How easy is it?

The curse of the 21st-century Webmaster is to be on the receiving end of every marketing scheme in the Alpha Quadrant. I am low enough on the totem pole to miss most of these, but now and then something reaches my inbox, and occasionally I’ll even check it out.

It is, apparently, the 50th anniversary of the Easy-Bake Oven, which was introduced by Kenner in 1963. (The absorption of Kenner, Parker Brothers and Tonka Toys into Hasbro is a tale for another time.), which vends appliance parts online, worked up a nifty infographic for the occasion, of which I’m showing you one section. (Click to see the whole thing.)


I was sent this because I’d done a short take on the EBO last year, citing its new unisex (or something) design.

Apparently some Amazon merchants still sell the old, light-bulb-driven version — for about twice as much as the new machine with the actual heating element. Finding a 100-watt bulb, though, is your problem.

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Taylor, maid

Point: Taylor Swift is the soul of innocence in this promotional picture she did for Keds, arguably the least-sexy shoes this side of your old worn-out Chucks.

Taylor Swift for Keds

Counterpoint: A bit of exposition from Man of Veal, the Superman parody in MAD #524 (December ’13), written by Desmond Devlin. Says Snor-El:

The MacGuffin carries the historical genetic record of every Kraptonian’s birth! It must be kept out of Generally Odd’s hands! That’s why I will steal it, dissolve it, and encode the data inside my son’s body. He’ll contain more different DNA samples than Taylor Swift’s bedsheets!

Steal before Odd!

We’ll give Taylor herself the last word. In her InStyle cover story (November ’13), the interviewer says in seeming disbelief: “You’ve never been in love?”

I don’t know. I think that you can love people without it being the great love. Ed [Sheeran, her tour mate] said something that really resonated with me. He says there are different kinds of love. There’s physical attraction, mental attraction, and emotional attraction; there’s also comfort and obsession. You need to have all of those things in one person. You have to mentally respect them, be physically attracted, and have a comfort level. You’re obsessed with them, yet you also know they’re going to stay. I’ve never had that in one person.

I know the feeling. And if her next album contains a song titled “Bite me, Ed” — well, no explanation required.

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Raised by wolves

Local Wolves is a print and online magazine based in Southern California, founded by photographer Cathrine Khom. Their ninth issue is just out, featuring a selection of “Autumn Beauties”; Rebecca Black’s BFF Alexa Losey is on the cover.

Rebecca Black in Local Wolves magazineAnd if you dig down thirty-odd pages, there’s RB herself, photographed in some places that may not actually remind you of her Orange County origins, including an actual pumpkin patch. The text included with those pictures, it appears, is intended to bring you up to date, in case you hadn’t heard that she was still around and still doing whatever the heck it is she does. (Of course, if you read these pages, you already know that, after a fashion; I’m starting to believe that I have written more about Rebecca Black than has anyone else on the face of the earth.) RB posted a shot from the session to Instagram; you can read the whole issue of Local Wolves from their Web site, which will take you to Issuu, a nifty-looking online publisher with a prodigious variety of available content. (I probably need to keep up with SwimSuit Illustrated, if only to see if they have an annual Sports issue.)

For her regular Friday video, RB churned up something called “Everyday Makeup Tutorial,” which is of course nothing of the sort — but she’s deadpan enough to make you believe it, for the first minute or so anyway. She then tweeted:

RT if you think i should do an ACTUAL everyday makeup routine ;)

Seriously twisted, this girl.

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Think of the load time

Did you ever say to yourself, “You know, Self, BuzzFeed wouldn’t be half bad if it weren’t for all those goddamn graphics?”

Me neither. But there is an answer. If nothing else, it will show you just how much actual text there is in one of their mega-sized pages.

Then again, they could be worse. (One word: “slideshow.”)

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Approved by the Second Deputy Under Assistant Pirate

The Karma Police obviously haven’t come close to being shut down:

The latest indication of the haphazard way in which was developed is the uncredited use of a copyrighted web script for a data function used by the site, a violation of the licensing agreement for the software.

The agreement calls for, among other things, a GPL or BSD license, either of which requires that the copyright statement be included in the source code.

A representative for the company said that they were “extremely disappointed” to see the copyright information missing and will be pursuing it further with the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency that runs the site.

On the upside for HHS, this bit of chicanery does not affect their nonprofit status: the sea of red ink isn’t about to subside — which bureaucrats consider desirable, since they think it supports their incessant demand for additional funding.

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A difference made

We’ve all seen these before: a list of 100 books. But this one is different:

Now, in all my experience of such book lists, this one has a unique feature. Which is that I’ve read all the books on it. Yup, every single one — 100%. That’s because I compiled the list from … the books I’ve read (choosing titles, as well, that I liked enough that I’m happy to recommend them). Why should I let other people make lists to browbeat me with? If I make the list myself, I get to have read everything on it. Enough bullying is what I say. You, too, can make your own list and rebel against the tyranny of the book-dictators. I suggest you do it.

That paragraph speaks volumes about blogospheric mainstay Norm Geras, who passed away this morning at 70. A recognized expert on Marx, he’d written a dozen books on political theory and practice, and was a signatory to the 2006 Euston Manifesto.

In the online community, however, he may be best remembered for the normblog profile, in which he sent four dozen or so questions to leading bloggers and asked them to answer any thirty of their choice. (The definition of “leading” is occasionally flexible.)

James Joyner remembers this aspect of Norm Geras:

The vagaries of life have lately decreased both my blogging and my reading of blogs, and so I missed Norm’s announcement this past May that the prostate cancer that he’d first been diagnosed with in 2003 was spreading and taking a toll. He was characteristically stoic about the matter, which he posted about only by way of apology for an anticipated decline in posting.

The book list quoted above, incidentally, was his last post, which came out on the 9th of October.

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Ay, there’s the scrub

A scrub, TLC explained, is “a guy that can’t get no love from me / Hanging out the passenger side / Of his best friend’s ride / Trying to holler at me.” Photographer Hannah Price seems to have encountered a few:

The Morning News: How did the series begin?

Hannah Price: I grew up in Fort Collins, Colo., and never experienced men publicly expressing their sexual interest in me till I moved to Philadelphia. At the time it was an unusual experience and threw me off guard.

TMN: Describe the moment when you turn your camera on the guy.

HP: Once a guy catcalls me, depending on the situation, I would either candidly take their photograph or walk up to them and ask if I can take their photograph. They usually agree and we talk about our lives as I make their portrait.

So no hard feelings, evidently. And this sounds downright benign:

HP: I always make sure the lighting and composition is as beautiful as possible and try and capture what is interesting about the person.

Artist first, irritated person second. Not everyone can pull off something like that.

(Via this Rob Boone tweet.)

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A whole beakful

There were at least two burning questions going into tonight’s match with the Pelicans at the BOk Center in Tulsa: “Can Steven Adams play extended minutes?” and “Can’t anyone here hit the damn 3-ball?”

The answer to both is Yes. When starting center Hasheem Thabeet got into foul trouble at his usual heady pace — five in 14 minutes — Adams took over in the middle and posted an actual double-double, 10 points and 15 rebounds, before hefouled out in the waning moments. And the Thunder put up 22 treys, sinking twelve of them. (Ryan Gomes had three of them in three tries, in case you were wondering why he was on the roster in the first place.) Despite these obvious assets, however, the Pelicans, tenacious (and unbeaten) birds that they are, would not go away, and with 5.4 seconds left, New Orleans had worked their way to a 105-102 lead with Austin Rivers at the stripe. Then Rivers bricked both free throws, and the Thunder’s last offensive effort was smacked away by Anthony Davis.

New Orleans put five guys into double figures, led by Eric Gordon with 21; Ryan Anderson paced the bench with 18. Both teams shot around 49 percent; the Thunder had a better percentage from the stripe, but took ten fewer shots. And seven Thunder players hit double figures; as usual, Kevin Durant was the first one there. (He finished with 25.) OKC’s still turnover-prone: they coughed up the rock 21 times, resulting in 24 Pelican points.

Last year, the then-Hornets were swept by the Thunder in the regular season. I have a feeling that’s not going to happen this year.

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The nerve of some people

Left overnight in the spam trap:

Hi, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam feedback? If so how do you protect against it, any plugin or anything you can recommend? I get so much lately it’s driving me mad so any assistance is very much appreciated.

In general, I think spammers should be drawn and quartered — then eighthed, and finally sixteenthed.

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Around the corner

Once in a while I will brag on this neighborhood, a neat little postwar strip (two blocks wide, half a mile long) about four and a half miles from the middle of town, an area I always assumed would be beyond my resources ever to live in. (I’ve now been here almost ten years. Go figure.)

This particular house, now being offered at about $10k less than I might have guessed, is probably a cut above most of the single-story houses within a half-mile radius, and it’s been done up nicely. It’s owned, of course, by someone I hate to see leave, but life is like that sometimes.

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Stickery dock

Will Truman goes 0 for 2 getting his cars inspected in his new state, and he’s wondering if it’s really worth it:

Replacing the windshield was no real burden on my part. It was less than the exhaust repair. But it’s a pretty clear case of something where the danger to myself — much less others — was positively minimal. While $250 isn’t much for me, it is a significant burden for some people. All for access to the thing they need to make money to do things like repair cars with actual problems.

A fair number of accidents on the road may indeed be attributable to car malfunction, but that shouldn’t be the question. The question should be the extent to which an annual (or less) check of certain things reduces them to any significant degree. And whether each thing we are forcing people to address, in itself, would save lives. How many lives, and at what cost?

We abandoned the annual inspection around the turn of the century, on the basis that to do a proper evaluation of everything safety-related would cost a whole lot more than the inspection station was allowed to collect for doing it, and besides the state was generally in compliance with emissions standards and therefore didn’t actually have to require drivers to, as the Californians say, smog their cars.

But then there’s this consideration:

The aggregate costs of these checks are enormous. To the extent that there are externalities to be addressed, there is already a venue to do so: insurance companies. An optional inspection for a cut on your insurance rate could price out the total costs quite easily. They’d certainly have an incentive to know how much that would save in lives and property damage.

Now if we could just get more than about 75 percent of our drivers to actually have insurance for which rates could be cut.

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A small but deep groove

In this clip from the 2013 Montreux Jazz Festival, pianist Emily Bear performs a medley of five of her compositions from her album Diversity.

This item appeared on YouTube on the 9th of August, which was exactly three weeks before Emily’s birthday. Her twelfth birthday.

Oh, and she’s no slouch at the classics either: see, for instance, her performance of Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54, with the Santa Fe Concert Association. Or, perhaps more remarkably, her own “Santa Fe.”

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Hailing frequency

When I bought the palatial estate at Surlywood, insurance on the place was a hair under $900 a year, which sounds high until you consider that we have every known disaster here except tsunami.

For about six years the premium stayed about that level. After a 35-percent increase, I changed carriers. Then came this:

Then came the spring, and suddenly every insurance company from Mangum to Miami was paying out bazillions of dollars in claims; my new insurer forked over $7500 or so to replace my roof.

So I figure that I may as well eat this year’s 35-percent increase, because all those guys are going to have to reprice their policies, presumably making shopping around a waste of time. Besides, Current Insurer did a creditable job of handling my claim, and more than a few people in this state were sent cancellation notices instead of renewals.

The following year, it went up 44 percent. I was not looking forward to this year’s bill. I did have one faint hope: after all the tornadoes this spring, the paper ran an article on how insurance coverage was inevitably going to get even pricier, and as a sidebar included a list of companies filing for a rate increase. Mine wasn’t on that list.

Comes the bill. It’s down $4. Main difference: wind/hail damage, which used to be a 1-percent deductible, is now a 2-percent deductible. I can live with that, I think.

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Not even just for the day

TTAC had a piece up on how electric cars are not exactly knocking ’em dead at the rental counter, and the reason why this is so was detailed beautifully by commenter Kenmore:

You’re traveling for work, you don’t want to be, your flights were botched, a 300-lb. blue-shirted decerebrate spit truculent “verbage” at you as he cupped your nuts, you’ve never much driven in this city and it’s construction season. And you have diarrhea.

Oh, yeah … NOW is the time to try a car from Mars.

Last year’s Impala, anyone?

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The Gas Game (suspended?)

About this time last fall:

After a one-year hiatus, Oklahoma Natural Gas has decided to reinstate the Voluntary Fixed-Price Plan, which freezes the Cost of Gas section of one’s bill for twelve months, this time at $4.257 per dekatherm.

According to their Web site, there wasn’t an actual hiatus, so apparently they couldn’t be bothered to send me a renewal.

And as it turns out, the actual cost of gas, as quoted on actual bills, ranged between $4.68 and $5.55, so they presumably lost money on the most recent incarnation of the scheme, which just might be why they once again couldn’t be bothered to send me a renewal.

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Most of my Twitter followers are aware that I have some, um, unorthodox musical tastes, which is why I get stuff like this:

ARK co-founder Patrice Wilson, best known for a song about a day of the week that went viral, is indeed back with something new:

As the phrase goes, downright catchy. Will I remember it an hour from now?

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