In search of a solution

What to do, what to do?

I’m furious at BioTechniques “magazine” and the telemarketing firm they used. It will cycle through where I will get calls daily from their telemarketers wanting me to take a survey and “update my subscription.”

I am not a lab scientist. I do not know how I got on their mailing list. I want off of it. I have asked the telemarketers this periodically over the past year.

Finally, early last week, I e-mailed the person listed on their webpage as CEO asking to be taken off their calling cycle, that I regarded the calls as intrusive and borderline harassment. (Honestly: calling a professor DAILY.)

He e-mailed back, saying yes.


It never takes long for a promise to be broken.

I wish there were some really loud public bullhorn though where I could say BIOTECHNIQUES USES SCAMMY TELEMARKETING TECHNIQUES AND BOTHERS PEOPLE WHO HAVE REPEATEDLY SAID “DON’T BOTHER ME” but I don’t know where.

It would have to be some place using ALL CAPS, I would think.

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Dogs and cats showing together?

Mass hysteria! Then again, this is Westminster:

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the most prestigious canine competition in the United States, has added three new breeds to its annual event, which for the first time will also include a program featuring cats.

Cats, I tell you!

Actually, the official judging program [pdf] gives the felines short shrift, probably because it’s trying so hard to be official:

Thank you for joining us this week for the 141st Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the 2nd Annual Masters Obedience Championship and also, Meet & Compete; encompassing AKC’s 8th edition of Meet the Breeds® (and Cats) and the 4th Annual Masters Agility Championship at Westminster. We are pleased to bring over 3,000 of the world’s greatest dogs to compete for the ultimate recognition in conformation, obedience and agility over three show days.

Which is the only mention of the cats in the program.

Nor will the cats be on television: the MtB(&C) is on Saturday, 11 February, and TV coverage begins the following Sunday.

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An F word

No, not that one. If I regret anything at this point, it’s that I don’t own the trademark on words like “fascist.” Not that it’s being used correctly these days, you know.

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Not such a random statistic: both the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder had 16-6 home records before tipoff tonight. The Spurs’ lofty seeding — they’re second only to Golden State — is due to their 20-5 record on the road. The Thunder, meanwhile, was 12-14 on the road. A third-grader, looking at those numbers, possibly might have predicted that OKC would be down 31-17 after the first quarter and 52-42 at the half. The youngster, however, would not have anticipated that the Thunder would rebound in the third, at one point making a 23-2 run to take a three-point lead, before the Spurs girded up their loins, or whatever the hell it is Pop makes them do, and went back up 79-75 to end the quarter. And then suddenly Kawhi Leonard discarded the Clark Kent persona and spun the planet backwards on its axis, or something, finishing with 36 points on 13-26 shooting. With LaMarcus Aldridge (25 points) by his side, Leonard made it a blowout after all: San Antonio 108, Oklahoma City 94, the Spurs’ first win in the last three and the Thunder’s second loss in the last two.

You like statistics? Here’s another one. Neither Aldridge nor Leonard, nor any other Spur, posted a double-double. Meanwhile, the Thunder collected three of them: Russell Westbrook (27 points, 14 assists), Steven Adams (16 points, 12 rebounds), and Domas Sabonis (13 points, 10 boards). Alex Abrines was down for the count with back spasms, giving Anthony Morrow extended minutes, during which he scored 11 points. No reserve Spur made double figures. And yet all you have to do is look at this: Spur benchman Davis Bertans scored two but posted +20 for his 23 minutes. How do you beat someone like that?

Back home overnight, and the Bulls show up around eight-thirty, an hour and a half later than the usual OKC start time. The Thunder should not be too tired — no one played more than 35 minutes — but there’s always the danger of demoralization.

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Suzanne, the plans they made

Suzanne Pleshette was twenty in 1957 when she made her theatrical debut, in Meyer Levin’s Compulsion. (Her film debut, the following year, in Jerry Lewis’s The Geisha Boy, might have been a tad less prestigious.) It was generally accepted that she could do Just About Anything, up to and including a couple of voices for the English dub of Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away.

Suzanne Pleshette wearing not a whole lot

Suzanne Pleshette looking demure

Suzanne Pleshette still wearing not a whole lot

Suzanne Pleshette being carried by Steve McQueen

This last is a still from Nevada Smith, from 1966, in which Suzanne is a Cajun girl working in the Louisiana rice fields and is here carried off by Steve McQueen. (Just About Anything, remember?)

A lot of us, though, remember her as Emily Hartley in The Bob Newhart Show, and, unexpectedly, in the last scene of another Newhart show entirely. She explains how this came to be:

And “this,” of course, might have been the greatest last scene from a situation comedy in the history of the universe:

Suzanne Pleshette, alas, is no longer with us; she died of respiratory failure in 2008. She would have been 80 today.

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The privilege is ours

Bark M. is awakened (as distinguished from “being woke”):

“I have learned something this morning,” my friend wrote to me via Facebook Messenger early today. “White people love to protest.

You know what? He’s right! I spent the day watching various news reports on CNN, Fox, and NBC, and I couldn’t find any image of a protest that was comprised of less than 95% white people (unless it was a staged photo with POC propped up behind the Democrat of your choice — although even that went waaaaay wrong a couple of times). As my friend said, it’s easy to go hold a sign at an airport. Marching, chanting, holding hands — none of that actually costs you anything.

But what about volunteering with an organization that houses refugees? or putting together meal packages at a food bank? or cooking food for families at the Ronald McDonald house? or building a Habitat for Humanity? (Four things that your author has actually done, by the way.) Nah. That might require effort. And there won’t be any news cameras present, or celebrities, or live streaming.

No, it’s easy to take the Saturday and Sunday afternoon that you have off (because you don’t work a menial/retail job that would require you to be present) and go hold a sign at the airport (making it harder for those of us who travel for a living and make the country actually run) because you’ll have so much to talk about at the water cooler on Monday. In other words, the people who are ensuring that you have a latte to drink before your protest or shuttle you to the protest in your Uber or serve you a delicious cocktail at the new hip bar in town have better things to do.

Except, of course, that you’re supposed to be boycotting Uber because wicked Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is on one of Trump’s advisory boards.

But yeah, for a lot of these folks it’s purely a matter of virtue signaling, nothing more — because they have nothing to lose. You want credit for civil disobedience, you have to risk your neck, or at least more of your time than it takes to get on cable news.

Not that I’m going to tell you to stay home or anything. Wouldn’t be right, wouldn’t be prudent, wouldn’t be consistent with actual free speech, you know? But you’re going to be a lot more persuasive on behalf of the downtrodden if someone treads on you now and then. I hate to invoke the dread spectre of intersectionality, but believe me, there’s always someone who has it worse than you do, and who may not have your gift for finding a camera to dash in front of.

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Destination not permitted

In post-Soviet Russia, GPS stirs you wrong:

Moscow motorists, when not surviving serious collisions in subpar vehicles without a scratch, have noticed that their GPS device will suddenly re-position its location when driving near the Kremlin.

The closer to the Kremlin, the more likely the device will suddenly find an alternative location to exist. In every instance, the location is the same: Vnukovo Airport, 20 miles from the seat of government.

Local media had a field day with the news, with The Moscow Times running the headline, “The Kremlin Eats GPS for Breakfast.” Clearly, an unknown force, emitted from somewhere, is interfering with satellite signals and replacing pinpoint coordinates with a default location when people stray too near.

Official explanation? What do you think?

When asked, official channels returned no explanation. The Russian Federal Protection Service, tasked with Kremlin security, apparently has no interest in dashing across Red Square to provide the press with details on the mystery.

To me, this sounds like the old radar jammer, updated. It doesn’t actually jam; what it does is overwhelm the incoming signal with one of its own, thereby creating bogus readings.

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Automated burglar’s tools

So I got curious and followed up a link spammed at me, and discovered this annoying little product:

WORDAI is first multi-languages article spinner that actually understands that words have different meanings, for you as customer that means that you will be able to create human readable articles with single click of your mouse.

With WordAI you can easily create and spin articles in these languages: English, Spanish, French and Italian which makes WordAI one of the best article spinners available (according to SEO and marketing forums it is the best article spinner out there.)

And we all know what I think about SEO and marketing forums.

Unlike other spinners, WordAi fully understands what each word content means. It doesn’t view sentences as just a list of words, it views them as real things that interact with each other. This human like understanding allows WordAI to automatically rewrite entire sentences from scratch. This high level of rewriting ensures that Google and Copyscape can’t detect your content while still remaining human readable!

Original Sentence: Nobody has been arrested by the police officers, but the suspect is being interrogated by them.

Automatic Rewrite: Law enforcement are interrogating the defendant, although they have not detained anybody.

I rather suspect that this particular sentence is more the exception than the rule.

  • WordAi not only understands what each word means, but also how each word interacts with each other
  • It looks for possible ways to rewrite your article based on what the article truly means
  • WordAi will often completely rewrite sentences so they share nothing in common with the original sentence
  • This means your article is unique and can’t be detected by Google as spun content!

I give Google maybe three weeks to get past this — and not to tell anyone, of course.

This package sells for $49.95 a month. Six hundred dollars a year — oh, wait, there’s a discount for a full-year license — to enable someone to steal someone else’s content.

I would like to feed their fingers to the wolverines. And if there’s anything left, there’s always the acid bath.

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So it’s come to this

Equestria Daily has commissioned an advertisement on YouTube:

After all, not every pony fan is aware of their existence, or so they tell us. As Sethisto ruefully says:

The very design of EQD has always been essentially suicidal. Unlike other sites that will upload people’s content themselves, we typically embed a preview. Our comic and video posts are a good example. We embed and send you away to go sub or follow on the creators page. This helps them build up a following that incentivizes them to make more, but there is always a bit of attrition when it comes to people returning to us.

Me, I’m just surprised they aren’t pushing Desu Daily harder.

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This year’s health coverage

CFI Care (not its real initials) sent out new cards in late December, which is how I knew the company signed up for another year. Frankly, I was surprised, since we’re not a large outfit and all by myself I had $160,000 worth of claims last year; I expected us to be unceremoniously dumped and our fates consigned to the one remaining ObamaCare provider.

Curiously, this year’s coverage seems to cover a little more: general-practitioner copays have dropped to $25 (from $35), commonplace drugs which lack generic equivalents appear to have dropped to $35 (from $75), and the usual four-dollar generics have no copay at all. Deductible remains at five grand, and there’s a maximum out-of-pocket of $6,250. (This is for individual coverage; families, of course, will pay Much More.) I don’t know if the continued existence of ACA had anything to do with these revisions, but I am loath to complain.

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A wider perspective

Take it away, Cole Porter:

“Today to get the public to attend the picture show
It’s not enough to advertise a famous star they know
If you wanna get the crowds to come around
You gotta have glorious Technicolor
Breathtaking CinemaScope and stereophonic sound.”

I’m not aware of any way stereophonic sound will improve the looks of your legs, but CinemaScope is happy to step up:

1954 advertisement for Glen Raven hosiery

Of course, they have to work in a reference to the film they’re pushing:

“New, slim-whip seams and fashion-trim heels spell total glamour in “true-life” colors … that show him it’s a woman’s world.”

Which would seem to contradict the actual film poster:

Poster for Woman's World, 1954 film

“It’s a great big wonderful Woman’s World — because men are in it!”

Doesn’t sound like he was exactly shown, if you know what I mean.

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Advocates for the unclad

Three of my four Official Memberships cycle in January, so I have checks to write. One of the recipients is the American Association for Nude Recreation, and I suppose that it’s logical that I started with this organization a decade ago in January, when I have to resolve the conflict between being as comfortable as possible and paying an extra $50 to the gas company.

One permanent part of the renewal package is the Nudists’ Bill of Rights, which you can read here. I have no quarrel with any of these, but the mailed version includes some examples of the organization’s advocacy efforts, one of which stood out:

AANR helped me to explain to my neighbors why my autistic son’s comfort with nudity in our apartment was a natural response to his autism.

The situation is believable — I know a family who had a child who went through several years of not getting dressed, and there are other examples on the Web — but I admit up front that I don’t know enough about autism to comprehend why taking one’s clothes off is a “natural response.”

And the next check I had to write was to the American Automobile Association. I just wish these two groups could combine their efforts long enough to persuade lawmakers that there’s nothing wrong with driving in the buff.

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Strange search-engine queries (574)

A lot of traffic here comes from random Googlers or Bingers or Whateverers who are looking for something specific, and the sheer volume of content I maintain — we’re coming up on 30,000 pages now — practically assures said randoms that if you dig down far enough, you’ll hit this place. (To prevent this, search engines limit the number of results they send, and who can blame them?) What they don’t know, of course, is that I read them, and once a week I post some of the weirder ones.

assume every semester after finals you fly back to your hometown using a​ $300 ticket you buy online. you have​ 40,000 frequent flier miles. you could exchange your miles for a​ round-trip ticket to bermuda over spring break:  It’s a shame you can’t cash in those miles to reduce your student-loan debt.

fourth font:  A sign that you’ve overdecorated your Web page.

what is the mass of the water located in the right arm between the dashed line and the right cap?  This says “I will do anything to avoid actually solving this problem.”

theresa may upskirt:  I’m sure Mrs Thatcher never had to put up with stuff like this.

madison gets annoyed because her friend susannah forwards to her every chain email that lands in her inbox. madison needs to tell susannah to:  At the very least, “Stop forwarding that crap to me.”

they went to jared:  And Jared told them to make their own damn sandwiches.

michelle left dirty dishes in the sink for a couple of days. when her roommate tania saw this, she left a note on michelle’s door demanding that michelle clean up after herself. after reading the note, michelle angrily put her garbage cans in front of tania’s door. tania then went into:  A fit of pique.

naturalist cleaners:  Removes even the filthiest soil samples from your field gear.

2017 surly troll:  Trust me, trolls have been surly since the earliest days of Usenet.

which of the following statements supports the idea presented in this quote from the excerpt? were there not even these inducements to moderation, nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties:  Especially the parties that want to pretend that they’re tolerant.

nude sneeze:  If nothing else, it will keep snot off your clothes.

my parents didn’t steal an elephant by uriah c lasso:  Which in no way resembles The African Princess by Erasmus B. Black.

suppose you are about to graduate from high school and your generous aunt scharf makes you an offer. she will give you $2000 today or she will give you $2500 in four years when you graduate from college. assume no inflation or taxes:  And then facepalm when you realize the likelihood of having no inflation or taxes.

baby on board something something burt ward:  Holy vagueness, Batman!

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Like, cosmic, man

This came in the mail yesterday:

You are invited to participate in the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS), an exciting new randomized clinical trial being conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, WA.

COSMOS is studying the role of cocoa extract and multivitamin supplements in improving health. The trial is conducted entirely by mail, with no required clinic visits. Studies have found that cocoa extract may reduce the risk of heart disease and age-related cognitive decline.

If you’re interested — they’re looking, they say, for men 60 and over, and women 65 and over, who have not had cancer, a heart attack or a stroke — the details are here. I’m still weighing the possibilities.

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The usual Cavalier treatment

Cleveland has not been doing wonderfully of late, and Kevin Love departed during the second quarter with back spams, but no matter: the Thunder managed to miss both point-blank and long-distance shots, shooting a mere 37 percent, while losing to the Cavs 107-91. One could, perhaps, blame Enes Kanter’s absence for at least some of OKC’s offensive juicelessness — what was he thinking when he punched out that chair? — but the Cavs were technically undermanned as well: neither Chris “Birdman” Andersen nor J. R. Smith was available. And it should be noted that the Thunder actually put up eight more shots than did the Cavs — 100 versus 92 — but Cleveland hit four more (41 versus 37). And this might perplex some folks: OKC made six treys (out of 26), Imam Shumpert, all by his lonesome, made five (out of eight). Yes, Russell Westbrook had another triple-double (20-12-10), but the Cavs had three double-doubles (Kyrie Irving, 29 points, 10 assists; LeBron James, 25 points, 14 rebounds; Tristan Thompson, 19 points, 13 rebounds).

Also hors de combat: radio guy Matt Pinto, who was wrestling with an uncharacteristic rasp all day. He expects to be better by Tuesday, when the Thunder head to San Antonio. The Spurs, as seemingly always, rank just below the Warriors in overall record and sheer panache; the spirit of Tim Duncan still hangs over the place. And just to complicate matters, the Thunder immediately come home, to be visited by the Bulls on Wednesday and the Grizzlies on Friday. Chicago, at this writing, is two games under .500, but still in seventh place in the East; they will not be pushovers. Not that the Thunder can assume anyone is, at this point.

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Girl with a uke

Cover art for Perfectly Imperfect by Grace VanderWaalIt’s probably a good thing that you can’t trademark a title, because Perfectly Imperfect, as an album title, has been around the bend more than once. (See, for instance, Elle Varner’s first album, which came out in 2012.) That said, I’m not about to complain about seeing it on this five-song EP by Wunderkind Grace VanderWaal, winner of last year’s America’s Got Talent; it’s that good, and yet it may rub you the wrong way.

I think the issue, for me, is that Grace’s singing voice is crisp and pure, but the way she uses it is somewhat mannered; she’s writing at the level of Taylor Swift, which is some dandy writing indeed, but I can’t help but wonder if she learned to sing by listening to old Tom Waits records. (Then again, there are a lot worse role models than Tom Waits.) The big hit, “I Don’t Know My Name,” appears, as it should, as Track 1; perhaps the charmer here is “Beautiful Thing,” co-written with producer Greg Wells and featuring none of Grace’s trademark ukulele at all, only Wells’ piano work. Grace’s vocal here blends sprightly youth with the world-weariness of us old folk without ever sounding like anyone other than Grace. I keep reminding myself that she’s just turned thirteen, and I wonder if there’s a ceiling for her; but after hearing some of the covers and new songs she’s sent up to her YouTube channel — named, disarmingly, “Oh Never mind it’s just me” — I’m inclined to think that, for now anyway, the sky’s the limit.

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