The whole gale

For some reason, this title resonates with me: “The wind has been ripping through the trees these past few days, and my hair desperately needs a trim.”

Maybe it’s just because the wind pretty much always seems to be ripping through the trees around here; it once ripped one of my trees in two. Or maybe I could just blame it on Marilyn Monroe.

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Decease and desist

An email asking “Are You Dead Or Alive” in the subject line is almost certainly dubious — if I haven’t updated in a couple of days, you can probably assume I’m dead, or at least that they’re throwing me onto the cart — but I looked at this one anyway, and it’s dazzling in its inanity.

“Miss Donna Story” writes:

We received an Email from a Lady called, Mrs Carol Cage, she called us this morning with this telephone number: +1909275xxxx, Informing us that you died three days ago, She said that we should send your ATM CARD to her, Mrs Carol Cage, home Address: Watertown, Wi 53094, usa. and also she provided this bank details for the transfer:

Bank details and part of phone number redacted. Incidentally, the number in question seems to be located, not in Watertown, Wisconsin, but in Fontana, California.

“Miss Story” continues:

She stated that she is your next of kin beneficiary, and she also told us that you instructed her to claim your properties including your fund that is in this office in case you are not there to be found on earth.

She said that you told her that there is transfer charge she will pay in other to receive the fund, that I should let her know the cost for her to pay, Please let us know if this is true or not because we are confused now about this claim because she requested that we should send to her the Name and Information to pay the required delaying fee to enable us transfer your fund to her.

“Delaying fee”? (“There’s a late charge for the late Mr. Hill.”)

Anyway, to avoid this presumably-unpleasant situation, I must send them a whole crapload of personal data. Of course.

As for Donna Story herself, evidently she really gets around.

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Dysfunctional space

A sibling visiting the palatial estate at Surlywood once swore up and down that the premises were at least as large as his own, even though the County Assessor measures a 35-percent difference. This is, I suggest, something they used to call Good Design: the ceilings are a mere eight feet, and the bathroom is maybe a little bigger than one of San Quentin’s, but otherwise it’s a pretty efficient — with or without a comma between “pretty” and “efficient” — use of the limited available space.

The opposite of this, apparently, is where Daphne hangs her hat and stares in disbelief:

Two thousand square feet should be enough room for our small family. Hell, if you spent any time with us, you’d wonder why we even need that much space since we always seem to be crowded in one tight circle of a room. Unfortunately, our house was designed by an absolute moron who lacked any crucial comprehension of spacial flow or system design. He also failed to possess a scintilla of esthetic sensibility. The entire left side of the house resembles a dungeon maze of narrow halls and weirdly sized, dark rooms that everyone avoids like the pages of Proust. Tell me, is it so difficult to plan at least two walls featuring windows in every room? Maybe plant a skylight in the long run of an interior corridor, maximize storage space, carve out appropriately sized air-flow intakes that won’t choke the air conditioning system into grisly death seizures every summer?

I might fail on a couple of rooms, window-wise. The living room has only the one exterior wall — what used to be the second now adjoins the garage — but there’s enough glass for two, maybe three walls. However, the master bedroom, you should know, has actual windows on three walls out of a possible four, which is a neat trick.

In the past I have suggested that construction techniques have gotten sloppier in the last six decades, and I suspect Daphne will back me up on this:

When we bumped into a secondary bedroom to expand the master bath in the last good house, we discovered existing two by fours that weighed at least twice as much as our newly bought lumber and there wasn’t a bowed one in the bunch after years of service. The quality of common building materials has degraded, so has our respect for qualified craftsmen in the trades and they’re both as rare as hen’s teeth these days. When housing turned into a cheap, mass-produced commodity of banal cul-de-sac boxes, crudely built by unskilled labor with shoddy materials intended to maximize profit at the expense of quality, we ended up with the shittiest living spaces imaginable. They may look shiny on the outside for a few years, but they degrade into expensive, falling apart nightmares not long after you’ve hung the pictures and planted a few shrubs.

The house at Surlywood could use a coat (or two) of paint, but it’s in pretty good shape for being almost 63 years old. A couple of walls are showing crack, so to speak, and I have all the excuse I could want to rip out the bathroom tile, but as banal boxes go, this one can probably go on for a long time.

Oh, and the last HVAC guy who was out here was briefly shaken by the size of the unit, and it’s not often I can say that.

“Only two tons?” he asked.

I pointed out that the house was barely a thousand square feet, for which a two-ton capacity was appropriate. “Looks a lot bigger,” he said.

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A regular Siberian khatru

ColdI’d thought I’d seen all the cute little 60-pixels-square (roughly) NWS forecast icons, including the one Fillyjonk says “looks like an attack of cotton balls”, but this one is new to me: found at NWS Indianapolis, it was captioned simply “Cold,” which, with a forecast high of 11, certainly seemed to fit.

On an impulse, I dialed up Fairbanks, which gave me the data for the Middle Tanana Valley. Apparently they eschew icons there. And with no highs this week above 10, I don’t suppose they need ’em.

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Quote of the week

Greg Mankiw proposes to reduce the federal deficit:

I have a plan to reduce the budget deficit. The essence of the plan is the federal government writing me a check for $1 billion. The plan will be financed by $3 billion of tax increases. According to my back-of-the envelope calculations, giving me that $1 billion will reduce the budget deficit by $2 billion.

Hey, it works for health care, or so they say:

Healthcare reform, its advocates tell us, is fiscal reform. The healthcare reform bill passed last year increased government spending to cover the uninsured, but it also reduced the budget deficit by increasing various taxes as well. Because of this bill, the advocates say, the federal government is on a sounder fiscal footing. Repealing it, they say, would make the budget deficit worse.

So, by that logic, giving me $1 billion is fiscal reform as well.

Indeed. Perhaps they should write similar checks to all of us.

(Via Glenn Reynolds, who makes a counteroffer: “I’m prepared to do it for half what Mankiw wants.”)

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The plot sickens

For those of you just tuning in, a paragraph of background:

“It is absolutely, absolutely unacceptable to shoot indiscriminately. Target only politicians and their staff and leave regular citizens alone.”

A bit of gallows humor from Travis J. I. Corcoran, proprietor of, recently 403ed into silence for reasons possibly having to do with this:

A blog threatening members of Congress in the wake of the Tucson, Arizona shooting has prompted Arlington police to temporarily suspend the firearms license of an Arlington man.

It was the headline “1 down and 534 to go” that caught the attention. “One” refers to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in the rampage, while 534 refers to the other members of the U.S. House and Senate.

Police are investigating the “suitability” of 39-year-old Travis Corcoran to have a firearms license.

Which is rather like having mice investigating the suitability of your pantry, but that’s not what I wanted to bring up.

Rather, I’m wondering if The Powers That Be are trying to gin up a news blackout. As noted, is 403ed for the moment; Mark Alger put up a post about Corcoran’s plight, which I noticed first as a Facebook link from NetworkedBlogs, which I vowed to go back to when I had some free time. That link is gone, though Alger’s actual post is intact, and Guy S., who posted something similar, noted at Alger’s place:

Mark, my post was also “deleted” on [Facebook], via the Networked Blogs app. However, the WordPress app, which does the same thing, is still showing the post.

Sounds suspicious to me. Perhaps WordPress doesn’t have an political agenda — or if they do, they keep it to themselves, thank you very much.

(Update: Guy S. says it’s not a scheme by NetworkedBlogs. See comments.)

In the meantime, there’s this:

It’s not like there isn’t a ton of case law on how the First Amendment applies to threats of political violence. Arlington will lose this, if it ever gets to trial. Post Heller and McDonald, they’ll lose even worse. Idiots.

But this is, as JayG points out, an attack not only on the First Amendment, but on the Second as well. An attack of this sort — groundless in logic, and arguably mendacious in nature — is an attack on all.

Corcoran’s one mistake, if you ask me, was not titling it 2 down and 533 to go, thereby giving them a wild goose to chase. I’m told they’re quite good at that in Taxachusetts.

But the exasperating aspect of it all is this:

We live in a world where a significant proportion of the population thinks speech that makes them uncomfortable is the same thing as shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre.

Nor is there any cure on the horizon, unless you want to herd them into a theatre and burn it down, which strikes me as ultimately counterproductive.

And one other thing: “firearms license”? Isn’t that just a hair incompatible with “shall not be infringed”?

If it can happen to one guy in New England, it can happen to any of us, anywhere.

Spartacus updated

“There ought to be one day — just one — when there is open season on senators.” — Will Rogers (1879-1935)

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All the retro-cute you could want

Yeah, her again. He’s there too.

I trust this requires no explanation.

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Poor Andrew Ian Dodge. I don’t even want to know what led him to title the 409th Carnival of the Vanities “Colon Clear.”

Allow me to divert the discussion, then, to an overhead shot of 409 Colon Street, Staten Island, New York, as swiped from Zillow:

Aerial view of a portion of Staten Island

Further diversion: A joke from my grade-school days:

Q. Name four islands whose names are questions.

A. Hawaii?; Samoa?; Jamaica?; and Staten Island?

I suppose you had to not be there.

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Stabbed by one’s own CMS

An unfortunate juxtaposition of headlines at earlier today:

NewsOK screenshot

The usual write-your-own-joke rules prevail.

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T minus 27 years

Well, 27 years less one day:

The year 2038 problem (also known as Unix Millennium Bug, Y2K38, Y2.038K or S2G by analogy to the Y2K problem) may cause some computer software to fail before, in the year 2038 or after. The problem affects all software and systems that both store system time as a signed 32-bit integer, and interpret this number as the number of seconds since 00:00:00 UTC on Thursday, 1 January 1970. The furthest time that can be represented this way is 03:14:07 UTC on Tuesday, 19 January 2038. Times beyond this moment will “wrap around” and be stored internally as a negative number, which these systems will interpret as a date in 1901 rather than 2038. This is caused by integer overflow.

Using a signed 64-bit integer would allow for dates up to 290 billion years in the future, useful in case you’re maintaining a Keith Richards archive.

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Gassed accommodations

While most cars and trucks can be converted, at not-inconsiderable cost, to run on compressed natural gas, which sells for a buck-forty per gallon-equivalent at the nearest CNG station to me, you don’t have a lot of choices among new cars:

Currently, the only natural gas light-duty vehicle manufactured in the U.S. is the Honda Civic GX. (While Toyota introduced a CNG Camry at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2008, it has yet to announce any production plans for the vehicle.) Not surprisingly, the Civic is in high demand.

Outside of purchasing a Civic, American consumers have two other options: pursuing one of the limited makes and models available from the EPA-certified conversion system manufacturers, or purchasing from a government auction of pre-owned fleet vehicles.

From the email bag comes word that this is not the case in Europe, and that Mercedes-Benz has a couple of models that can run on natural gas, dubbed NGT. The neat thing: they’ll also run on premium gasoline. There are two separate tanks, and a switch on the dash to choose your fuel. Says my correspondent:

MB are talking about possibly selling the newest E-Class NGT in the states next year. I understand the bigwigs at Chesapeake are lobbying hard to get them to sell it in OK.

I wouldn’t blame them. If you’d been shying away from CNG-fueled cars because you didn’t think you could take them on road trips, you may have just lost your major excuse, though “How in the bloody hell am I supposed to be able to afford a Mercedes?” will presumably still apply.

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Lisboetic justice

What do Dylan, Hendrix and Nirvana have in common?

Answer: They’re on the list of baby names forbidden by the Portuguese government, along with “Kathleen,” “Olaf” and, for some reason, “Allan Brett.”

The list runs 80 pages in PDF format (you can get it here), from Aarão to Zuzidine.

Allan Brett, I assume, was unavailable for comment.

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Different grid, same smartening

The frost hadn’t even started to accumulate on my brand-new “smart” electric meter when the Us Too! letter arrived from the gas company:

Oklahoma Natural Gas Company will begin installing an Automated Meter Reading (AMR) system in your neighborhood within the next two weeks. The technology, designed to improve your service, uses a device on your meter that allows us to remotely obtain your meter reading using radio signals. An Oklahoma Natural Gas Company vehicle driving nearby picks up the signal and reads your gas meter.

This is an order of magnitude less smart than OG&E’s smart meters, which can phone home as easily as E.T. On the other hand, it’s going to cost rather a lot less, especially since they may not be upgrading all the hardware:

In some cases, the installer will attach an AMR device to your existing meter. In other instances, the entire meter will need to be replaced and your gas service will be temporarily interrupted.

Just what I needed to hear in the middle of winter.

The existing meter was relocated from the far north end of the yard to up against the back of the house in the fall of 2007, the same time a leaky gas line was replaced. It’s distinctly old-school in appearance, so I suspect its days are numbered.

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Humid Kitty

Old pal (and occasional commenter) Mel sends along this not-exactly-towering presence:

Hello Kitty humidifier sells this humidifier on its Web site, but it’s apparently not available at Target stores. You’re looking at $39.99, maybe $5 of which, I’d guess, went to Kittyfication.

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Radio guy Matt Pinto was showing signs of strain towards the end of this game, and so were the tattered remains of the Thunder defense, which couldn’t stop the Nuggets from closing things out in Denver, 112-107, evening the season series at 1-1.

Perhaps the most heartening thing about this game, even though it was a loss, is the idea that Carmelo Anthony, who’s been the subject of absolutely insane levels of speculation of late — should he stay or should he go? — apparently decided to quit paying attention to the press; the apparently undistracted ‘Melo dropped in 35 points and hauled in seven rebounds. Chauncey Billups and Nene added sixteen each; Denver shot a creditable 51.2 percent, though they were a blah 4-16 from beyond the arc.

If 4-16 is blah, though, what is 3-15? Oklahoma City still can’t buy a long ball, and while the Thunder did manage to outrebound the Nuggets, 46-39, Kevin Durant had an off night (22 points, 6-18 from the floor), and while Russell Westbrook did his best to hold up his end (28 points, 10 assists), nobody else’s line really shone, except maybe Serge Ibaka’s (16 points, 9 rebounds).

Back to the Quarter-Mile-High City for one game — Saturday against the Knicks, who thrashed the Thunder at the Garden earlier this season — and then Monday in New Orleans.

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Fark blurb of the week

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