The ties that unbind

Roger explains the relative dearth of rail-based passenger service in the US:

Most of the greatest concentration of potential train use, because of population patterns, is in the Northeast corridor from Boston to DC, and California. And do you know who lives there? LIBERALS, those arrogant prigs who fuss about energy conservation and don’t REALLY share American values. So screw ’em. We have the fix for the problems of some of the recent rail crashes, but we’re not going to spend money for THAT.

OK, that was exaggerated, but only slightly. There are also pockets of density in the eastern Midwest, and in parts of Texas suitable for rail transportation. Still, fixing the rails, usually shared by freight, and needing to defer to cargo, is considered “subsidizing” Amtrak. Fixing the roads is … oh, never mind, we don’t do that either.

If you saw “Texas” and blinked, think “Texas Eagle,” which actually runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, entering Texas sort of parallel to Interstate 20 (west as far as Fort Worth, where it joins the Heartland Flyer to Oklahoma City), down Interstate 35 to San Antonio, and along Interstate 10 to El Paso and points west. Admittedly, density along I-10 is somewhere between zero and barely above, but I-35 is prodigiously busy and getting more so. (Fort Worth is the nation’s 16th largest city; San Antonio the 7th; in between is Austin, which is now 11th.)

And it must be conceded that we get farther behind on infrastructure repairs just about every single year.

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Answers to questions nobody ever asked

I mean, it’s not like I had a topic for Vent #1000.

Of course, if you really want to ask me something, there’s always ask.fm.

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This may mean nothing at all

The Web host I have used since 2001 offers some 350 different top-level domains, from ten bucks a year to several thousand. Pricing, one assumes, is at least somewhat based on demand, which may or may not explain this:

29.99 to register dot democrat

34.99 to register dot republican

For some reason, they don’t have .gop or .socialist.

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Not approved by most veterinarians

This is about as bad a packaging error as exists:

Evanger’s is voluntarily recalling some of its dog food after a drug that is used to anesthetize or put down pets was found in it.

Pentobarbital was found in one lot of the dog food; five dogs got sick and one died, according to the Wheeling, Ill.-based company.

Fifteen states are affected by the Hunk of Beef Au Jus recall. The 12-ounce cans were manufactured June 6-13 and sold in stores and online in Washington, California, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.

Your dog wants table scraps — in preference to this stuff, anyway.

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It’s on your shoulder

The Beatles arrived in America in February 1964, and the earth twisted and shouted on its axis.

Now the Fab Four, their heirs and assigns, and whoever else might be involved, have somehow allowed a bunch of promotional videos out of the vault. This, for perhaps obvious reasons, is one of the longer ones.

I’m not absolutely certain, but I think they’re playing over a copy of the original master tape, minus the vocals. (With McCartney on piano and lead, there’s no place for a bass player, and indeed, the bass is mixed out of the master.)

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Poor Marie

Marie Prevost made 121 pictures in her abbreviated career, some of them bordering on great: she got excellent reviews in the 1922 The Beautiful and Damned, though F. Scott Fitzgerald didn’t like her; Ernst Lubitsch thought enough of her to cast her three times, most notably in Three Women; she had the lead in Howard Hughes’ The Racket. What all these had in common was a lack of a soundtrack; she proved capable in talkies, but she had other problems. One of those problems was Howard Hughes; Marie was already depressed and drinking a bit, and a brief affair with Hughes made things worse for her. In the 1930s, she was both drinking and overeating.

Marie Provost in publicity still for The Beautiful and Damned

Marie Provost in proper Twenties costume

Marie Provost in publicity still

In the 1970s, British rocker Nick Lowe turned out a song about Marie, which proved to be something of a stretch, particularly the chorus: “She was a winner / Who became a doggie’s dinner / She never meant that much to me / Poor Marie.” This untimely demise was described by Kenneth Anger in Hollywood Babylon; it is true that after she died in January 1937 — it was two days before her body was found — that her dachshund had bitten her on the legs in an attempt to rouse her, but the little hound wasn’t that hungry.

Prevost’s plight did have one positive outcome: Hollywood stars and executives would forthwith create the Motion Picture (later, “& Television”) Country House and Hospital, a place to care for ill stars and nonstars. The facility was operational through 2008; after some dollar-related crises, it has since reopened on a firmer financial footing.

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Captain Obvious has a sister

And she’s evidently not too handy around the house:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: My temporary tag for my new car is hard to unscrew. It requires a flathead screwdriver. How can I get it off?

To give her credit, she wasn’t at all rude about it; she apparently really wasn’t sure what she was doing. Still, how do you get to the age of eight, let alone eighteen, without a working knowledge of screwdrivers?

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Don’t make me combover there

I’m the first, maybe the second, to tell you that Donald J. Trump is not necessarily the sharpest tool in the shed. But at least he’s in the shed, while his loudest opponents evidently were left out in the rain:

The Soros-ites think Trump is a gravy train, keeping the money flowing into their various causes. The GOPe think that the Uniparty’s big money donors will reward them with power and influence if they obstruct Trump’s agenda. The Cucks think they can play their usual game of “advance the Left’s agenda, but politely,” and reap the usual rewards. The idiot apparatchiks in #TheResistance think they’ll be first in line for a promotion when things return to normal.

That’s not going to happen. Trump’s been doing the Lucy-with-the-football routine since the primaries, far earlier than most of us — myself most definitely included — could see it. Remember all those Dems crossing over in the open primaries to vote for Trump? Remember those few weeks when every Lefty pundit in existence was gleefully on the Trump train, begging Republicans to vote for him? How’d that work out, geniuses? To anyone who’s been paying attention, it’s pretty clear that Trump loves giving people enough rope to hang themselves … and like Lenin said, he’ll even sell them the rope. He’s already talking about defunding Berkeley, and at this rate Soros will find himself deported into the loving arms of Viktor Orbán. Smarten up, comrades.

The Donald doesn’t have to be smarter than everyone; he just has to be smarter than them. Fortunately, this is not difficult.

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On behalf of my Dumb TV

I don’t have a “smart” set, and I might never if this becomes the order of the day:

Consumers have bought more than 11 million internet-connected Vizio televisions since 2010. But according to a complaint filed by the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General, consumers didn’t know that while they were watching their TVs, Vizio was watching them. The lawsuit challenges the company’s tracking practices and offers insights into how established consumer protection principles apply to smart technology.

Starting in 2014, Vizio made TVs that automatically tracked what consumers were watching and transmitted that data back to its servers. Vizio even retrofitted older models by installing its tracking software remotely. All of this, the FTC and AG allege, was done without clearly telling consumers or getting their consent.

What did Vizio know about what was going on in the privacy of consumers’ homes? On a second-by-second basis, Vizio collected a selection of pixels on the screen that it matched to a database of TV, movie, and commercial content. What’s more, Vizio identified viewing data from cable or broadband service providers, set-top boxes, streaming devices, DVD players, and over-the-air broadcasts. Add it all up and Vizio captured as many as 100 billion data points each day from millions of TVs.

Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others. And let’s be clear: We’re not talking about summary information about national viewing trends. According to the complaint, Vizio got personal. The company provided consumers’ IP addresses to data aggregators, who then matched the address with an individual consumer or household. Vizio’s contracts with third parties prohibited the re-identification of consumers and households by name, but allowed a host of other personal details — for example, sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership. And Vizio permitted these companies to track and target its consumers across devices.

I have been very happy with my Vizio set, especially now, since it’s too old to pull any of that crap. (I infer from the article that the retrofitting went back to 2010 models, and mine is a couple years older than that; certainly it’s not running a Net connection, though I suppose it could grab one from the cable were it, um, smart enough.)

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Pieces gone to

Three seconds before the end of the second quarter, the Thunder were thrashing the Pacers by 14 points. Then Glenn Robinson III nailed a trey from the corner, Russell Westbrook’s 35-footer at the horn went nowhere useful, and for most of the rest of the night, the Pacers were in control, outscoring OKC by an appalling 32-18 margin in the third and outlasting the Thunder’s inconsistent defense in the fourth. Suddenly, the Thunder started to get stops, and an 11-2 run closed the gap to a single point with a minute and a half left. But that’s where they ran out of steam, and the last Thunder possession, started with 7.6 seconds left, ended with two three-point attempts by Westbrook. So the Pacers sweep the Thunder, 2-0, with a 93-90 win, Indiana’s seventh straight victory, the third-longest win streak in the league. (Miami’s won 10 straight somehow, and Boston seven.)

Thaddeus Young was sitting tonight, due to a sprained wrist, but the Pacers didn’t need him that badly; George delivered 21 points, Jeff Teague 17, and Robinson, coming off the bench, brought 14. Myles Turner scored 10 and blocked four shots. Weirdly, the Pacers shot only 38 percent and gathered only 37 rebounds; OKC shot 39 percent and picked up 61 boards. Westbrook’s final line: 27-18-9. Yeah, he missed the triple-double, but 18 rebounds would be just short of his career high. Andre Roberson, despite catching an elbow to the larynx in the second half, hung around for a double-double (11 points/11 rebounds).

Two more games this week. Good: the Thunder are back home. Not so good: the first one is against the Cavaliers, who are already one up on OKC this season. If possible, even less good: the second one is against the Warriors, who blah blah blah Durant blah blah. At least they aren’t back-to-back.

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No parallel

Get a good look at these:

Loriblu Selene glow-in-the-dark shoes

Whence they came:

After seeing that incredible glow-in-the-dark Zac Posen dress that Claire Danes wore at the 2016 Met Gala, Loriblu founder Graziano Cuccu was inspired to bring this effect to footwear. The result: he designed a pair of pumps that will make your feet light up any room.

A hand-embroidered optical fiber creates bright white lines up and down the shoe, named Selene after the ancient Greek moon goddess. But if you want a more understated look, you can control the lights via a switch on the bottom.

Of course, if you’re spending $3500 on a pair of shoes, you might not want “a more understated look.”

Most glow-in-the-dark shoes to date have been sneakers, which serve the practical purpose of making you visible when you’re running at night. These may not have that function, but they will make it impossible to lose you in a dark club.

Fair enough.

(Via HelloGiggles.)

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Impurrfectly worded

I tend to distrust people who lead off this way:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How do you delete someone elses Tumblr so they will stop making cat jokes?

Especially if they pivot at the end: “I need them to stop right meow”.

That said, this character has no standing to request deletion of a Tumblr, unless he can prove felinity.

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But does it play backwards?

Heavens above, it’s a turntable called LOVE:

I question that “No weight on the grooves” claim; if you don’t have tracking force, the stylus — looks like a standard Audio-Technica — doesn’t stay in the groove. I’m sure they worked to minimize the tracking force, though even old-fashioned turntables like mine can manage a force of one gram or so.

Still, it’s kind of neat-looking, and in the first few days of the Kickstarter, they’ve raised about six times their original goal.

The LOVE will retail at $599 when it’s released to the general public: backers who put up at least $319 should get one in October.

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Strange search-engine queries (575)

After yesterday’s overblown spectacle, it’s nice to come home and tuck into a few search strings.

Wait, what? It’s Monday? Oh, well. Never mind.

anything but sue:  Unlike the situation which prevails today, in which anyone can sue anyone else over anything.

is chocolate milk bad for you:  Everything is bad for you. Don’t worry about it.

i have seen you somewhere:  Was I drinking chocolate milk?

waiting for january like:  This being February, you’re in for a long wait.

my woody’s outside covered with snow:  So that’s why you were waiting for January.

brenda is always ready with a story to tell about performance in her area. unfortunately, brenda sometimes leaves out important facts and makes statements that cannot be corroborated. brenda is:  Looking for a job as a political strategist.

my parents didn’t steal an elephant:  And this is why you’re so screwed up at thirty-five.

after polly shrum sells a stock, she avoids following it in the media. she is afraid that it may subsequently increase in price. what behavioral characteristic does shrum have as the basis for her decision making?  Fear of her brother-in-law offering to give her investment advice.

daddy is so big:  You’ll catch up when you’re older, shrimp.

mr. loopner born without a spine:  Didn’t keep him from being elected, though.

“special snowflake”:  Once you’ve seen enough of them, they won’t seem so damn special anymore.

susan asked her roommate to lower the radio as she was trying to study. her roommate had turned the radio up originally from a volume level of 14 to 15, which was just enough for susan to detect. she turned it back down to 14 after susan asked her to lower it, which satisfied susan. this is probably:  Still too damn loud, and how did she get it up past 11?

if we use the analogy that some u.s. families have an income that could be represented by the height of mount everest, then the average american family has an income that is about:  As big around as a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

aw heck why not both:  Then again, why either?

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I am furious (yelping)

Joe Dante reviews the 1968 Mondo film Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso:

Calculated to shock middle‑aged conservatives, the P.A.C. Caravel production is the kind of hypocritically moralistic picture which deplores debauchery while wallowing in it. Taking a determinedly lurid approach, it sees liberal Sweden in terms of declining Rome, morality crumbling everywhere, and full of hedonistic degenerates who “think they are happy.” Luigi Scattini’s leering, loaded narration, read by actor Edmond Purdom, and the former’s obviously staged direction will prove thoroughly unconvincing to sophisticated viewers.

In patently titillating manner, and for no discernible purpose, it “depicts” the evils of permissiveness in Sweden: sex education, leading directly to wild immorality, with contraceptives available by vending machine; a gang rape by Swedish Hell’s Angels types (“raped in the dirt by two, or three, or five of the pack”); exploration of adoption problems (an excuse for a childbirth scene); TV interviews with teenage girls who reflect on their first sexual experiences at ages six and up; teenagers who make out freely in front of helpless parents; Swedish women’s preference for black males (“more primitive, more to the point”); wife‑swapping clubs; lesbianism; pornography; rampant alcoholism, with derelicts eating shoe polish for its alcohol; the obligatory drug sequence; and plenty of nudity.

The American trailer for this wild and woolly spectacle, slightly cleaned up:

Inevitably, the soundtrack would contain neo-jazzy poppish stuff by composer Piero Umiliani, with titles like “Fotomodelle” and “You Tried to Warn Me.” Then there was this inexplicable number:

At least it’s memorable.

(Via Meh.com, which inexplicably used “Fotomodelle” to sell a Nicole Miller hat/scarf set.)

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In lieu of the various Critter Bowls

The NBA wasn’t going to cede the entire day to those characters with the oblong balls, so they scheduled three matinee games which would at least finish early. The last of the three was Portland vs. Oklahoma City, and it was pretty much what you’d expect when only one of the two teams has any three-point prowess. Early on, the Blazers had little problem collecting three-pointers, using eight of them to go up 52-46 at the half. Somewhere in the third quarter, though, the Thunder developed something resembling defense around the periphery; the Blazers would be able to splash only two more treys the rest of the way, Russell Westbrook came up big in the fourth quarter (19 of 42 points) and the Thunder landed a close home win, 105-99, against a Northwest rival.

Portland ended up at 10-28 on three-pointers; the Thunder were a feeble 4-18. Less than a percentage point separated the two teams in overall shooting, with OKC hitting 40 of 98 (40.8 percent) and Postland 35 of 87 (40.2). A lot of that difference in shot count, surprisingly, came on the very first possession, when the Thunder picked up what can only be described as sixth-chance points.

OKC, as usual, dominated the boards, 56-44. The Blazers’ tandem of guards, Damien Lillard and C. J. McCollum, scored nearly half of Portland’s points, Lillard coming up with 29 and McCollum 19. OKC produced two double-doubles, one from Andre Roberson (14 points, 11 rebounds) and one from Victor Oladipo (24 points, 13 boards). Steven Adams snagged 13 rebounds, and Joffrey Lauvergne added nine more. This didn’t leave much for Westbrook, who finished 42-4-8.

And there’s not much time between now and tomorrow’s game in Indiana; the Pacers have won six straight and are 19-6 at home, suggesting that everyone’s going to have to come up big to make it work.

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