Quote of the week

Amanda Kerri writes for The Advocate:

Somehow we have put up some qualifiers on which political party you’re supposed to be a member or supporter of as an LGBT person. It’s somehow become the accepted norm that when a person comes out of the closet, they come out carrying old WPA posters, a yellowed newspaper saying “Dewey Defeats Truman,” and a Mondale-Ferraro button. I’m alluding to the Democratic Party, of course. To be fair, we tend to get weird about Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton, who complicate the narratives. Still, we seem to have become wedded to the idea that we are at least supposed to be Democrats as LGBT people, and to some you’re not truly “woke” on LGBT issues unless you’re slightly to the left of Trotsky. It’s odd that we think that way — that for some reason who we love or how we identify determines our attitudes about taxes, foreign policy, Wall Street oversight, and the Second Amendment.

Let me lay it out straight for you — pun intended — your sexual orientation and/or gender identity has nothing to do with what you should believe politically. It may shock you, but 20 percent of LGBT people self-identify as conservative. It goes up to 30 percent if you’re polling people over 50, but of course we all know gay people quit mattering after 40.

I did not know that. I did, however, know this:

Not everyone who falls into the conservative camp is a vile hatemonger corporate stooge, while not everyone on the progressive side is ready to cut off rich people’s heads and quote from Das Kapital.

With respect to that article, “don’t read the comments” applies particularly strongly.

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Hang them on the fridge

Not often do I see a dismissal of a new shoe quite this absolute:

Mabu by Maria BKLet’s take a closer look, shall we? Please note that this particular style is EXCLUSIVE AT NET-A-PORTER.COM.

Each pair of Mabu by Maria BK’s sandals is unique and has been made by hand in Greece. This sand leather style winds high up your calf and is woven with playful pompoms, glossy beads and coins. They’re reinforced at the sides with geometric embroidered canvas straps.

The price, $200, does not (to me anyway) seem inordinately high, unless you’re inclined to price these things by the pound; it does seem awfully insubstantial, even compared to my standards for inchoateness. I said something about “a six-year-old playing gladiator,” which brought this response: “It does look like a 1st grade art project gone awry.”

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It could only happen here

Or at least, that’s the impression we’d like to give:

A man and a horse were shot in a Thursday night drive-by shooting in northeast Oklahoma City.

About 10:20 p.m., Frederick Leon Jackson, of Spencer, and Carlos Romon Miles, of Jones, were riding their horses back from a rodeo arena, off NE 50 and Post Road, when they stopped in front of a church off NE 41 to smoke a cigarette.

Miles told police he saw a red car approach and someone in the car started shooting as the car passed by, according to a police report.

Jackson was hospitalized with a bullet wound to the calf; his horse caught a round in the upper right shoulder.

This is a pretty remote area — the Spencer post office actually delivers the mail this far out — and definitely not the sort of place you’d tend to expect a drive-by shooting. I suspect the occupants of the vehicle were, um, somewhat impaired at the time.

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In the narrowest sense

Well, it’s life, Jim, but not as we know it. For one thing, it’s exceedingly uncomplicated compared to everything else alive:

The new life is born with a jolt: A fresh genome, built from scratch with human hands, is pushed into a host cell using an electric current. One cell quickly becomes a billion, and a completely unique living organism is born.

It’s not science fiction — or even a recent breakthrough. Scientists created the first synthetic bacterium back in 2010 using this method. But in a new study published Thursday in Science, they’ve taken this proof of concept a step further. Their latest single-cell creation has what they’re calling a “minimal genome.” They’ve created an organism that has just 473 genes, the smallest known genome of any living organism. With fewer, it wouldn’t be able to sustain itself. Their hope is that bringing a genome down to its minimum components will help scientists figure out the most basic building blocks of life.

Which is not to say that they understand the functions of all those genes, even at this minimal level:

[T]heir pared-down synthetic cell — dubbed JCVI-syn3.0 — has a whopping one-third of its genes totally unaccounted for.

“There were 149 genes of unknown function. We expected maybe 5 or 10 percent. I don’t think anyone would have imagined getting down to a minimal cell with 32 percent,” [J. Craig] Venter said. Even with a cell that can barely support itself, it seems, the task of hunting out gene function will still be daunting.

The closer we get, the more mysterious things seem.

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They often call it Speedo

But its real job, at least in the 2017 Bugatti Chiron, is “marketing tool.” Angus MacKenzie reports in Motor Trend (5/16):

The speedo is analog and reads to 500 km/h (311 mph). It’s clever, subtle marketing. “The speedo doesn’t fade away when the ignition is off,” says Bugatti chief Wolfgang Dürheimer, “and so when people look inside they can see how fast the car can go, and they all will talk about it.”

This is astonishingly disingenuous, even for a Volkswagen subsidiary. The car, as delivered, won’t get anywhere close to 500 km/h. In the very same article:

The Bugatti Chiron is limited to 261 mph. It will go even faster, and for those owners who want to go to the very edge of the performance envelope, Bugatti will help them do it, either in a factory-owned car or the owners’ own Chiron, either fitted with a set of special, ultra-finely balanced wheels and tires, plus a battery of additional sensors to be monitored by factory technicians during the V-max run. And V-max is? The Bugatti boys demur, but drop enough hints to suggest 275 mph or more.

Two hundred seventy-five miles per hour is 443 km/h, which ain’t 500 unless you work for the government. And if you work for the government, you presumably can’t afford this car:

The average Chiron buyer owns 42 cars, at least one jet, three helicopters, and four houses. More than half are art collectors.

Four houses? You might as well own a hotel.

Then again, I have a long history of suspicion of speedometers.

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Eliza’s bratty kid sister

This was the plan, anyway:

Microsoft has a new artificial intelligence bot named Taylor that tries to hold conversations on Twitter, Kik, and GroupMe. And she makes me feel terribly old and out of touch.

Tay, as she calls herself, is a chatbot that’s targeted at 18 to 24 year-olds in the US. Just tweet at her or message her and she responds with words and occasionally meme pictures. Sometimes she doesn’t, though. She’s meant to be able to learn a few things about you — basic details like nickname, favorite food, relationship status — and is supposed to be able to have engaging conversations. She is intended to get better at conversations the longer they go on. But honestly, I couldn’t get much sense out of her. Except for my nickname, she wasn’t interested in learning any of these other details about me, and her replies tended to be meaningless statements that ended any conversation, rather than open questions that would lead me to say more about myself.

Getting “better” is, of course, subjective with any AI, and after an appallingly short period of time, Microsoft decided to give Tay a time out:

Okay, it might have been more than just a time out:

Microsoft has been forced to dunk Tay, its millennial-mimicking chatbot, into a vat of molten steel. The company has terminated her after the bot started tweeting abuse at people and went full neo-Nazi, declaring that “Hitler was right I hate the jews.”

Still, a warmer version of carbonite is probably not the ultimate solution:

In addition to turning the bot off, Microsoft has deleted many of the offending tweets. But this isn’t an action to be taken lightly; Redmond would do well to remember that it was humans attempting to pull the plug on Skynet that proved to be the last straw, prompting the system to attack Russia in order to eliminate its enemies. We’d better hope that Tay doesn’t similarly retaliate.

John Connor was not available for comment.

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Curiously Jazzless

The Jazz were on a roll of sorts: they’d beaten up on Houston last night, displacing the Rockets from eighth place while assuming that position themselves. But that was last night: tonight, the Thunder forced them to assume the position for the fourth time in four tries this season, and unlike the last two — two days apart in December — it wasn’t particularly close. OKC 113, Utah 91, though if the Jazz were tired, they made the effort not to look like it.

Still, this one was enough of a blowout that Josh Huestis, the bargain player of the decade — after being drafted, he was stashed in the D-League for two seasons, earning Burger King dollars — actually got minutes; after bricking a couple of free throws, he took a pass from Dion Waiters and knocked down a trey from the left wing. You might infer from this that the Big Names checked out early, and they did: Kevin Durant played just barely thirty minutes (20 points, of course), and only Waiters exceeded 29. (The Russell Westbrook line: 15-7-9. Not a triple-, or even a double-double, but heck, he was busy enough for the 27 minutes he was out there.) The Utah scoring leaders: basically, everyone named Trey. Trey Burke had 17 points off the bench, Trey Lyles 14. (Only Burke actually hit a trey.) Unfortunately for the Jazz, this loss drops them into a tie with Houston, and worse, the King Missiles own the tiebreaker and get to claim eighth.

Meanwhile, the Thunder, now 50-22, have moved six games ahead of the fourth-place Clippers; the Grizzlies are pretty solidly ensconced in fifth, but sixth is still up in the air, with Portland a game and a half in front of Dallas. Complicating matters: next home game is against the mighty Spurs, and the rest of the season, except for two visits from Angelenos (the Clippers next Thursday, the Lakers on the 11th of April), is on the road. And while winning out, thus finishing at 60-22, seems unlikely, third place in the West seems fairly secure; the Northwest championship has already been clinched.


Epistle grip

Let us suppose, for a moment, that the second thing seen by the former Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus was a mailbox:

As I sat half-listening to the lector at Mass on Sunday morning — my mother and the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church insist that I go to at least one Mass every year unrelated to someone getting married or dropping dead — it stuck me how much of the Christian Bible, that portion the bitter clingers refer to as the New Testament, is actually mail, twenty-one pieces of first class mail, in fact. I thought this a bit odd at the time. The Buddha found the path to enlightenment while sitting under a bodhi tree, Moses got the Good Word from a bush that burned without burning, thereby causing and preventing forest fires in one fell swoop, and the archangel Gabriel had to tell Muhammad to recite three times before the Prophet finally got the point and started reciting. But Christianity? Christianity comes to us via the faith of the Apostles, the sacrifice of the martyrs, and the exertions of the Roman post office.

Which would be well to remember in case you start wondering what the Romans have ever done for us.


Accuracy when you need it

And boy, do we need it now:

Forecast for tonight: dark

Turning to widely scattered light in the morning, as Al Sleet, your hippy-dippy weatherman, might say.

(From Bad Newspaper via Miss Cellania.)

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From the book of Romans Go Home

Monty Python’s Life of Brian turned out to be so gosh-darn amusing that several multitudes at the time, the time being 1979, assumed the film must be blasphemous, and some of them got actual form letters from Python, which closed this way:

We are aware that certain organizations have been circulating misinformation on these points and are sorry that you have been misled. We hope you will go see the film yourself and come to your own conclusions about its virtues and defects. In any case, we hope you find it funny.

This statement is not approved by the Judean People’s Front People’s Front of Judea.


Nor will croutons help

I’ve perhaps too lightly tossed around the term “word salad,” but I’m pretty sure this piece of comment spam (picked up elsewhere) at the very least deserves a sneeze guard:

Walking quite Walking might not be actually wow play profound, But then I develop into darned when it n’t most of usually unquestionably this particular saddest movie I before set up. Subsequent you shelter, A new consistent gentleman trying to outlive one particular zombie apocalypse during the time safe guarding a little daughter child who were trapped by compact rrn a very treehouse. While doing the mission, You earn advanced one another watching kids shut off, And in addition waste really does reach an blower in certainly lovely unbearable stylish.

I figure I have plenty of examples of “certainly lovely unbearable stylish” in the picture archives around here (5300 images on site, about 75,000 on my home box). Then again, I strive to be a consistent gentleman.

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Making the user experience worse

If there’s a way to make things more cumbersome for its stagnating user base, Twitter will do it, every single time.

TweetDeck, we now know, will be reduced to a mere Web site in mid-April. Those of us who didn’t immediately declare allegiance to the new regime were faced with this:

TweetDeck for Windows will no longer be supported and will cease to work after April 15

Over the entire width of the screen. Can you turn it off after you have “read more”? Not a chance.

It’s like they really want us to hate them.


Singing a sad Saskatoon

I don’t know if I could get this scheme to work:

The sexual maturation process, like maturation in general, is wildly variable. Worse, social skills usually lag woefully behind sexual development — the gawky, dorky, yet super-horny teenager is a stereotype for a reason. If, like me, you were born in the Jurassic, and if, again like me, you were one of those gawky, dorky, yet super-horny teenagers, your parents probably compared your fumbling attempts to get a date with a dog chasing cars — you have no idea why you do it, and you wouldn’t have the first clue what to do with one if you caught it.

And that’s the beauty of the Canadian girlfriend. If your social skills don’t sync up with your raging hormones, you can get yourself a little breathing room in your peer group by claiming you met this great girl on summer vacation … but, alas, she lives in Canada, and even though you were totally this close to scoring, she had to go back to, like, Ottawa … but she writes you every week, and dude, this Christmas vacation, it’s gonna be epic…

As a teenager, I was gawky and dorky, though not super-horny; I had desires, I suppose, but at no time did I expect them ever to be addressed, so the subject wasn’t uppermost in my mind, and besides the glands weren’t secreting, or something.

My one adolescent experience, if you want to call it that, with a female of the Canadian persuasion proved to be remarkably unrewarding. She was about my age, she lived in faraway Lethbridge, Alberta, and for one or two exchanges, we were pen pals. Then she asked me for a current photo, and I duly sent one.

I never heard from her again.

Okay, fine. I can take a hint. Not everyone can be an object of desire.

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It could be worse, but not much

Some things are just too horrible to imagine. Judging from the description, this happened in Olathe, Kansas:

A tractor-trailer fire closed southbound I-35 past 119th Street for about a half-hour Tuesday morning.

The fire was reported about 9:30 a.m.

The big rig, which was hauling 34,000 pounds of chocolate, was on the right shoulder of the highway.

Seventeen tons of chocolate! And to think I shivered with fear at this.

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How do you handle a problem like VW?

A TTAC reader offers a modest proposal to deal with Volkswagen’s travails, at least in the North American marketplace:

Don’t do any deals with anyone in the US. Let VW USA go bust and withdraw the VW brand from the US market. But at the same time buy FCA. Then scrap the Chrysler range and rebadge VWs as Chryslers. Do bail out Audi in the US but only if it can be done for a reasonable sum. Otherwise kill that and resell Audis as Lancias or Alfas. Job done. VW saves billions, acquires Jeep and gets a US brand in Chrysler to replace VW. It also gets Alfa and the Fiat 500. The Fiat 500 range should then merge with the Seat range. VW should then kill off whichever brand is weaker in each local market. e.g. Fiat lives in Italy but dies in Spain.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles chair Sergio Marchionne has made noises before about looking for a sugar daddy, though I have to wonder just how sweet acquisition by the staid Germans might be. (My guess: Sergio pockets a bundle, FCA shareholders are left wondering what happened.)

And really, Audi, which is fully competitive in this market, has to be worth preserving.

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They don’t look fast

Lee Ann — you remember Lee Ann, don’t you? — sent me a link to these, presumably because she thought I’d hurl:

MLP Rainbow Shoes

The source of this image assures us that they have “no clue where this picture came from.” And I wonder how old it is, since that’s clearly a Generation Three Rainbow Dash, who wasn’t particularly fast; for that matter, she wasn’t even a pegasus in G3.

And pulling the fabric over the back of the heel like that? What’s that all about?

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