Remember shopping?

Yeah, I used to do some of that:

I have been a little disturbed the way shopping malls seem to be dying. I personally don’t have much use for them. My wife can spend hours shopping there. Busy, well kept malls are a pretty good indicator of a healthy economy, which means people are working which should mean they are earning enough money to take care of themselves. When I see vacant store fronts and trash blowing around in the parking lot I take it as a sign that things aren’t going so well. Washington Square Mall is a big local mall and it seems to be doing well, except there was a big Sears store there and now it is closed.

So I have been wondering what was going to happen with these dinosaurs and now we know. I don’t buy much these days, I pretty much have everything I need, but occasionally I will buy something from Amazon, usually a book, and I won’t have to pay for it because I have enough points on my credit card to cover a $10 purchase. I used to be a big fan of cash, but now I use a credit card for almost everything. I can’t really explain why I made the change, except perhaps because I carry my cash in my wallet which I carry in my hip pocket and getting it out when I am sitting in the car (buying gasoline or going through a fast food drive through) requires contorting my body enough to get my behind off of the seat so I can get my wallet out. I carry my credit card in sleeve I keep in my front pocket and getting the card out of there isn’t such an ordeal. Or maybe all the credit card advertisements convinced my subconscious that my world would be filled with light and happiness if I used a credit card for everything.

It could be worse. Writing a check is, if not quite infinitely slower, certainly the sort of thing that detracts from one’s speed.


Burned out early

Rob O’Hara reminds us how the Scoville scale works:

The Scoville chart measures how hot things are in Scoville Heat Units (SHUs). Think of the hottest jalapeño that’s ever burned your mouth. Jalapeños have an average SHU rating of 5,000. Habanero peppers, which many people claim is the hottest thing they’ve ever consumed, start around 200,000 SHUs. At one million SHU, the Bhut Jolokia pepper was once considered to be the hottest pepper on the planet until the arrival of the Carolina Reaper, which measures 1.5 million SHU. There are a ton of videos on YouTube of people eating Carolina Reapers. Almost all of them end with tears, vomit, or both. The video by these kids is one of my favorites. Seemed like a good idea at the time!

Which brings us to the Black Reaper, whose very name suggests the fires of hell:

It’s 2.2 million SHU, or roughly 40% hotter than the Carolina Reaper.

And no, I did not want to eat that — in chocolate, or otherwise.

Instead of eating the entire bar, I compromised and had a small sample — and by small, I literally mean the size of a freckle. The basis of comparison I’ve been using is, the piece of chocolate I tried was roughly the same size as a single pebble of beef from a Taco Bell taco. It was tiny. My friend Tim and I (and later, our friend Emily) all had pieces the same size. For me, the heat was intense, and immediate. First, my mouth caught on fire — and then the back of my throat, followed by the back of my head, and then my ears. The intense heat lasted roughly five minutes, but I continued to sweat and feel hot for a full fifteen minutes.

I drank about 1.5 liters of Pepsi-Cola just getting through reading that.

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Wheel funny, there

Maybe it’s time to set the keys aside. Tuesday morning, I heard a faint “BLAM” from the vicinity of the right-front tire — faint because I was blasting Golden Earring’s “Twilight Zone” in an effort to get myself more than 60 percent awake — and a succession of flappity-flap sounds I’d heard in that location before. I wondered just how much air I had in the spare as I coasted down the offramp and out of traffic.

“Are you hurt?” asked the patrolman. I shook my head: “I’m severely rattled, but then a flat tire will do that to me.”

“Um, you don’t have a flat tire.”

And I didn’t, either; the tire was a few pounds low, but nowhere near flat. He pointed under the bumper: “This piece of plastic was dragging the ground.” I tried my best not to look stupid, and didn’t come close to succeeding. He pushed it back into what he thought was its proper position.

“You’ll probably knock this loose again. Don’t let it scare you.”

I probably did not need this on the day when my insurance company, mindful of my advanced age and my recent less-than-sterling record after causing no grief for three decades, let me know that yes, they would continue my policy, but it would cost me about a third more than it used to. I’m still paying less than the average 16-year-old with a bitchin’ Camaro, but I never look forward to additional expense.

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Never do as I do

News Item: A new plan from Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) to eliminate the gender pay gap would fine companies if they are unable to prove they’re paying men and women equally, something Harris isn’t currently achieving in either her official office or on her campaign, a Washington Free Beacon analysis found.

Quelle surprise. And I suspect this is a very common response to such tomfoolery:

There’s no way I’ll be voting for President Trump in November of 2020. Although I’m not unhappy with some of his results, he remains a man of unfit character for the office. I’m currently registered as an independent, but in my state my former party allows independents to vote in its primaries. If for some reason Sen. Harris looks strong by the time our primary elections roll around, I’ll definitely take advantage of that opportunity and vote for someone else. If I want a president who overlooks the most basic facts about his or her own policy proposals and isn’t smart enough to game out the most obvious responses to them, then I’ll just stay home because I’m already watching that show.

The primaries and such are still a long way off, but for now, the three Democratic front-runners, all ahead of Senator Harris, are white and seventy-ish. Make of that what you will.

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Stanch that flow

A precautionary measure, and a serious one:

If you carry a gun, and you’re not carrying a tourniquet or two, you’re either LARPing, or you’re a fucking idiot. The fact is, a “gunfight” implies bilateral ballistics, and the enemy gets a vote. If you assume your one box of ammo a month “practice” regimen means you’re automatically a far better marksman than the bad guy you are going to end up in a gunfight with, well, I’ve got an 8 ounce jar of fairy dust I’ll sell you cheap, and it’s guaranteed to make you stronger, faster, higher flying, and generally more attractive to members of your preferred sex.

“LARPing” is taking part in a live-action role-playing game, and you’re not supposed to bleed during them.

And regrettably, we probably all know someone who thinks that fairy dust is one hell of a deal.

(Via Tamara Keel.)


After coffee, no doubt

(Title inspired by Prince. From Everlasting Blort via Miss Cellania.)

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Use and reuse

Sensible advice from Brian J.:

When lining your household garbage cans with used plastic grocery bags, place the bags inside the garbage can inside-out so your guests don’t have to think before judging you based on where you shop!

For example:

Reused plastic bag, courtesy of Brian J. Noggle

I don’t think there are any premium-priced supermarkets whose name begins with the word “price.”

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It’s a stretch

I grumble a lot about my reduced physical capabilities these days, and usually, right about the time I do, I end up with a video of someone with no arms who types faster than I do. For example:

On one level, I figure anyone over the age of four and a half is probably a better gamer than I am. Then again, I suppose I should feel better, knowing that current-day packaging is as much of a pain for her as it is for the rest of us.

Scratch that. I once had one of those fancy Razer meece; I actually bricked it trying to install a firmware update. Surely she’s never done that.


Hard water

I mentioned not too long ago that I used to get lunch for a half dollar, although usually it was a couple of quarters; actual half dollars I’d seen before, but I never seemed to find one in my pocket change. I don’t think I’ve seen a fifty-cent piece in well over a decade; I am perhaps overly fond of saying that the only use for them anymore is as a measure of hail, bigger than quarter-size but smaller than a golf ball.

Once you get into the ball range, though, things get scary rather quickly. Peter Grant sent up this photo, taken on Stormy Monday somewhere in deepest north Texas:

Baseball-sized hail from Wellington, Texas, 20 May 2019

Biggest one I can remember seeing was softball-sized, though nothing about it was particularly soft; I figure, if they predict beach ball-sized hail, we’re going to have craters of near-lunar dimension.

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Soaring wings

Fifty years ago, I was winding up my days in high school, and as an actual senior, I was granted the privilege of actually leaving the campus at lunchtime, which was pretty astonishing considering the campus was located in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, a crisply compact little zone that looked like the 18th-century design it was. It didn’t take me long to memorize the street grid, such as it was, and find some favorite places. If I’d skipped breakfast one morning, something that happened too often, I zipped through the old College of Charleston plant, came out on King Street, and betook myself to Woolworth’s, where the lunch counter would happily deal me a couple of chicken wings at a quarter apiece.

Any of the canonical pieces could be had, of course, but two decidedly oversized wings for half a buck made more sense to me than peeling off a larger sum for one of the more favored pieces. Half a century later, Woolworth’s is long gone, and the lowly chicken wing has come into its own: I had a craving yesterday, and ordered up a box of sixteen, for which I paid $15. And it should be noted that these pieces were technically fractional wings: you unhinge a wing, and you end up with three sections, one of which is typically discarded in the Wing Biz. So really, this was a box of eight wings, at perilously close to two dollars a piece. Not that you can eat anywhere in today’s Charleston for that kind of money.

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Dream on, shady pirate

Out of the Quora queue, someone you know from the word Go wears only one color of hat, and that color is black: What blog hosting allows literally everything and you can’t report things?

I’d tell him what I think of his scheming, but I am weary of people who insist that they have a right to steal stuff because [whatever the excuse, it doesn’t work].

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Twice the suckage

The man owns two, count ’em, two vacuum cleaners:

I am, however, a bit sketchy on floors. This is not to say you couldn’t eat off my floors. You could because you’d find a host of food shreds there on any given afternoon. This is not because I like floors configured as mouse buffets but only because, being 6’1″, the floors are so far away I don’t really focus on them. My solution? The world’s most rapacious vacuum cleaner, “The Kirby.”

Actually, I have 2 (two!) solutions since I own 2 (two!) vacuum cleaners. The first is a kind of cheap, plastic metrosexual’s vacuum bought at some box store because it was cheap. Like all metrosexual items, it performs in a manner that lets you know all cheap things are worth much less than you spent on them. It sucks by not sucking as a sucker of floor dirt should. Very sucky. It is, at the best, back-up. Bags and parts for it are sold everywhere.

Then there’s “The 2004 Kirby Diamond” weighing in are over twenty-three pounds of solid chromed steel, titanium bristles that can skin a black rhino, and a woven cloth bag wrapped around the vacuum bag that could be made into an outdoor area rug. The motor in this bad boy is so powerful it can suck kittens out of my basement through the floorboards in the living room. It is the chopped Harley Hog of vacuums.

One does not argue with a Kirby; even if it’s 75 years old, you can still get factory parts. The price, however, will make your nose bleed.

I own two vacuums, after a fashion: a middle-70s Hoover upright, now on its fourth drive belt and God knows how many bags, and a hand-held Black and Decker that collects the grime and such in a plastic cup that spills no matter how you open it.

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Poor little rich girl

Katharina Andresen from there down

Katharina Andresen, said Forbes this spring, is the third youngest billionaire on the planet, worth around $1.4 billion; she owns 42.2 percent of the Norwegian conglomerate Ferd AS. (She has a kid sister, Alexandra, who owns the same percentage and who obviously is a younger billionaire.) The Instagram photo above, I’m guessing, is intended to give you a look at that probably very expensive piece of jewelry.

Katharina Andresen out of the pool

Katharina Andresen back into the pool

Katharina is twenty-four today, and perhaps she’s learned her lesson from this incident from 2017:

Andresen was pulled over in her Audi and found to have a blood-alcohol content three times Norway’s legal limit.

In Norway, fines for drunk driving are based on one’s wealth. This week, Andresen was fined the equivalent of $30,400.

In fact, the Associated Press reported, the price of the fine could have been a whole lot greater.

“Oslo City Court said the penalty could have been up to 40 million krone ($4.9 million) if based on Andresen’s assets, but they ‘have not yielded any dividend yet’ and she has no fixed income,” the wire service said. “The court did increase the fine because of her estimated wealth, however.”

Norwegian press reported Andresen’s sentence also included 18 days of imprisonment and a 13-month license suspension.

The Norwegian standard — 0.02 BAC — is extremely stiff; triple that would be legal in most of the US.

The news report was pretty severe in its own right.


We will control the horizontal

In this corner, the redoubtable Z Man, and in that corner, a rental-grade Korean sedan:

The rental car is Hyundai of some sort. It has all of the usual electronics, plus the collision avoidance stuff. Man, is that annoying. Every truck that passed too close set of the buzzer. At some point, the car decided I needed to take a break and started beeping, suggesting I pull over for coffee. No kidding. I politely told the car to go screw, but it kept making that suggestion every ten minutes.

I think one reason the word seems like it is going mad, is that it is increasingly becoming idiot proof or at least trying to be idiot proof. Our cars now treat us like children. To a normal person able to navigate the world without help, this is awful. To the dummies, it is manna from heaven, I’m guessing. Still, I’d like to get my hands on the engineer who came up with the idea for the car to recommend coffee breaks.

Most of the new safety gear is predicated on the notion that we have a hell of a lot of easily distracted, incredibly lazy drivers, and it’s considered bad form to let them earn their places in the competition for the Darwin Awards. It’s only a step or two from there to self-driving cars, which eventually will have to make some decisions Solomon in his wisdom would foist off on someone else.

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Blades in all directions

This opened last week in New York, and I pretty much have to wonder how it’s doing:

Skintimate® will open the country’s first-ever professional leg shave bar in NYC —The Shave Bar by Skintimate — where consumers are invited to get ready with friends by receiving complimentary leg shaves by expert estheticians in a colorful, spa-meets-bar environment that engages the senses and is inspired by the brand’s signature shave gels and first collection of disposable razors.

As the market continues to explode with on-demand beauty services — from blow dry and lash bars to infrared saunas — Skintimate, known as the shave prep category leader for decades, is extending the social act of getting ready (one men have enjoyed at barber shops for years) beyond the bathroom and into a unique and social setting.

“The Shave Bar by Skintimate is largely inspired by our consumer — she’s an experience-seeker who makes every moment fun. Shaving is not a mundane chore for her, it’s part of the getting ready process that we see her embracing with friends and sharing on social media,” said Jennifer Rogers Sheppeard, Skintimate Brand Manager at Edgewell Personal Care. “As the authority in shave prep, Skintimate has created this new beauty concept, inspired by our scented new razor handles and vibrant shave gels, aimed to energize and inspire people to get ready with us. And what better place to open first than New York, a city filled with a diverse range of consumers who represent the Skintimate ethos.”

I dunno. Most of the women I know probably think “mundane chore.” Then again, there’s much to be said for letting yourself be pampered once in a while.

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What reason do you need to be sure?

The FBI’s definition of a “mass murder” specifies a minimum of four deaths, not including the murderer himself, in a short period of time. A lot of these get into the news, particularly if (1) firearms are involved and (2) the killer belongs to a group disfavored by politicians and news media. Blaming the weapons is fatuous — when I was in the Army, we had literally hundreds of guns on hand, and not one of them ever broke loose — which means there might be something else involved:

SSRIs have a risk of increasing violence in patients, even in patients who have no previous history of violence or aggression before taking the medication.

This risk of violent behavior, both to the individual taking the medication and those around them, is so significant, it has led to the FDA mandating a black box warning on all SSRI medications. These black box warnings are designed to provide information and draw attention to the fact that the medication has serious and life-threatening risks.

As of 2004, all antidepressants in the U.S. are labeled:

“Anxiety, agitation, panic attacks, insomnia, irritability, hostility, aggressiveness, impulsivity, akathisia, hypomania, and mania have been reported in adult and pediatric patients being treated with antidepressants for major depressive disorder as well as for indications, both psychiatric and nonpsychiatric.”

This of course does not mean that every mass shooter was driven to it by Prozac — Elavil, which I take, is older than God and has no black-box warnings at all — but given the American tendency to treat antisocial activity first with drugs, this is an area that probably needs more attention before the next person tries to shoot the whole day down.

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