouble. His vehicle had broken down near Parliament Square, not far from the House of Commons and Westminster Abbey, so he parked it — illegally — and decided to go for a walk while he waiting for help to arrive. He even left a note that told authorities the car was broken and for them to please not issue him a ticket.

However, when Mr. Razi returned to his vehicle, he found that it had been totally destroyed. Apparently, anti-terror police don’t take lightly to locked cars that are abandoned near government facilities and landmarks.

And yes, he did get a ticket.

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Down on Friday

Last Friday, you might recall, I mumbled something about Rebecca Black’s apparent abandonment of her weekly “Ask Rebecca” video series. This Friday, it’s back; she explained that she’d been “super, super busy.” Which is probably true, since apparently she’s back in the studio, which implies a new recording on the way. Certainly I’m not about to claim any credit for her return.

And maybe she’s tired:

why is it that we can be so exhausted during the day, but then have the energy of a thousand suns we try to fall asleep?

I’ve been trying to figure that one out myself.

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I just don’t know what went right

But apparently Tallahassee, after a two-month wait, has finally smiled on someone’s, um, pony car:

Florida license plate reading DERPY

Well, at least we know it’s not a mail truck.

(Via EqD. Yes, it does look a little shaky.)

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Looking around

Horizontal stripes, as we all know, make us look, um, more horizontal than vertical, right? Maybe not:

A square composed of horizontal lines appears taller and narrower than an identical square made up of vertical lines. Reporting this illusion, Hermann von Helmholtz noted that such illusions, in which filled space seems to be larger than unfilled space, were common in everyday life, adding the observation that ladies’ frocks with horizontal stripes make the figure look taller. As this assertion runs counter to modern popular belief, we have investigated whether vertical or horizontal stripes on clothing should make the wearer appear taller or fatter. We find that a rectangle of vertical stripes needs to be extended by 7.1% vertically to match the height of a square of horizontal stripes and that a rectangle of horizontal stripes must be made 4.5% wider than a square of vertical stripes to match its perceived width.

(Full text of the abstract here.)

However, Lynn takes issue with this conclusion:

First of all, very few of us are shaped anything like the lovely little figure used in this research. Then there’s the psychological factor. Maybe stripes really don’t make a difference but if we look at a, shall we say, rather wide person wearing stripes and we think the stripes make her look fatter does it really matter whether or not we can prove scientifically that they do or do not make her look fatter? Also, the color, contrast, and width of the stripes probably make a difference.

Fashion is all about optical illusion, and eyes are easily fooled. (My eyes are really easily fooled.) I’ve never questioned the conventional wisdom in this matter. Perhaps I should.

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Birdies affected

An earthquake of magnitude 2.5 — trivial, right? — struck shortly after 3 pm yesterday. The epicenter apparently was below the 15th hole of the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club (par 3, maximum 148 yards).

For those keeping score, the palatial estate at Surlywood is about a mile and a half away. I didn’t feel a thing, but then I wasn’t there when it happened.

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Protecting that last mile

OpenDNS, which provides alternative DNS services for those of us who occasionally can’t persuade the ISP to serve up a page, came up with a Mac product last year called DNSCrypt, for reasons like this:

That critical path between you and your DNS servers is often referred to as the “last mile.” It’s in this “last mile” that bad things are most likely to happen — snooping, tampering, or even hijacking traffic. Anyone who knows what they’re doing can eavesdrop on your Internet activity and see exactly which domains you are resolving, and in many cases, what websites you’re visiting. Worse, sophisticated attackers can modify responses and redirect you to malicious sites. We have always used various techniques to thwart this, but none as iron-clad as simply encrypting all the communication between you and OpenDNS.

This strikes me as a boon for the traveler with a notebook, especially now that they’ve turned loose a Windows version for those of us who haven’t crossed the aisle yet.

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Running out of minutes

As expected, Erik Spoelstra made some adjustments for Game 2: a couple of different sets, matchups timed slightly differently, and perhaps most important, the return of Chris Bosh to the starting lineup. (Udonis Haslem was barely visible most of the night.) Bosh responded by delivering a double-double before halftime, and Miami had things under control well into the fourth quarter. The Thunder mounted a rally, as they always do, and finally got within two at 98-96 on a Kevin Durant trey. But LeBron James put it out of reach with two free throws — his eleventh and twelfth in a row — with seven seconds left. So the Heat head home with a 100-96 win and a 1-1 tie in the series.

Lots of factors here, although Durant’s early fifth foul didn’t seem to be one of them, inasmuch as he rattled down 16 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter. The radio crew seemed to think it was due to a pair of non-calls on the last Thunder possession. But go back to the first half, when they got behind by 17 points several times. (Seventeen points, incidentally, is exactly what Shane Battier dropped in from the corner, shooting 6-8, 5-7 from beyond the arc.) The deeper the hole, the harder it is to climb out of it. It didn’t help that OKC missed seven of 26 free throws, while the Heat missed three of 25, leaving a differential of, um, four points.

And there’s LeBron, who, they say, can play any of the five positions, and who tonight seemed to be in two or three of them at any given moment. He finished with 32; Dwyane Wade contributed 24 more. The Miami bench wasn’t a factor, but they didn’t have to be.

James Harden, after a fairly terrible Game 1, was in better form, hitting for 21. And after a fairly terrible first quarter, Russell Westbrook came to life, coming up with 27. (For those who keep track: seven assists against two turnovers.) One might argue that taking a third of your shots (26 of 79) from the three-point line is probably not the best approach, especially if you’re going to miss 17 of them, but points in the paint were few and far between.

Next three games will be in Miami. The Thunder will have to get at least one or it’s over. And they can do that, if they can avoid things like falling behind 18-2 in the first quarter, which is definitely sub-optimal.

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Check your lab coat, ma’am?

STEMinist, subtitled “Women in Science, Tech, Engineering and Math,” has proclaimed the following goals:

  • Increase the visibility of women in STEM
  • Promote and elevate the perspective of women in these traditionally underrepresented fields
  • Encourage younger women and girls to pursue careers in STEM
  • Capture a social media snapshot of what’s trending for women in STEM

The site’s been up for two years, though I admit to not knowing about it until they ran a profile of a friend of mine this week.

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Added to the current rotation

Operation VR, hailed here for their single “Remorse,” has returned with a new track called “Regrets of the Past,” which is just as experimental but perhaps a little more conventional: “a little more classical roots, taking note to appreciate modern music,” they say. It’s on their Bandcamp page. Among their officially unpurchasable but YouTube-able music: the two-part “Vinyl’s Visions,” divided into “Fear” and “Pride”.

Utterly unlike OpVR is VivaceCapriccioso, whom I happened upon while — well, never mind where I found her. Perhaps her best-known piece so far is “Octavia’s Waltz,” which isn’t technically a waltz, but no matter. She plays all the parts in the string ensemble: “I was planning to play each part on either violin or cello, and mix each track together, but my cello needs repairs.” Five tracks are currently available on her YouTube channel.

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“Town” is a four-letter word

Speaking of four-letter words, you probably don’t want to utter any in Middleborough, Massachusetts:

At a town meeting Monday night, residents voted 183-50 to approve a proposal from the police chief to impose a $20 fine on public profanity.

“I’m really happy about it,” Mimi Duphily, a store owner and former town selectwoman, said after the vote. “I’m sure there’s going to be some fallout, but I think what we did was necessary.”

Bill Quick, a big fan of free speech, understandably demurs:

Yeah, you wadded up the First Amendment, took a crap on it, and then set it on fire.

An actual resident of Middleborough is, if possible, even less impressed:

[L]et me tell you that the first person who suggests that I should have been at the meeting if I disapprove so much is going to hear some very loud and public profanity, because you know what? I was at work, supporting my fucking family. I could always quit and go on the dole instead so I’d have time for this petty bullshit, but I’ve got more pride than that.

At the last Census, Middleborough had about 23,000 people. If even half of them had shown up at town hall, instead of the 1 percent (!) who did, I suspect the board of selectmen would have done something much more unsanitary than merely swearing.

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Not that I could have stockpiled any

An observation from February:

I wander into Braum’s a couple of times a month for various things from their side-of-the-store market: for instance, I am fond of their 9-Grain Bread, and I prefer their pickle slices for my own sandwiches.

The pickles, at least, can still be had, but the 9-Grain Bread apparently is history, replaced by none of these, if you ask me, and the so-called “artisan” stuff commands, or at least requests, a price 50 percent higher.

I am not, of course, above paying $6 for a loaf of specialty bread — but for making a week’s worth of PB&Js? I don’t think so.

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Very high hybrid

In much of the world, Toyota’s Prius, despite its modest price, is something of a halo car: it is far and away the most successful of the hybrids, and the Big T seldom has to resort to incentives to move the metal.

This is not, however, the case in India:

For the first four months of 2012, Toyota sold zero units of the Prius in the Indian market. Last month, they managed (don’t ask how) to sell one unit.

One reason, apparently, is India’s tariff on imported motor vehicles. If you’re not going to build them here, New Delhi reasons, the least you can do is send us CKD kits so we can assemble them ourselves. The Prius, with its complicated powertrain, is sent only as a completed vehicle, and is therefore hit with a tariff of over 100 percent, pushing the price tag to the equivalent of $60,000.

With projected annual sales of somewhere between two and three, it’s a wonder Toyota bothers at all. Then again, they didn’t get to be the behemoth of the Japanese auto industry by turning down customers.

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