And then it was gone

We all waited impatiently for the return of Blue Bell Ice Cream after the Great Listeria Scare. And now that it’s (mostly) back — a few flavors at a time — a local supermarket chain is, for the moment, dropping the line for “unfair pricing.”

This isn’t the first time Crest Foods told a food producer to take their product and shove it, either:

A few weeks back, Nick Harroz’ Crest Foods in central Oklahoma posted a notice beside the pasta-sauce shelf to the effect that they would no longer be stocking the Classico and Ragú brands, owing to large price increases by Unilever, owner of those brands, which the store did not wish to pass on to shoppers. It’s easy enough to be cynical about this sort of thing, but Harroz has done this before, and almost invariably he’s gotten his way, or a reasonable fraction thereof, which is how he manages to keep his prices around the Walmart level without going all, well, Walmartish on us: he’ll take on anyone up to and including mighty Coca-Cola.

Harroz died last year at 94, but it’s pretty clear that the store plans to follow his plan. And this, too, shall pass, once Blue Bell gives in — which they almost certainly will.


Deer cross

We were presented with two statistics at the outset: these Milwaukee Bucks are, so far, the only team to beat Golden State this season, and despite that, they were 13th in the East and 3-14 on the road. These are, to say the least, contradictory premises, and it’s probably no surprise that the Thunder had trouble dispatching the Bucks: a 17-point lead in the third quarter was erased with frightening speed, the Bucks having seemingly no problem scoring points in the paint, and Khris Middleton making his way to a career night. Billy Donovan apparently decided that the Thunder would shoot their way out of it, and the fourth quarter saw 74 points made. OKC, who had 39 of those points, claimed the win, 131-123.

Look at this line for Middleton: 36 points on 13-22 shooting, six of nine treys, and seven assists. The man is fierce. His backcourt companion, Michael Carter-Williams, knocked down 19 more, and before fouling out late, Giannis Antetokounmpo collected 27 points and ten rebounds. The Bucks put up 100 shots, connecting on 49 of them. How does Oklahoma City beat that? Draw fouls and make the freebies — the Thunder were 37-40 from the line, while the Bucks went 15-22 — and turn Cameron Payne loose. The third-string, perhaps now second-string, point guard scored 16 points in just under 16 minutes. Donovan might be pleased, but I suspect he’s a bit vexed that the Bucks, near the bottom of the league in rebounding this season, outboarded the Thunder 47-41. And there’s something horribly wrong about letting an opponent shoot 49 percent in your house.

So while the Thunder got a day off from practice yesterday, they probably won’t get one tomorrow. And the Suns will be here Thursday, though it will be the second night of a back-to-back for Phoenix. Not that this particular disadvantage befell the Bucks, who came in with the same issue and yet looked just as fresh after 48 minutes as they had after 48 seconds. Maybe that’s how you beat the Warriors: you put off dying as long as possible.


Right now, over Net

I frankly didn’t envision this kind of response, which explains as well as anything else why I am not working in the music industry. As of Christmas eve, the Beatles can be streamed through your favorite service, and in the first two days, says Rolling Stone, 673,000 Spotify playlists got an infusion of Fab Four.

If you’re wondering which Beatles song got played most often, wonder no more: it’s “Come Together,” the opener to Abbey Road, which enjoys a singular status among Beatles tracks: on 45, it was the B-side to the one and only time George Harrison got an A-side (with “Something”). At the time, we were told that it was really a double-A disc, but it followed Apple practice: A-side gets the green side of the apple, B-side gets the sliced side. “They blessed me with a couple of B-sides in the past,” said Harrison at the time, “but this is the first time I’ve had an A-side.” Lennon, for his part, thought “Something” was the best song on Abbey Road, so he wasn’t complaining. Curiously, “Something” didn’t make the top ten streams, but Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” did.

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They’ve had it up to there

The Illinois River — no, not the one that flows through Illinois — looked something like this yesterday:

At the time, the river was up over 30 feet, a place it’s never before been in recorded history (which is probably 125 years or so).

Another view:

Flood stage at this station is a mere eleven feet. The river might recede to that point before this weekend, if there isn’t any more rain; last I looked, it was down to about 21 feet.

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In the mouth of the mouse

Coming in a couple of months to Boca Raton, Florida:

Reunion - The Ultimate 80s Concert

Not everyone will look the same, of course. If I remember correctly, Mike Score is the only remaining original member of A Flock of Seagulls; then again, the two core guys from Wang Chung are still together, and Nu Shooz (Valerie Day and John Smith) are very much as they were.

Too bad they’re not taking this show on the road, ya dig?

(Via Debbie Gibson’s Facebook page.)


Get out the vote/off my lawn

So true, so very, very true:

Lawn signs are one of the few campaign tactics deployed by candidates for every level of government in the United States. Inexpensive and relatively easy to deploy, lawn signs are a tactic available to even the most obscure and underfunded candidate for a downballot office. Indeed, the efflorescence of roadside lawn signs is often one of the few outward manifestations of a low-salience election.

These signs are illegalAnd that’s true even when, as is the case here in the Big Breezy, placing those signs anywhere other than someone’s actual lawn is forbidden by ordinance: the median on the east end of the Northwest Distressway collects these by the hundreds. I have noticed that winners are marginally quicker about clearing them off than losers are, but the ideal — that they vanish into thin air thirty seconds after the polls close — is not going to be reached in my lifetime.

And how much effect do these things have, anyway?

  • We conduct the first four randomized field trials of lawn signs.
  • On average, lawn signs increase vote share by 1.7 percentage points.
  • The effects of lawn signs spill over into adjacent precincts.

And a lot of downballot elections are closer than 1.7 percent; I remember one City Council vote here that was won by a single vote.

One of the researchers speaks out:

Alex Coppock, one of the co-authors of the study, told POLITICO the effects they found were in persuading voters to choose a certain candidate, not on turnout.

“We were surprised by these findings, because the conventional wisdom is that lawn signs don’t do much — they’re supposed to be a waste of money and time. Many campaign consultants think that signs ‘preach to the choir’ and not much else,” Coppock said.

“The effect is small in terms of percentage points, though the implication is that thousands of voters would have voted for someone else if not for the signs,” Coppock said. “My guess is that part of the reason that the effect is small is because any campaign tactic — signs, ads, mailers, calls, etc — only move people around at the margin. In many ways, it would be strange if the effect were bigger. Imagine a world in which the presence or absence of lawn signs could swing an election by 10 points.”

Truth be told, I think that as the electorate continues to fragment, that very world may be upon us before we know it.

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Getting ahead of ourselves

It was almost too good to be true:

Actually, the phone wasn’t what got me so much as it was the decidedly not-Forties-attired young lady, who more than a little resembles someone I used to want to look at more than I did. (Whatever the heck that means.) So I turned my attention to the background, and eventually hit upon the truth of the matter:

Then again, mobile technology is changing so rapidly that almost anything you can say about them results in an anachronism or two. Karen and Wade Sheeler were available for comment way back in 1990.

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Head ’em off at Rapace

Noomi Rapace, thirty-six today, made her name playing Lisbeth Salander in the three Swedish films made from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in 2009. (Interestingly, the Swedish title was Män som hatar kvinnor: “Men who hate women.”) Her first Hollywood blockbuster was Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

Noomi Rapace screenshot

Noomi Rapace takes a walk

The surname “Rapace,” incidentally, is French (and Italian) for “bird of prey”; Noomi and Ola Norell selected that name for themselves when they wed in 2001. (They split in 2011.)

Rapace has also appeared in music videos, including this weird little Luc Besson epic for the Rolling Stones in 2012:

Perhaps she just looks, um, musical; she’s slated to star in two upcoming biopics, one about Maria Callas, the other about Amy Winehouse.

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Viral music

In perhaps the most literal sense. Genetic Jen explains:

I took the entire HIV-1 genome and transformed it into music. This is something I had wanted to do for quite a while. The four nucleotide base pairs are cytosine (C), thymine (T), adenine (A), and guanine (G). Every C in the sequence has become a C note. The A bases are A notes and G bases are G notes. A friend suggested making the thymine (T) a pause in the music, but I preferred the idea that every base has a note so T has become a D note.

Is it great music? No. This is just yet another way to observe the genome. This is the smallest genome I’ve worked with and the track is one hour long. Obviously it could be shortened by altering the tempo but I liked it like this. Amazingly, a number of people have actually downloaded the music.

“Clearly I do strange things when I’m bored,” she says. I don’t think it’s all that strange: it’s still the same information, information of genuine value, simply converted into a different medium. And I am admittedly somewhat drawn to the idea that every single genome has a song of its own, even if the same four notes keep coming up.


Remind me to change my phone number

From Reddit’s LegalAdviceUK:

One of my key members of staff is currently on paid annual holiday leave. We’ve just won a big project and I need his help to get it started before the 4th of January when it goes live. Unfortunately, I can’t contact him because I have phoned his house and left an answerphone message, his mobile goes straight to voicemail and I’ve left him a voicemail message. I’ve also emailed every known email address I have of his with read receipt requests but nothing so far. Unfortunately he’s not on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and it occurs to me there might be something wrong although his team workers think he’s ignoring me. None of them say they know where he is.

What I want to know is where does the company stand if somebody on paid annual holiday leave ignores legitimate communications from his employer and refuses to call back head office? If he was here in the office, refusing a reasonable direct request from senior management is a disciplinary matter but because he’s out of the office, is there anything I can do or is this a disciplinary matter that has to wait until the 4th of January when it will be too late for him to be involved in the big project we’ve just won and could lose if he’s not going to help the company with it?

Many responses, but this is the one I’d go with:

He’s on holiday. That means he’s not at work. He doesn’t even have to acknowledge you exist until he’s back at work after his holiday.

I know in practise that many people, myself included, will maintain some level of engagement with work out of hours and during vacation but that is something we choose to do, not something our employers have a genuine legal right to demand of us.

Honestly, this post makes you sound like the worst kind of PHB. You’ve taken on a “big project” which needs to go live in less than 2 weeks without considering how you’re going to deliver it and only now have you realised you don’t have the skills or capacity to do it and are looking around for someone to blame.

Although the very first responder captured the true spirit of the situation:

Dude, what are you doing pissing about on Reddit for? You’ve got a project to prepare for and less than two weeks to do it…

But, as a PHB, he’s not giving up:

A like for like exchange of annual leave is more than fair. The company is very busy right now with this new project we’ve won and the company would appreciate it if he could just pick up his phone and tell us he’ll be in tomorrow to work over Christmas and New Year.

I have no intent to break the law, I’ve told him that the M.D. has cancelled his annual leave and it’s going to be transferred to the first quarter of next year. If he doesn’t take it in the first quarter of next year then that’s his liability. As a company we’re being very understanding during this challenging time but the needs of the business are far more important than the needs of any employee including myself because without the extra work we’ve just won which he needs to do for us, there might not be a business viable enough to keep employing him! He can take his wife and kids somewhere nice next year.

He might be able to get away with that in some parts of the world. But in the UK? He’s going to be hanged. And what kind of Mickey Mouse operation is wholly dependent on getting random Big Projects?

(Via @mrs. claws.)

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Strange search-engine queries (517)

The National Weather Service, I am told, prefers “ice pellets” to “sleet.” And I’d prefer almost anything else with the exception of freezing rain, which is a tool of the devil. In the meantime, since I’m not going to frolic in the, um, pellets, I may as well read the search logs.

18 years old cutie verified by a doctor to be a virgin and then deflorated by the doctor’s husband:  And this is why the world is rapidly going to hell in a handbasket: the interaction between people obsessed with screwing and people obsessed with not screwing.

burn the spring chicken:  And hope it doesn’t taste too fowl.

no coke:  Pepsi?

gas station in median little rock circa 1960-70’s 12th & fairpark:  No, they won’t sell you regular for 59 cents a gallon. Or even 59.9 cents.

my sprained ankle family blog:  See? You can blog about anything.

if 90 percent of automobiles in orange county have both headlights working what is the probability that in a sample of eight automobiles at least seven will have both headlights working?  Do you know something about Orange County that I don’t?

sharon had a major argument with terence:  Damn guy never got around to getting his headlights fixed.

victoria justice feet ketchup:  Just in case you thought you had ridiculous fantasies.

manages to snag a steel conduit with his fingers symmetrical:  I suppose it’s easier to grasp with equal amounts on both sides.

severance pay for nineteen years symmetrical:  How much of that time was spending snagging steel conduit?

3.39 inches:  The guy on Tinder who claimed seven and a half.

moles on black people:  It happens. Black people don’t like them either.

renee is telling tom about her recent preparation for law school final exams. he nods his head and says “uh huh” a few times. however:  Tom has no idea that he’s about to get dumped.

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Tripping up the Nuggets

Denver Nuggets. Rebuilding, below .500, playing the second night of a back-to-back, and Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari are out. Easy prey? Not even. Denver was pretty much in command early on, leading 61-53 at halftime; the Thunder put together some offense in the third to take a one-point lead; baskets were traded for about five minutes, and then Enes Kanter somehow caught fire, hitting seven in a row, and things began happening for OKC, though not fast enough to open up a big lead. Nobody in the ‘Peake started breathing easy, though, until Dion Waiters, who’d up to that point had had a rough night, threw down over Kenneth Faried just inside the two-minute mark, putting OKC up 117-108. The final was 122-112, demonstrating once again that the Thunder can and will thrash all Western Conference rivals. (The East, maybe not so much.)

What kept the Nuggets in this one was the offensive rebound — they had 17 — and the subsequent score. And they scored pretty often, hitting 46 of 93 for just under 50 percent. Five Nuggets made double figures, led by Faried with 25 and 11 rebounds, although the major threat often as not was reserve forward Will Barton, who rounded up 19 points and a technical for sheer ferocity. Still, this night belonged to the Thunder, headed by Russell Westbrook, who came up with 30-9-12, a board short of a triple-double. Kevin Durant had 26, including 10 assists and, surprisingly, only one free throw — on that tech on Barton. Kanter’s big burst in the fourth gave him 21 of the Thunder’s 35 bench points.

Tuesday: Milwaukee Bucks. Not exactly rebuilding, but below .500, playing the second night of a back-to-back. No injuries to report at this time. Easy prey? Don’t bet on it. The Deer may be having their problems, but the Thunder can’t seem to capitalize on these things against Eastern teams. Yet. We shall see.


We’re up all night to get Lockheed

The Pentagon’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will be built by Oshkosh. Lockheed Martin is apparently of the opinion that there was a conspiracy to ensure this outcome, and is complaining:

Lockheed Martin filed a complaint in federal claims court over the Pentagon’s selection of Oshkosh as the supplier for the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program, a contract valued at nearly $7 billion.

“After careful consideration of all options, Lockheed Martin decided to file a complaint with the Court of Federal Claims concerning our Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) contract award process,” LM said in a statement.

According to, Lockheed claimed in an earlier statement that it was made aware of “a substantial number of documents directly related to the competition that were not provided to the Government Accountability Office or Lockheed Martin until very late in the protest process.”

“We believe this newly discovered information should have been considered by the GAO before issuing a ruling on the protest, however, GAO declined to grant an extension to the 100-day deadline and could not consider the new documents,” the company said.

Oshkosh, for its part, says tough noogies:

“We are pleased that the JLTV production contract, awarded to Oshkosh in August, is now moving forward to deliver the world’s most capable light tactical vehicle,” said US Army Major General (Retired) John M. Urias, executive vice president of Oshkosh Corporation and president of Oshkosh Defense. The JLTV program fills a critical capability gap for the US Army and Marine Corps by replacing a large portion of the legacy HMMWV fleet with a light vehicle that provides unprecedented protection, off-road mobility and transportability.

Joint Light Tactical Vehicle

Some of the specifications for the JLTV:

The Pentagon requires at least 600 mean miles before an essential function failure. The vehicle will be capable of traveling one terrain feature after having endured a single small caliber arms sized perforation to the fuel tank, engine oil reservoir, or coolant system. It will be able to run on two flat tires. The JLTV must also operate in altitudes from minus 500 feet to 12,000 feet and maintain full mission capability in temperatures from −40 to 125 °F (−40 to 52 °C), according to established requirements. When temperatures drop well below zero, the JLTV must start within one minute with no external aids, kits or prior warming of the batteries. The vehicle must be capable of traveling 350 paved miles at 35 miles per hour (56 km/h) or 300 miles (480 km) in operational terrain on a single tank of JP-8 fuel. Acceleration from 0 to 30 mph in seven seconds on dry, level, hard terrain is required, as is the ability to ford 60 inches (150 cm) of saltwater without a fording kit, in forward and reverse, while maintaining contact with the ground.

Other tactically driven mobility requirements include a 25-foot turning radius and the ability to climb 24-inch vertical obstacles in forward and reverse. JLTV must be able to drive off an 18-inch vertical step at 15 mph and sustain no mechanical damage. It will be capable of traversing a 20-degree V-ditch that is 25 feet wide at an approach angle of 45 degree. It can “jump” a 6-inch parallel curb at 15 mph and traverse a 20-foot flight of stairs at 5 mph. It must climb a 60 percent dry, hard-surfaced gradient and traverse a 40 percent sideslope with no degradation in driver control.

Unit cost is just over $430,000, which doesn’t sound like a lot for a buggy with this much in the way of unstoppability.

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I learned it from you

The bar defining parenthood has been set so low in recent years it might as well be sitting on the ground:

The present generation of American parents commits innumerable sins against its children. Many of them are sins of omission. We fail to teach them about right and wrong, and how to know them. We fail to talk with them about values: where they originate, why they matter, and what one must do to preserve and defend them. We don’t bother to explain the seven virtues — for those who were poorly reared: faith, hope, charity, prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude — and why they’re good, or the seven capital sins — lust, vanity, gluttony, envy, wrath, greed, and sloth — and why they’re terribly dangerous. We retreat from discussions about the natures of mass appeal, popularity, peer pressure, obsession, and the worship of persons and things. Don’t bother us now, Junior; we have to respond to these important text messages, right after we finish our game of Bejeweled.

Some of this, I assume, derives from our own failures to meet the highest standards. (And we do fail, make no mistake about it.) But “maybe they won’t do this if we don’t mention it to them” has worked in a handful of fictional works, and nowhere else on the planet.

Worse, it’s easy to induct Junior into the same isolation bubble:

As bad as all that is, it can easily be made worse. Just give Junior a smartphone. Initiate him into the mysteries of “absent presence,” and what makes it so much more comfortable than attending to the persons and things around him. Especially the most annoying of those persons, the ones clustered most closely around him, the ones who constrain him from moment to moment, whom he can’t wait to disown: his family.

Which you won’t think about when the wireless company offers a multiline deal for a seemingly great rate.

Still, the worst sin we commit against the youngsters is to assume that the public schools, for which we pay rather a lot of money, will take care of those Basic Education Needs. They will do nothing of the sort, and it will become necessary to un-teach some of the more heinous things that they’re taught.

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From Italy with love

I was thumbing through the musical archives around here, and did not find this song:

You may remember Domenico Modugno from such hits as “Nel blu dipinto di blu,” known to everyone these days as “Volare,” which won two Grammy Awards and sold something like 20 million copies worldwide. That was in 1958. “Io” dates to 1959, and it deserves some kind of recognition for its short title, which in English is “I.” There exists a French lyric, under the title “Moi,” but the English version has a completely new set of words:

Released in 1964, this was Elvis’ biggest chart hit of that British Invasionary year, though it stopped at #12. And that was the song I found while thumbing through the archives.

RCA Victor 47-8440 presents a puzzle: two different picture sleeves (albeit with the same picture), one of which indicates “Ask Me” as the A-side, the other giving top billing to “Ain’t That Loving You Baby,” written by R&B stalwarts Ivory Joe Hunter and Clyde Otis and recorded back in 1958, which charted separately at #16.

Someone needs to get on the ball and knock out a piece on all the records Elvis did that originated in Italy. Two come immediately to mind, both of relatively ancient, hence public domain, Neapolitan origin: “It’s Now or Never,” a reworking of the standard “‘O sole mio,” which first appeared in 1898, and “Surrender,” based on “Torna a Surriento” (“Come Back to Sorrento”), from 1905.


You belong to me

Ah, San Diego, where the weather is usually wonderful and the happenings around town are often inexplicable:

With many wondering whether the Chargers are leaving Qualcomm Stadium for Los Angeles, San Diego’s other major sports venue — Petco Park — has become the subject of a bizarre ownership controversy sparked by a mentally ill man who filed a simple document.

Derris Devon McQuaig took legal title to the downtown ballpark away from the city and the Padres two years ago by walking into the San Diego County Recorder’s Officer and submitting a properly filled-out deed transfer.


The ownership is supposed to be: City of San Diego, 70 percent, Padres Limited Partnership 30 percent.

County and city officials have been quietly trying to remedy the situation ever since, but a felony fraud case against McQuaig was dismissed last week after a judge ruled he’s not mentally competent to be prosecuted.

Because no actual sale or transaction took place, government officials and real estate experts say there’s essentially no chance of McQuaig taking control of the property, which was recently appraised at $539 million and is slated to host its first All-Star game in July.

But McQuaig has created a legal and bureaucratic nightmare that could be perpetrated on any property owner if someone decides to target them by casting doubt on their title in this way.

Meanwhile, McQuaig resides in a Home for the Bewildered State Hospital in San Bernardino County, and the assessor’s office back in San Diego says that well, McQuaig did what the law requires:

“As long as he’s crossed his t’s and dotted his i’s and filled in the blanks sufficiently on the grant deed, we’re required to record it. He had no legal authority to transfer Petco Park to himself, but it becomes part of the public record.”

Some day this incident will be a comic opera.

(Via Vice Sports.)

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