Meanwhile on the Amazon

I had five items on order from the World’s Largest Invisible Retailer, all of which arrived the same day — yesterday — and three of which required explanations.

Two of them (a book and a CD) had been preordered at some price X, which since had dropped to some lower price Y. The charges were adjusted accordingly, with X-Y equal to $1 on the book and $6.34 on the CD.

And then a credit for $2.79 showed up; evidently I’d qualified for Super Saver (free) Shipping, had checked the box accordingly, and yet didn’t notice that I’d been charged anyway.

None of this, however, compares to the corporate announcement that they’re acquiring licenses from intellectual-property owners to permit Kindle publication of fanfiction. Surely no one is going to pay for my pony stories; still, the idea goes beyond intriguing. (And besides, I said no one was going to read them, either, and that was 3,200 readers ago.)

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Finder’s keepers

This is apparently Rebecca Black’s desktop:

Screen shot from Rebecca Black's Mac

Two things (apart from Hello Kitty in the center) jumped out at me:

  • There’s a folder called “My Book.” Oh, really?
  • AIM? Seriously?

Addendum: It just dawned on me. AOL first put AIM online in May 1997. The service is therefore one month older than Rebecca Black.

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Quote of the week

Nicole Hill (no relation) on being from this little corner of the globe:

At some point, life punches you in the gut for the first time. You watch the hand of God come down, and an entire town disappears off the map.

You fall to your knees and you cry and you spit and you cuss the day and night. And then you get up.

You don’t waste your time asking the heavens why. There’s work to be done.

You see someone else shaking their fists at the sky, so you reach your hand down. And then they get up.

That’s what being an Oklahoman is. Being so goddamned resilient and perseverant that ain’t nothing or nobody can keep you down. I’ve been a lot of places, lived in a few of them, and met many great people. Without minimizing anyone else, Oklahomans are a different breed. When you’re a little guy used to getting kicked, you not only learn to pop back up but you become the first one to reach out to others.

If you were wondering about that #okstandard hashtag, now you know. Even if you weren’t born here, as I wasn’t.

And yes, I meant “corner of the globe.” A lot of us are deemed square pegs by various holes glorying in their roundness.

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Shrimp engine thrown on barbie

Ford is phasing out its manufacturing operations in Australia, following years of declining demand for its big-bruiser Falcon and Territory models:

“The company had hoped to stem the flow of customers out of Falcon with an EcoBoost engine, which was a highly advanced two-litre turbo four-cylinder as opposed to the traditional six-cylinder. Unfortunately, even though the EcoBoost Falcon is a fantastic vehicle out of Australia, the reality was that Falcon buyers don’t want a little four-pot, and buyers stayed away.”

The one genuine advantage of the EcoBoost — less weight over the front wheels — is realized in front-wheel drive vehicles, which these aren’t.

The last Oz-built Fords will appear in 2016.

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Sliding into the sunset

The last time we checked in with Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, the state was moving heaven and earth to prevent disclosure of the black-box data created when Murray crashed his state car on a cold night.

Now Murray’s returning to the private sector, and he swears it has nothing to do with this:

Murray said his plan to resign has nothing to do with an investigation into whether his campaign committee improperly accepted donations raised by former Chelsea Housing Authority Director Michael McLaughlin.

Although his new gig at the Worcester Chamber of Commerce apparently pays better than working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We’ll see if the C of C actually gives him a car to drive.

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This might be literally accurate

Figuratively speaking, anyway:

Silly pie graph

(Clearly, via GraphJam.)

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Sort of an April/May romance

There being a pertinent case in play — one’s 18, one’s 14Robert Stacy McCain offers this quote from the authorities:

“The idea is to protect people in that vulnerable group from people who are older, 18 and above,” said Bruce Colton, state attorney for Florida’s 19th circuit, which includes Indian River County and other parts of the Treasure Coast. “The statute specifically says that consent is not a defense.”

Colton said … this case exemplifies the purpose of the current law and added he would not support any effort to make consensual relationships among peers legal.

“There’s a big maturity difference between them,” he said. “You’re talking the difference between a senior in high school and a freshman in high school. That’s what the law is designed to protect.”

While I appreciate Mr Colton’s concern, I must note for the historical record that when I was a senior in high school, I was no more mature than the frosh.

(Then again, nothing happened. Nothing that violates any laws of Florida or, um, of South Carolina, anyway.)

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To everything, churn, churn, churn

Nicole pondered this matter earlier in the week:

Maybe I should migrate to Tumblr… All I do lately is reblog and post pictures and links.

Meanwhile, Pejman Yousefzadeh, one of the few Tumblr users on Ye Olde Link List, has migrated to Squarespace.

What does all this mean? I haven’t a clue.

Also this week, Yahoo!, which recently bought Tumblr for no discernible reason, has shaken up Flickr:

Yahoo unveiled some big changes to Flickr on Monday, both in terms of features and overall design. One of those changes is that free users are no longer limited to a certain number of photos; instead, everyone gets 1TB of space for their full-resolution photos.

With that change comes an end to what used to be the biggest difference between free Flickr accounts and Flickr Pro. As it turns out, that’s by design. In addition to lifting the previous upload and storage limits, Flickr is quietly discontinuing its Flickr Pro accounts (existing Pro users can continue to use Flickr Pro) and shifting to a different type of upgrade model.

The different type of upgrade model, incidentally, costs twice as much — or twenty times as much if somehow you have 2 TB of photos.

I just might let my Pro account quietly expire, though I haven’t made up my mind yet, and anyway it’s paid for through the end of this year. (I have, I’m guessing, somewhere around 0.02 TB of photos.)

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Powdered heavily, and dieting

Tuesday, science writer Jennifer Ouellette tweeted thusly:

I sent up a response: “She was quite lovely — and downright brilliant. I pity those who believe someone can’t be both.”

The next day, this vision was visited upon us, or upon some of us anyway:

Laura Fernee

The story so far:

Meet Laura Fernee, a 33-year-old academic who claims she was hounded out of her work because of her beauty.

Fernee, who has a PhD and worked as a scientific researcher, has been unemployed for two years and now lives with her parents, who very kindly pay for her flat, shopping and expenses — to the tune of £2,000 a month.

The Daily Mail, always cattier than thou, notes that her research job paid only £30,000 a year, presumably taxable. And this quote seems a tad disingenuous:

She said men left “romantic gifts” on her desk and she was “constantly asked out”, which she found “sleazy”.

“Even when I was in a laboratory in scrubs with no make-up they still came on to me because of my natural attractiveness.”

You know, somebody ought to do some research into this sort of thing. Can’t be Hedy, because she’s dead; can’t be Laura, because she’s writing a book about how horrible it is to be gorgeous. What’s Samantha Brick doing these days?

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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X marks the box

Perhaps the most exasperating aspect of this week’s Xbox One reveal:

People are bitching about needing to be online to activate their games. How are they bitching? By going on the internet and typing up storms.


Irony has worn a mask since long before Alanis Morissette.

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Cellar, shmellar

Not an unreasonable question: “Why aren’t there more storm cellars in Oklahoma?” Megan Garber explains to Atlantic readers something I’ve explained before in less detail:

The ground in central Oklahoma tends to be soft and moist — right down to the bedrock that sits, generally, some 20 to 100 feet below the surface.

Here’s the problem with that when it comes to building basements and underground shelters: Clay is particularly fickle as a foundation for construction. When loamy soils absorb rainwater, they expand. And when the weather’s dry, they contract. This inevitable and yet largely unpredictable variability makes basement-building a particular challenge, since it makes it nearly impossible to establish firm foundations for underground construction.

And while above-ground homes can be built on these somewhat shaky foundations, adding the element of open space in the form of a basement is a nearly impossible feat of engineering. There is a chance your house, its basement surrounded by glorified mud, will eventually simply topple into itself.

One of the houses I looked at before buying this one was about to slide off a hill, possibly for exactly that reason. Same price as mine, for half again the space — for a while, anyway.

But why not…? This is why not:

To mitigate this, contractors have been experimenting with steel reinforcements for basements, bolstering underground walls with steel beams that are drilled directly into the bedrock below. The problem here, though, is that much of Oklahoma’s bedrock is composed of limestone, which, just like the soil above it, absorbs water. And which, when it’s sapped of moisture, becomes chalky.

About the only thing Garber gets wrong in the whole article, in fact, is her placement of Moore in Oklahoma County. It is, of course, in Cleveland County, as is the section of Oklahoma City that was hit before the storm reached Moore.

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Especially if you’re burning oil

No one is arguing that auto emissions are actually good for you, but this doesn’t sound promising at all:

The American Heart Association’s journal on Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology has concluded that high levels of vehicle emissions can cause high cholesterol in mice, which could indicate that air pollution is a contributing factor in high cholesterol or vascular disease.

In the study, mice were exposed to diesel exhaust for two weeks “at a particulate mass concentration within the range of what mine workers usually are exposed to” (according to UCLA), which, not surprisingly, had a negative effect on the bloodstream. First, the air pollution altered the HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein, a.k.a. “good cholesterol”) to the point that the positive properties of the protein were reduced and could lead to high levels of LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein, “bad cholesterol”) and hardening of the arteries.

Now I wonder if the price of a California smog certificate can be covered by health insurance.

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Pick up your Q

Maggie Q, whose birthday this is — she’s thirty-four — was a model in Tokyo and Taipei, though not a particularly successful one; eventually she landed in Hong Kong, did some minor film work, and was noticed by Jackie Chan, who got her a small role in Rush Hour 2, which led to bigger things.

That sort of résumé might suggest to you that she pulled this stage name out of thin air, to replace some difficult-to-spell string of characters originating somewhere in the Pacific Rim. Um, no. Think “Margaret Denise Quigley.” Her father is of Irish and Polish extraction; her mother is Vietnamese.

Maggie Q enjoys a lovely beverage

In addition to her film and television work — she’s the lead in Nikita, currently running on the CW — she’s done promotional material for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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The unbearable being of lightness

Dr Angelo Mosso’s original manuscripts have been located, complete with a description of a very strange device indeed:

Mosso worked in the late 19th century, an era that was — in retrospect — right at the dawn of modern neuroscience. A major question at that time was the relationship between brain function and blood flow.

His early work included studies of the blood pressure in the brains of individuals with skull defects. His most ambitious project, however, was his [Human Circulation Balance] — or as he sometimes called it, according to his daughter, his “metal cradle” or “machine to weigh the soul”.

Then again, maybe it wasn’t so strange after all:

A volunteer lay on a table, their head on one side of the scale’s pivot and their feet on the other. It was carefully adjusted so that the two sides were perfectly balanced.

The theory was that if mental activity caused increased brain blood flow, it ought to increase the weight of the head relative to the rest of the body, so that side of the balance would fall.

The scientists reviewing Mosso’s papers aren’t saying one way or another, but later research suggested that the soul weighs about 21 grams.

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This is my four-leaf clover

The second single from Volume 3, the fourth album by She & Him, has been sort-of-enhanced with a video that She directed:

This sounds like it ought to be on one of Ace’s Early Girls compilations. Then again, so did “Never Wanted Your Love,” the first single.

I’ve already snagged my copy of Volume 3, and a review will be forthcoming when I get around to it.

Feel free to debate the significance of the title.

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Your state bird sucks

Nicholas Lund finds your lack of hawks disturbing:

I drove over a bridge from Maryland into Virginia today and on the big “Welcome to Virginia” sign was an image of the state bird, the northern cardinal — with a yellow bill. I should have scoffed, but it hardly registered. Everyone knows that state birds are a big joke. There are a million cardinals, a scattering of robins, and just a general lack of thought put into the whole thing.

Worst of the lot, perhaps, is Alaska’s:

Willow Ptarmigans are the dumbest-sounding birds on Earth, sorry. They sound like rejected Star Wars aliens, angrily standing outside the Mos Eisley Cantina because their IDs were rejected.

I dunno. To me, Willow Ptarmigan is the hippie chick who dropped (1) out of Swarthmore, or (2) a whole lot of acid.

Fortunately, Oklahoma’s own Tyrannus forficatus is more than sufficiently badass.

(Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

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