Play something slow

The new Mazda6 has generally wowed the critics, who seem to enjoy its driving dynamics and its not-entirely-bizarre appearance. However, there’s apparently a drawback in the center stack:

The media interface is incredibly slow. I n c r e d i b l y s l o w. So slow that at first I assumed the head unit had frozen so I plugged, unplugged, plugged, unplugged to no avail. Then I gave up and listened to the radio. (Gasp!) A full 4 minutes later, the system switched to the iDevice and started to play my tunes. (Yes, I tested it with USB sticks and it did the same thing). If you think this is a momentary aberration, think again. The system has to fully index your entire USB/Android/iDevice music library before it starts playing. It does this whenever you unplug/plug or when you stop/start the car. Every. Single. Time. The larger your library, the longer it takes. Users on the Mazda forum reported a 10+ minute delay when playing larger devices while I averaged just over three minutes. Want tunes on a short journey? I hope you enjoy AM Gold.

Reminds me of my Sansa ClipZip, of which I once said:

[G]iven any really ginormous number of files, it chokes on the database refresh, which it never quite finishes. Meanwhile, your battery plummets.

I found a solution for the Sansa. Let’s hope Mazda finds one of their own before I have to start looking for new wheels.

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Vault tolerant

For the love of God, Montresor whatever your name is:

In what sounds like the very worst case of “Get off my lawn!” syndrome, police say the owner of a Boston-area storage facility was so ticked off at a Verizon worker who had parked on his grass, he locked him [in] an underground vault. And if we know anything about sealed underground chambers, it’s that they usually don’t have a lot of air. You know, for breathing.

Cops say the worker was on the premises to do some work in this mysterious sounding chamber, but the 71-year-old suspect didn’t appreciate his Verizon van parked on the grass nearby, reports CBS Boston.

Officials claim he not only slammed the door behind the worker, but placed large rocks on it and removed the ladder necessary to get out of the vault, ostensibly to keep him in there.

I dunno. To me, this seems to be the very antithesis of “Get off my lawn,” if the guy is put in a position where he can’t very well get.

Still, this speaks well for Verizon wireless coverage: the worker, trapped in his concrete-and-steel cage somewhere beneath the surface of the earth, was able to get a 911 call through.

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An exhaust manifold of your own

If you’ve lived here for any length of time exceeding a year, you’re aware that Oklahoma summers are hot, except in years like 2011 and 2012, in which the sheer inadequacy of the word “hot” proved to be every bit as painful as the scorching of the top of your head within 45 seconds of opening the door. (Note to Muslims: This is the way you sell the head scarf.) Complicate said heat with something seemingly just as hot along a different vector, and, well, you get this:

Every time I’ve ever eaten at a food truck, it’s been a typical Oklahoma burning hot day. This makes a lot of sense, because events like concerts, festivals, and anything that draws a large crowd of people outdoors occurs well, during the Oklahoma burning hot summer. It wasn’t until I, dripping with sweat, bit into a damn ahi tuna taco dressed with wasabi-mayo, handed to me by a thickly bearded man, surrounded by griddles and deep fryers, enclosed in a 4 ft x 8 ft vehicle, realized that there could be a problem.

Things have clearly changed from the days of the Roach Coach, the truck that occasionally visited us hungry soldiers on post; not only were the facilities far more hygienic than our disparaging name (alternative: “Maggot Wagon”) might imply, most of the foodlike products thence dispensed were approximately 23.5 percent preservatives and therefore would not undergo unseemly decomposition until actually digested.

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This pencil is barely #3

When I was a mere foal, we carried our precious school supplies in sturdy cigar boxes, and woe betide he who messed with somepony else’s box. Half a century later, things seem to have been inverted:

Some of my friends who have kids now say some schools collect the supplies, put them in a common box, and then distribute them. (There’s an interesting lesson in there, and perhaps not the one the school intends). So a sort of Tragedy of the Commons thing happens — there’s a race to buy the cheapest stuff, because who knows if your kid will get back what they brought in, so why spend the extra money? So everyone winds up with sort of crummy supplies … scissors that break, off-brand crayons…

On the other hand, given the apparent mission of contemporary primary education, this might be exactly the lesson the school intends.

And it probably doesn’t matter if the scissors break, because they won’t cut through deep mist, let alone actual construction paper.

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A caricature, not a copy

Reader “canadienne” kindly dropped this story into a comment, and I’m pushing it up here because — well, because it sounds so freaking weird:

If you think your photocopier is producing exact duplicates of your documents, you might want to double-check — some popular Xerox scanners and photocopiers change text and numbers documents scanned and copied under the “normal” quality setting.

The “character substitution issue” might occur with “lower quality and resolution settings” — which are labelled “normal” quality on Xerox machines — confirmed Francis Tse, principal engineer for Xerox, in a blog post Tuesday, several days after German computer science student David Kriesel first noted the problem in a blog post that spread quickly around the internet.

This is evidently the imaging equivalent of auto-correct. And what makes it worse:

Kriesel wrote in a blog post early Tuesday that based on his experiments, using a “higher” quality setting did reduce the errors. However, counterintuitively, it reduced the readability of scanned documents, prompting many people to choose the “normal” setting.

Meanwhile, my crummy Kodak printer/scanner, which I bought from Woot for fifty bucks (plus $5 shipping), gives me nice, clean 300-dpi scans with little effort. Admittedly, they may take as long as a minute, and I don’t mean a New York minute; but I never have to question whether the output is true to the input.

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Still the Girl

Every time I mention this particular song, I can count on someone in the comments giving the ASCII equivalent of a sigh. The first time was about ten years ago:

Composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim with a lyric by Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes, “The Girl from Ipanema” was a huge hit (#5 in Billboard) in the States in 1964, in a recording by Stan Getz and João Gilberto for Verve, with Jobim himself at the piano and Gilberto’s wife Astrud on the English-language (by Norman Gimbel) vocal. The picture it paints in the mind is vivid indeed, but it never occurred to me to assume that there was a model for it.

(If you haven’t heard the song lately, here’s a lovely TV appearance by Getz/Gilberto.)

Keeping in mind that the song was written half a century ago — well, a reference to the original Girl From in the Daily Mail motivated me to chase down this biographical note:

Helô [Pinheiro] became friends with poet De Moraes, who she calls “a dreamer, a charmer who married nine times, who was so clever he became a diplomat”. And Jobim? He proposed to her. “Tom was different,” she says. “He was shy, he was beautiful, a maestro on the piano. But the two of them drank too much. They were always at the bar drinking whisky, caipirinha, beer.” She chose, instead, a steady life with an engineer; they are still married. Jobim, she says, never got over her. “One time, he went to Vinicius’s home and told him he only married his wife because she looked like me. He said that in front of her. He was crazy.”

At the very least, he drank too much.

And I repeat this segment from a 2010 post, just for the edification of the readership:

The name “Ipanema” itself derives from the old Tupi tongue, and means “bad water,” which apparently is a reference to the quality of fishing from said beach. It has nothing to do with “Ipana,” which resides alongside Pepsodent and Gleem in the Hall of Faded Brands, Toothpaste Aisle.

Bucky Beaver was not available for comment.

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At least it gets your attention

Still, if death is a mere warning, what ultra-dire consequences must be in the offing?

Death may be a warning

This is the online version, with a wordier but maybe less alarming alarm.

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So over the Candlestick

Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, new home of the 49ers, inevitably features some high-tech trickery, including this:

[A]s recently reported by Yahoo Sports’ Rand Getlin, a stadium-specific app will allow fans to track the shortest beer and bathroom lines in real-time to most efficiently plan excursions away from their seats.

Which may not be the blessing you might think:

If everybody in the stadium is being directed to the shortest lines, wouldn’t they then quickly become the LONGEST lines?

Given the well-known tendency to believe an electronic device over your own lying eyes, I figure it’s a dead certainty.

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The citiest of all

To me, “city” has always seemed like it ought to be an adjective: Tulsa, for instance, is citier than North Platte. And scarcely any place on the continent is citier than New York City:

As a child, I had all kinds of fantasies about what the unmediated, unadulterated natural world might be like, but my experience was mostly confined to yearly hikes at Bear Mountain, which my father, paraphrasing Marx, called a Lumpenwilderness. And anyway, it can seem Herculean at times to leave New York City and go into nature, or anywhere else for that matter. If you don’t have a car, which is many if not most people, you have to rent one. For my set, that meant walking across the George Washington Bridge to the Rent-A-Wreck in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Then you had to actually drive out of the city, which could literally take hours, because, since you’d walked to New Jersey, you had to drive back across the bridge to get your stuff. And then there would be traffic and getting lost, which could not be avoided if your path took you through the Bronx at all. And then, if you weren’t some sort of wilderness expert, what exactly were you supposed to do when you get there? You could luxuriate in the grass while trying to wipe the fear of Lyme ticks from your consciousness, or marvel at the unobstructed views of sky. But if you’re like me, by dark you would be sweating in your bed because of the sonic emptiness, terrorized by the absence of the reassuring all-hours city din. As Woody Allen said, “I am two with nature.”

I first discovered this phenomenon in Basic Combat Training, forty-odd years ago. The absence of noise just screams at you. The farm boys from mid-Missouri, they seemed to be used to it, but those of us who were taught to genuflect at the very mention of Willis Carrier, we never quite adjusted.

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Columbidae trip

Something else I didn’t know about this town:

In 1973, the American Pigeon Museum and Library was established. Twenty years later, they purchased 10 acres in Oklahoma City and just last month moved into a brand new building that will open to the public early next year.

It’s located just south of NE 63rd Street and west of Bryant Avenue, and it has an extensive collection of pigeon equipment clocks, bands, trophies and paintings. It also has a lot great military photographs and Army pigeon corps equipment from both world wars including message holders like the one Cher Ami carried through whizzing bullets and battlefields of lore.

Despite her name, Cher Ami was a hen, and this is the message she was bearing:

October, 1918: Trapped behind enemy lines in Charlevaux, France, and surrounded by hundreds of German troops, the few hundred surviving members of the Lost Battalion soon had another problem to deal with in the form of friendly fire. His men rapidly succumbing to the onslaught and with two birds already shot down, Major Charles Whittlesay dispatched a frantic message by way of their last surviving homing pigeon, ‘Cher Ami’:

WE ARE ALONG THE ROAD PARALELL 276.4. OUR ARTILLERY IS DROPPING A BARRAGE DIRECTLY ON US. FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT.

When the pigeon miraculously arrived at the division headquarters 25 miles away he had been shot in the leg, breast and eye, and thanks to his efforts 194 members of the battalion were subsequently rescued. Cher Ami died from his injuries six months later, but not before being awarded the croix de guerre for heroic service.

This is, in other words, not the bird that crapped on your car ninety seconds after you washed it.

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In other news

Of course, we all know why Jeff Bezos was willing to ante up a quarter of a billion for the Washington Post: he got free shipping.

Still, this question comes up:

In any event, it’s noteworthy that the Boston Globe was sold for $70 million in the same week the Washington Post garnered $250 million. The disparity in sale prices hasn’t been explained.

Two factors come to mind:

  • The Post still moves about 480,000 copies a day, even though a growing percentage of those copies are virtual. The Globe sells about half as many.
  • Several times before, the New York Times Company, which owned the Globe, has sold properties to refocus on the Family Business; it’s possible that they wanted to firm up their balance sheets after paying off Mexican benefactor Carlos Slim three years early.

We will, of course, never know how much Phil Anschutz peeled off for the Oklahoman.

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This is not a common occurrence

And that’s what surprises me about this incident:

A disgruntled Charter Communications customer accused of threatening to bomb the Duluth customer service office last year pleaded guilty to a reduced charge Monday.

Steven Paul Saari Jr., 28, of Duluth was charged with a felony count of making terroristic threats after the July 10, 2012, incident, which saw Charter evacuate its Garfield Avenue building and police establish a secure perimeter around the site.

On Monday, Saari pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor count of trespassing on a public service utility.

Sentencing will be next Friday between 12 and 6 pm.

(Via the Consumerist.)

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Trees died for this

And undoubtedly, they’ll keep dying:

I was talking to my accountant the other day about the amount of paper that has accumulated in my office over the years, and she told me her solution was to scan everything, store the images on a hard drive and throw all the paper away. I imagine you can probably get a thousand to one compression ratio by doing that, but you still have not separated the wheat from the chaff. Eventually the hard disk will fail, or more likely become obsolete and you will no longer be able to get any data off of it, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? We keep all this crap around for years and we will never need 99.999% of it.

This is because we are extremely bad at predicting the 0.001% of it we will need, and we know it.

Of course, you can keep rolling over hard drives more or less indefinitely. The oldest file on my desktop at home is dated 2 January 1985. Let me repeat that: 2 January 1985. Twenty-eight freaking years! And how often have I looked at it? (Well, once this week, obviously.)

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A voice inside my head

From their 2011 Starry Night gala, Vancouver’s Shooting Star Foundation presents singer Rebecca Shoichet:

Rebecca Shoichet on stage

She’s also a member of SideOne, the estimable cover band:

… this band is made up of extremely talented and experienced musicians, and the sets were crafted for the sole purpose of packing a dance floor, while avoiding entirely the typical cover band cheese.

But most of the time when I hear her, it’s something like this:

Except for those last spoken words, which were spoken by, um, someone else.

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A solid idea

Dave Schuler comes up with a book proposal:

… A field guide to ordinary household objects after they’ve passed through a dog’s digestive system.

I’m just guessing that he doesn’t particularly want to write this himself.

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Some dressing for your word salad?

I think she’s got far more nerve than I do:

I dare you to try it. Close your eyes like you’re preparing to meditate and just type whatever floats across your mind. No peeking! Ready? Okay. Now what? I can’t think of anything because I’m tryig to think of something. I think this is why I stopped blogging. No, actually I think I stopped because I started making more friends and then my family started reading and I started caring what people thought. I mean I’ve always sort of cared what people think about what I write, but I don’t get all weird about it because I typically try to offset my bitchiness with a litle humor and oh shit I think I just made a typo. OMG what if my fingers were on the wrong keys all along and this is a bunch of gibberish? Did I spell gibberish correctly?

Some of the things that go through my head, I don’t even want to mention, and I was that way long before I picked up NSA as a feed subscriber.

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Small-head thinking

“Mental illness,” said Hugo Schwyzer, “is a bitch.” Which is, I think, indisputably true. And to demonstrate it:

Hugo Schwyzer, the social sciences academic at Pasadena City College best known as the “porn professor,” tried to commit suicide [Thursday] night, he told the [L. A.] Weekly.

He was visiting his mother in the Monterey area, where he grew up, when it happened about 10 p.m., he said. He was placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, the professor said:

“I took an entire bottle of Klonopin,” he said. That’s a muscle relaxant and anti-anxiety drug.

Schwyzer said he’s physically OK but reiterated how the social media fallout from a sexting relationship with a sometime porn star and multiple affairs with women made his marriage “over” and sunk him into a deep depression.

The sexting relationship and the multiple affairs didn’t destroy his marriage, but Twitter did? Maybe I’ve been taking tweeting too lightly all these years.

The prof says Twitter and article comments roasting him as a woman hater and regurgitating a 15-year-old suicide attempt and attempted murder of a girlfriend have taken their toll.

Maybe it’s just me, but actually trying to kill a woman — well, I’m sorry, but that sounds like the very definition of hate to me. Sucks if that’s interfering with your love life, Prof.

And I’m with Tim Blair on this one: “Instead of Klonopin, he should try KFC. It seems to cheer up other Hugos.”

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Lightning again

I hadn’t heard of Debra Baum before she became Rebecca Black’s manager. That particular event was groundbreaking enough to insure that the next time Baum had a teenage singer to pitch, I’d pay serious attention.

And here is the singer. Meet Sabrina Lentini:

She’s just turned fifteen, from Orange County, California (stop me if you’ve heard this), and she was one of a dozen contestants — Minors, shall we say — on Majors & Minors, a music-competition series on the Hub. Among the Majors participating: Brandy, Colbie Caillat, Avril Lavigne, will.i.am. (Brandy was the show’s producer.) Sabrina did not win, but she did make some connections, and she’s since self-released an EP called No Price for Love. Here’s the title song:

To these ears, she splits the difference between Melanie and Colbie. (In fact, there exists footage of her singing “Brand New Key.”) And unlike RB, she’s writing her own stuff. I’m looking forward to seeing how her career progresses.

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They were right the first time

A letter to the editor, published in the Oklahoman this morning, is headlined this way:

Clip from the Oklahoman 8-5-13

The writer, of course, was talking about the Republican party, but the proofreader, or the auto-correct gizmo, had it right. If the Democrats are the Me Party, clearly the Republicans are the Me Too Party.

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Thank you for flying Air Putin

According to their Web site, the Russian airline Aeroflot is the Official Airline of Manchester United, which fact annoys a Russian Deputy Prime Minister:

Russia’s deputy prime minister criticised state-controlled airline Aeroflot’s sponsorship of English soccer club Manchester United on Tuesday, saying it appeared to show the firm favoured international over domestic interests.

Earlier in July, Aeroflot signed a five-year contract for an undisclosed sum with the English soccer champions, in a deal the airline’s chief executive said would promote Aeroflot’s brand worldwide.

“Aeroflot prefers Anglo-Saxon football and basketball clubs to our planes? I might invite them for an intimate talk,” said [Dmitry] Rogozin, known for his anti-Western rhetoric, on his Russian Twitter account.

Basketball? Oh, yes. Aeroflot has been a sponsor of the Brooklyn (formerly New Jersey) Nets since 2010, and has just renewed that relationship with the team and its owner, Russian zillionaire Mikhail Prokhorov.

Interestingly, while Aeroflot does fly into New York (JFK), they don’t yet have scheduled flights into Manchester.

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