I would totally watch this

To borrow a phrase, it makes those dueling Snow White films look like fairy tales:

CollegeHumor’s Favorite Funny Videos

Now if we could just get a lead on Carmen Sandiego.

(Seen at Marko’s.)

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Working within the Wals

I am not inordinately fond of Walmart, not for any of the usual reasons, but because of their comparatively liberal return policy, which has led people you might have thought were sane to get the urge to take their only-just-purchased motor vehicle back to the dealer the next weekend and get their by-gosh money back for reasons ranging from “the transmission fell out” to “it’s too hard to drive a stick.” Doesn’t work that way, kiddies. And you can find at least one of these deluded souls almost every damn day on Yahoo! Answers’ Cars section.

A slightly more sophisticated objection: Walmart moves stores around a lot, at least in metropolitan areas, and when they do, they leave behind these humongous boxes of concrete that no one wants and hardly anyone bothers to offer to subdivide.

So this report is heartening indeed:

The International Interior Design Association recently selected the McAllen [Texas] Public Library as the winner of their 2012 Library Interior Design Competition. The city inherited the former Walmart after the retailer closed the store and abandoned it. The decision was made to reuse the structure and create a new main library within. Meyer, Scherer & Rockcastle, Ltd. of Minneapolis were selected to handle the interior design which the city required to be functional, flexible and affordable to construct. For a library, the existing 124,500 square foot space is huge. That’s the size of about 2½ football fields making the new library the largest single-story location in the US.

I note here, strictly for comparison, that the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library in Oklahoma City covers about 114,000 square feet — over four stories.

Did McAllenites go for the new library? “Within the first month following the opening, new user registration increased by 23%.”

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Some whiz kid thought this up

Why, it’s his number-one idea:

Michigan is hoping to keep drunks off the road with the help from a special bathroom message.

The state says talking urinal-deodorizer cakes have been distributed to Michigan Licensed Beverage Association members in Wayne, Bay, Ottawa and Delta counties. A recorded message will play reminding men who step up to the urinals to call a cab or a friend, if needed, to get home safely.

I tell you what, if I’ve gone to see a man about a horse and a voice comes to me from somewhere in the vicinity of the drain, I am running, Jack, out of that facility just as fast as I can. (And I’ll probably be hit by a car once I reach the parking lot.)

(Via the Consumerist.)

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This is called “research”

And this is how you do it:

I took a bracing, I-am-totally-confident-and-I-do-this-all-the-time-and-it-is-no-big-deal-and-I-am-not-acting-like-a-weirdo breath. “Yes, I have a question. I’m a writer and I need to speak to the owner of that cute little VW convertible out in the parking lot.”

One of the women stopped, scissors open above a clump of hair held up by a comb. She glanced down at my camera, then up at me. “That’s my car.”

I trotted over to her. “I’m a writer and I’ve just written a scene which takes place in your car, well, not your car, but a car just like yours, and I realized I wasn’t sure about the interior of the car. Would you mind if I get a few pictures of it?”

I’d have chickened out and bought a Volkswagen sales brochure on eBay. Then again, I’m not a writer.

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More GanderSauce™

It sounded so clever at the beginning:

As detailed by the Kansas City Star this week, 30-year-old Matthew Creed has developed and launched a site called BlabberMouth in order to bring public attention to local arrests. However, he’s also attempting to financially profit by collecting a sizable fee from an arrested person to remove information like name, home address, date of birth, mug shot and the reason that the person was arrested. On the home page of the site, Creed has included an embedded Google Map that allows site visitors to search for arrested people living in their neighborhood. According to the site owner, the purpose of the site is to deter crime by notifying the public of criminal actions. However, all this information is already public record.

The pricing scale:

According to the pricing information on the BlabberMouth site, an arrestee would have to pay $200 for a complete removal of their profile within twelve hours. A less expensive $150 option accomplishes the same thing, but can take up to four days. The Gold option costs $100 and only removes the home address along with the charges from the profile page. However, people searching the site can still find the arrestee on the Google Map. The Silver option costs $50 and only allows the removal of one item from the profile page.

There is, of course, a punchline:

Creed’s own home address was published within a thread on the popular KSLR forums after his home address was found within a lawsuit filed last year that was also public record. Creed requested that the entire forum thread be deleted, but Erik Radzins, the owner of KSLR, rejected that request. Radzins stated “I feel it’s everybody’s right to know his information if he’s going to publish this information for thousands of other people. It’s just the highest amount of hypocrisy.”

What, he didn’t offer to write them a check? Sheesh.

Now turned up to 11 on the Pariah Scale, Creed has announced a revamping of his site and his M.O.:

The site will be taken down TEMPORARILY on July 4, 2012 at 12:00 Noon, CDT to restructure our company, and we will reopen in approximately 3-4 weeks. We will be in transition to a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization during this time.

As of June 27, 2012, any money contributions received outside of our removal fee will go to victims of families of violent crimes and drunk driving, in addition to grow the NPO responsibility through a financial stewardship model designed by a church leader that I have come to know and respect. There was an initial start-up cost of $3,109.43 for BlabberMouth, LLC. After this initial investment is recovered, our money disbursement will be divided as follows: We will give away 40% to charity, invest 20%, and the remaining will go to pay the employees involved with BlabberMouth, including the owner.

When the site reopens, we will focus exclusively on: DUI arrests & convictions, driving while suspended, sexual charges, drug related charges, and non-payment of child support. We welcome any other suggestions for charges that should be included. All previous features on our site will still be available.

“Oh, well, if it’s a non-profit, that means it’s okay.” You’d be surprised how many people believe that sort of codswallop. (Or, if you’re a regular reader here, perhaps you wouldn’t.)

Update, 5:45 pm: According to Caller ID, BlabberMouthLLC just called here, from a Johnson County, Kansas exchange. Give the man credit for not spoofing Caller ID. He didn’t, however, leave a message. See also this OKCTalk thread.

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This week’s dating tip

There’s nothing quite so useful as a corroborating source:

A few weeks ago, Jonathon Allen, a biochemistry major at the University of California, Santa Cruz, was listening to the Nature podcast when he heard about a team of researchers in Japan who had found an odd spike in carbon-14 levels in tree rings. The spike probably came from a burst of high-energy radiation striking the upper atmosphere, increasing the rate at which carbon-14 is formed (see ‘Mysterious radiation burst recorded in tree rings‘).

But there was a problem: the only known causes of such radiation are supernova explosions or gigantic solar flares, and the researchers knew of no such events in AD 774 or 775, the dates indicated by the tree rings.

Which gave Allen an idea. He pored over the pertinent entries in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and in 774 found this:

Allen found a reference to a “red crucifix” that appeared in the heavens “after sunset”.

“It made me think it’s some sort of stellar event,” Allen says. Furthermore, he notes, the redness might indicate that the source was hidden behind a dust cloud dense enough to scatter all but a small amount of red light. Such a cloud might also prevent any remnants of the proposed supernova being seen by modern astronomers.

While Allen apparently wasn’t the first to spot this reference, give him credit for knowing what to do with the information once he got it.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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In ten seconds, flat

I suspect this beer stein is not Hasbro-approved merch:

Rainbow Dash beer stein from Bronycon

Will Greenwald from Aggrogate has more pix from the winding down of BronyCon, held this past weekend in the Ghastly Gorge Meadowlands.

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Strange search-engine queries (335)

Another Monday morning, another trip through the logs in search of cheap laffs. We’ve been doing this for more than five years now; the Chief Justice said we could.

why is “ever” overused?:  Because it adds emphasis to your hyperbole if you can assert that it’s the worst thing that ever happened.

man knocked on door in mcalester ok trying to sell magazines and said something inappropriate:  OMG, it’s the worst thing that ever happened!

June 11 2006 braum’s truck wreck gainesville tex:  And there was frozen yogurt, steaming in the sun; you don’t want to know what happens to yogurt when it gets warm.

marie antoinette transvestite:  “Let them wear corsets!”

black male model with huge penis in locker room:  Bet he wasn’t wearing a corset, either.

where is simolea:  On Lake Ontario. It’s expensive, so bring plenty of simoleons.

where to buy a large sheet of cardboar:  I’m guessing he means “cardboard,” which is easy to find, and not a 2D reproduction of a wild pig, which is perhaps less so.

radio smut:  Use your imagination for once.

how reliable is cd4e transmission after repair:  A hell of a lot more reliable than it was the week before it was repaired.

how to denote a blog title:  If it isn’t obvious, perhaps you should avoid the whole concept of blogging.

nylon stockings on sarah palin legs more:  More than what?

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Not an insubstantial threat

The LPGA had an event in Rogers, Arkansas this weekend — specifically, the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G — and apparently this sign was spotted at the Pinnacle Country Club, where the competition is taking place:

Any persons (except players) caught collecting golf balls on this course will be prosecuted and have their balls removed.

(Twitpic via @mdrache.)

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Meanwhile in Hong Kong

Fifteen years ago today, Hong Kong ceased to be a British territory, the 99-year lease having expired, and was handed over to the People’s Republic of China, which tagged it as a Special Administrative Region. Under the agreement between Beijing and London:

Not just the current social and economic system in Hong Kong will remain unchanged, also the life-style and rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of travel, of movement, of correspondence, of strike, of demonstration of choice of occupation, of academic research and of religious belief, inviolability of the home, the freedom to marry, the right to raise a family freely. Those will be ensured by law as well as the private property, ownership of enterprises, legitimate right of inheritance and foreign investment.

Geez. Where can we get some of that?

The agreement expires in 2047, and what happens after that is anyone’s guess, though it might look like the tumult in the streets of Hong Kong today. Juliana Liu reports for the BBC:

Elaine Mok, a demonstrator who took part with her extended family, told me she marches nearly every year in order to fight for justice and the rule of law, and to oppose mainland interference in Hong Kong affairs. They were there, she said, to remind their Chinese overlords that Hong Kong people want the right to vote, as promised when this city returned to mainland rule.

Most of the protesters were professionals like Ms Mok. Some families brought their young children. A broad cross-section of Hong Kong society gathered to agitate against one-party rule in China and to demand the right to universal suffrage, which people here increasingly believe is their natural birthright.

Hong Kong currently goes through a charade of selecting its Chief Executive by polling 1200 local businessmen and institutional officials. (By absolutely no coincidence, the new Chief Executive, CY Leung, took office today.) But it seems to me that the people of Hong Kong are taking the longer view by opposing the current one-party structure on the mainland: a different regime in Beijing might be more amenable to extending the freedoms enjoyed in Hong Kong beyond the 50-year term of the handover agreement — or, perhaps less likely, to extend them beyond Hong Kong to the rest of China. Certainly something is going to happen in China soon, as the population levels off and the economy continues to weaken.

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Up to 50 percent of customers are dumb

A recent FTC study says so, in fact:

The Federal Trade Commission recently commissioned a study that looked out how consumers perceive and comprehend the “up to” conditional in advertisements.

The researchers used different versions of an ad for windows — one that stated that the windows were “proven to save up to 47% on heating and cooling bills,” and one that simply stated, “proven to save 47%.”

Of those who looked at the “up to” version, 45.6% mistakenly said the ad promised to save 47%. Meanwhile, only 58.3% of consumers who saw the unconditional version said the ad promised to deliver 47% savings. According to the FTC, the small difference between the two results indicates that the use of “up to” did little-to-nothing to change consumers’ perception that the ad was promising the maximum level of performance.

“Good afternoon, [name and hair color redacted]. We’ve come to take back those windows we installed.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because we still haven’t received your check, and it’s been thirteen months now.”

“But you told me these windows would pay for themselves in a year or less!”

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Read any good records lately?

The ever-alert Gerard Van der Leun turned up this stirring account of something that seems impossible: the recreation of the sound from a recording from a picture of the recording.

Actually, it doesn’t seem impossible to me. While a record (or cylinder) groove is clearly a three-dimensional object, and a photo contains only two, vertical modulation in the early days was mostly unintentional: the cutting head wiggles from side to side, and if you can duplicate that wiggle, you can duplicate the sound. It’s more difficult today, what with stereo and all: the Westrex 45/45 system to cut a two-channel groove requires that the stylus track both horizontally and vertically. (This is, incidentally, why you weren’t supposed to play stereo records on your old mono clunker phonograph: the stylus didn’t have enough vertical compliance and could damage the groove.) For a brief period in the 1970s, there were even four-channel grooves, either with complicated phase-encoding schemes (SQ, mostly) or multiplexing patterned after FM stereo (CD-4). God forbid you should try to read one of those from a photo.

Although Arthur Lintgen, now 70, might be able to give it the old college try. From The New York Times, 11/19/81:

Before an audience in the auditorium of Abington Hospital, near Philadelphia, two weeks ago, Stimson Carrow, professor of music theory at Temple University, handed Dr. Lintgen a succession of 20 long-playing records chosen by Mr. Carrow and 10 of his graduate students. All identifying labels and matrix numbers were covered over, but Dr. Lintgen, simply by taking the records in his hands and examining their groove patterns in a normal light, identified the piece and the composer in 20 cases out of 20.

The event was arranged and filmed by the ABC-TV program That’s Incredible, which plans to air the segment early next month. Mr. Carrow had “never heard of Dr. Lintgen” before ABC called and asked him to administer the test. “We chose mainstream music — the Beethoven Fourth and Fifth Symphonies, ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ by Strauss, the Tchaikovsky ‘Nutcracker’ — things the audience could relate to. Not only could he do it, he could recognize some of them 15 feet across the room.”

This was astonishing enough that Time sent James “The Amazing” Randi to check it out. Randi constructed an experiment, and was apparently satisfied with Lintgen’s explanation. He wasn’t actually reading the groove so much as he was engaging in a complex form of pattern-matching:

The trick, Lintgen explained, is to examine the physical construction of the recording and look at the relative playing time of each one of the movements or separations on the recording.

According to Lintgen, a Beethoven symphony will have a slightly longer first movement relative to its second movement, while Mozart and Schubert would compose in such a fashion that each movement in many cases would have the same number of bars. Beethoven, however, had set out in a new direction and that changed the dynamics of the recording. In addition, if there was a sonorous slow beginning, one could look at the recording at that point and see a long undulating groove that would not contain the sharp spikes that would identify sharp percussion.

On an impulse, I went to the record shelf and pulled out Also Sprach Zarathustra. The opening “Sunrise” movement is pretty distinctive-looking, what with that long contrabass/organ/bassoon drone, followed by brass and then tympani. I couldn’t see anything in the later movements, though Lintgen probably could:

All phonograph grooves vary minutely in their spacing and contour, depending on the dynamics and frequency of the music on them. Lintgen says that grooves containing soft passages look black or dark gray. As the music gets louder or more complicated, the grooves turn silvery. Percussive accents are marked by tiny “jagged tooth marks.” The doctor correlates what he sees with what he knows about music, matching the patterns of the grooves with compositional forms. In a way, it is like reading a graph of a given work’s structure.

He probably wouldn’t have been able to read that 1890 gramophone record you saw in the video, but he might have been able to determine whether it was music or speech. Which is still pretty darn remarkable.

(Title from the original 1982 Time article. All the Lintgen links go to Snopes, just because.)

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Know thyself

I figure, if Andrea can do it, Lynn can do it, and Fillyjonk can do it, there’s no excuse for me not to do it, and so I did it.

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And the tiniest fix is in

LIBOR is the London Interbank Offered Rate, the benchmark interest rate for the banking industry at all levels. (I have had credit cards in which the interest rate was determined by adding X, where X is some absurd quantity, to LIBOR on a specific date.) It is inconceivable that LIBOR should be screwed with, so inevitably it was:

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission says Barclays tried to influence the interest rates as early as 2005, before the world financial crisis broke. Barclays employees urged other banks to participate in the attempted manipulation. And the CFTC says senior Barclays managers made false reports to protect the image of the bank during the financial crisis.

British and American regulators came down hard, or as hard as regulators are allowed to come down, fining Barclays $452 million. Since the bank has assets somewhere in the vicinity of $2 trillion and earns revenues well into the tens of billions every year, this is the economic equivalent of having to toss a dollar into the cuss jar.

Barclays boss Bob Diamond says he will not resign, though he did decline his annual £6.5 million bonus.

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No hint of Temperance

Given the dozens of megabytes I’ve devoted to, um, whatshername over the past couple of years, it’s about time I showed some appreciation for her older sister. Accordingly, here’s a shot of Emily Deschanel at Bringing Farm Sanctuary to All: A Celebration of Expanding Compassion, in a slightly-quirky (maybe it runs in the family) dress by BCBGMaxAzria:

Emily Deschanel

Emily’s current gig, you may recall, is playing Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in the Fox series Bones.

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Even then, math was hard

From the Things I Did Not Know files, courtesy of Nvmeri Innvmeri:

The Romans had no negative numbers, and could express only a limited range of fractions with numeric symbols, principally the twelfths from 1/12 to 11/12. (The American pound has 16 ounces, but the Roman libra was divided into 12 unciae.) That means that while any properly-formed Roman number can be expressed in Arabic numbers, the converse is not true.

Since Wilson Pickett has been on my mind of late, I asked for a Roman equivalent of 99½, which comes back XCIX S; apparently one through five twelfths are represented by horizontal lines ordered in pairs, and seven through eleven by S plus those same lines, so 999/12 would be XCIX S= – or something like that.

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