Archive for August 2012

Speaking of spam

From Coyote Blog, an old idea that I wouldn’t mind seeing renewed:

My sense is that this is one of those classic tragedy of the commons issues, which happens when valuable resources are essentially free. I had an idea years ago, that I still like, that charging a tenth of a cent to pass each sent email would shut spam down. You and I might spend five cents a day, but spammers would be hit with a $10,000 charge to email their 10 million name lists, which would kill their margins. Don’t know if there is a similar approach one could take for bots.

Exactly how this would be implemented remains to be seen. I can assure you, though, that back in the middle 1980s, when I was on MCI Mail, which charged 50 cents for every email, the only Spam® we knew was a pork product in a can. (At the time, both sender and receiver had to be subscribers; you could send to someone off the network, but it would be printed at their facility and then sent snail-mail, for a buck fifty. This was still probably cheaper than a stenographer.)

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The Kings will not rest

The Kings are evidently prepared to endure all manner of indignities to remain in Sacramento. It was a matter of time before the “Power Balance Pavilion” name came off the door, Power Balance itself having gone bankrupt. Now Kings ownership is looking for a new naming-rights deal, and one of the contenders, reports the Sacramento Bee, is Sleep Train Mattress Centers.

Sleep Train! So much for the Kings’ fast break. If they paint this on the floor, and you know they will, first time a Sacramento player gets that deer-in-the-headlights look anywhere in the vicinity of the logo, he’s going to be image-macro’ed into infamy.

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New depths of ingenuity

Let’s see if I have this straight: I can get the two-year product-replacement plan for $6.24 — or I can not get the two-year product-replacement plan for a mere $4.99. That’s what it says, anyway:

Office Depot screenshot

Actually, this is an example of bad design, not of bad faith, but still, my first thought was “Charging people to decline an option! Brilliant in a sick and twisted way!” And when I think with exclamation points, there’s a reason for it.

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See you later, aggregator

Something I’ve always wondered about:

A goal of mine … is to write down my thoughts so that I can get a grip on my life and get my crap together. Speaking of crap, I’m not sure who coined the term “get your crap together”, as if having all of your crap in one big pile is far superior than having crap all over the place.

Well, it works for garbage, as Arlo Guthrie once noted:

Until we came to a side road, and off the side of the side road there was another fifteen foot cliff and at the bottom of the cliff there was another pile of garbage. And we decided that one big pile is better than two little piles, and rather than bring that one up we decided to throw ours down.

Beyond that, I decline to speculate.

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Handle with rather a lot of care

As you may remember, the nation’s mobilization for World War II meant temporary shortages, if not outright disappearance, of popular household goods. With nylon diverted to parachutes instead of hosiery, textile mills resorted to alternative fibers like rayon. Unfortunately, rayon is less than ideal for stockings and such:

The durability and appearance retention of regular viscose rayon are low, especially when wet; also, rayon has the lowest elastic recovery of any fiber.

Once in a great while, a manufacturer would actually admit to this:

Rayon hosiery ad by Cannon circa 1942

Says the lovely Susann Shaw:

“You’ve just got to treat Rayon Stockings with extra kindness the moment they get their feet wet! The same Rayons that wear beautifully when dry, are apt to go to pieces if handled roughly in water … obey all washing rules. And don’t ever, EVER put on your Rayons till they’ve had at least 36 hours to dry.”

Miss Shaw herself held up pretty well. This shoot was done in 1942; she died in 2009 at the age of 90.

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Quote of the week

Sarah Palin stumping for the Sarah Steelman campaignThe very first post I did about Sarah Palin was in early 2007, when she was so far under the radar she’d practically have to wear ridiculous shoes to be seen. The GOP attempted to buy her some sartorial splendor, evidently to negligible effect, since she seems to be transitioning to completely ridiculous outfits:

I’m not sure which thought bothers me more: that she chose to wear this outfit all by her lonesome, or that someone picked the outfit for her and she willingly consented to wearing it. This is not okay. This is not even close to okay. This is not even a trailer in the wilderness on the outskirts of the county of okay. This is somewhere between falling into the laundry pile in your fifteen-year-old daughter’s bedroom and the public speaking component of a VH1 reality show about alcoholic motorcycle cougars with social anxiety disorder.

Of course, in Alaska they dress in the dark six months out of the year, or something like that. As Allison Iraheta might say, “Don’t waste the pretty.”

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True do-it-yourself music

Beck’s later-this-year album Beck Hansen’s Song Reader will be released in one format only: sheet music.

An explanation of sorts:

Song Reader is an experiment in what an album can be at the end of 2012 — an alternative that enlists the listener in the tone of every track, and that’s as visually absorbing as a dozen gatefold LPs put together. The songs here are as unfailingly exciting as you’d expect from their author, but if you want to hear “Do We? We Do,” or “Don’t Act Like Your Heart Isn’t Hard,” bringing them to life depends on you.

I’m waiting on the inevitable remix album.

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Whose fault is this?

This sounds really, really impressive:

The pair of quakes that hit near Yorba Linda Tuesday night and Wednesday morning were detected by a new earthquake warning system that was showcased at Cal Tech.

A 4.5-magnitude temblor struck one mile northeast from Yorba Linda at 11:23 p.m. Tuesday. Less than 10 hours later, a 4.5-magnitude quake struck two miles from the same location.

Having sat (uneasily) through a 5.6 in recent memory, I’m not about to mock a 4.5 in southern California. But this isn’t quite as reassuring as it’s supposed to be:

“In the case of the first event (Tuesday) night, here in Pasadena, we got about nine seconds warning before the strongest shaking was felt here,” said Douglas Given from the U.S. Geological Survey. “In the case of the second quake, it was a little bit less … about four seconds warning.” Experts said this prototype system is the first to ever pick up quakes before the ground started shaking.

Out here in Tornado Alley, where the warnings come 10 to 30 minutes before the actual funnels, we’re not likely to be impressed by 4 to 9 seconds — until the ground starts shaking, of course.

“I can’t see any practical use for it in the real world,” declares Bill Quick. Maybe he’s right. Where are our storm shelters? Mostly underground.

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Must have been a big lunchbox

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

A Clark County, Kentucky man has been arrested for stealing more than $56,000 in auto parts while he was briefly employed at the Toyota plant in Georgetown, KY.

According to an arrest warrant, Michael G. Kenny, 66, of Winchester, was a temporary employee of the plant between March 19 and May 15 of this year. Authorities said over the two month period, Kenny, at various times, took a total of 160 engine cylinder heads from the plant floor. Once out of the plant, Kenny would place items outside a fence on the property only to return later to load the stolen merchandise into his pickup truck and leave.

Johnny Cash, you’ll remember, predicted this kind of thing decades ago. “Well, I left Kentucky back in ’49 / And went to Detroit workin’ on an assembly line.” Only he snuck those parts out — the larger ones, anyway — in his buddy’s mobile home.

Now they don’t have cars in Ponyville — just as well, given the lack of pavement — but if somepony were to try a stunt like this, the result would be banishment by Princess Celestia herself.

(The preceding has been an effort to link to two entirely different pieces by Cameron Miquelon in the same post, and why not?)

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Have another look at the world

Must be purty awful out there in Arizona, having to deal with all them iggnernt, uneddicated furriners:

Recently, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office alleged Briseira Torres, a shy, 31-year-old single mom from Glendale, was here illegally and that Briseira Torres was not her real name.

She was accused of three counts of forgery, in part because her driver’s license had her real name on it, which the MCAO thought was bogus. Following her arrest, she was held without bond in Estrella Jail for 4½ months.

Seems that Torres, as a teenager, had briefly lived with her father in Mexico, and left just enough of a paper trail to confuse the hell out of — well, apparently anyone who’s inclined to be suspicious of someone for having the name “Torres.”

(Via Fark.)

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Somebody that I plan to ignore

Given my tendency to wander off in weird musical directions, I’d totally managed to avoid hearing Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know” until encountering a cover by Gavin Mikhail (thank you, Brian Ibbott) that turned out to be an improvement on the original.

Sonic Charmer, who has not been so fortunate as I, explains its popularity:

People, while this is not a terrible song, it is also not a good song. It’s like something you’d find on side 2 of a below-average Peter Gabriel album. A Robert Smith side solo project between Cure albums. A Howard Jones B-side.

Yet the SWPL class of ’12 has made it their favorite song ever. This indicates a few things, but mainly this: they are so utterly deprived of actual good pop-rock music that they think this tripe is just great.

Point of comparison: Tweaker’s “Truth Is,” which has enough Robert Smith input to qualify as a side project.

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And in other non-news

I was timing this week’s Rebecca Black report to come out more or less simultaneously with the weekly Q&A video, but there’s not going to be a weekly Q&A video this time around:

so so so sorry but there won’t be another q&a posted today :( i’ve been super busy with rehearsals for Wildwood and I’m trying to make it the absolute best it can be for you all. the next q&a will be up next friday :)

I just hope someone records the Wildwood concert.

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More red ink for green tech

You may have read last month about the cash-flow problem at battery maker A123 Systems, to the effect that they would burn through their remaining cash in five months or so.

Well, they now have some cash, but they no longer have their autonomy:

Auto parts supplier Wanxiang Group will take a controlling interest and invest $450 million in the Massachusetts-based battery maker.

Nor is A123 the only “green” manufacturer recently bailed out by foreign investment:

Earlier this year, Ener1 Inc, another battery maker that received a government green technology grant, emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy under the control of Russian investor Boris Zingarevich. New York-based Ener1 is also a joint-venture partner in China with a Wanxiang subsidiary.

The lesson seems clear: what the Obama administration can’t do, Lu Guanqiu can and apparently will.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Some enterprising paparazzo got this shot of Heather Locklear taking tennis lessons in Malibu earlier this month:

Heather Locklear with a tennis racket

If you like, there are more shots from that day. Heather turns 51 next month.

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We’ve heard it all before

Excuse me while I borrow a tweet or three from Megan McArdle:

As @terryteachout pointed out to me, Google fragments of your own writing and by seven words, you get only one hit.

True “accidental” plagiarism, in other words, does not exist. An example she provides is slightly startling:

It’s actually kind of amazing: even a phrase as banal as “I attracted a lot of angry comments last October” is apparently unique.

I had to test this for myself, of course. My best-known seven-word phrase, which is actually only six words long if you count that hyphenated thing as one, is my description of the Grim Reaper as “that scythe-wielding son of a bitch,” which shows up four times in Google, all by me.

But that’s fairly distinctive. I pulled up an eight-word phrase from Vent #750 — “No two people have exactly the same schedule” — which produced three sources, of which I was the third.

“You’re never too old to yearn” (from Vent #341) brought me first and third place, the second being occupied by a Florida newspaper. And the third was from a comment I made to that now-infamous bit of fanfiction I wrote, which undeservedly still gets 20-30 readers a day. Amused by this, I keyed in the five-word phrase that ushers in the ending. It landed second.

Still, the best comment on plagiarism — all this, of course, was prompted by Time columnist Fareed Zakaria’s suspension — came from James Lileks: “You realize that Tom Lehrer totally copied ‘Lobachevsky’ from someone else.” Then again, Lileks was meta before meta was meta.

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There is no swoon

Hey girl it's Paul RyanMitt “Mitt” Romney has anointed Wisconsin Congressman and legendary [choose one] dreamboat/douchecanoe Paul “Hey Girl” Ryan as the offical winner of the 2012 Republican Veepstakes, probably not, I suspect, because of the something-less-than-ubiquitous #GiveUsRyan hashtag, but simply because he wanted to balance the ticket with a specific appeal to … um, to whom exactly? It certainly isn’t cheapskates:

While the press paints him as some maverick Ebenezer Scrooge for the budgetary Band-Aid he proposed slapping on our sucking fiscal chest wound, in reality, Ryan’s toes are firmly on the party line: he voted for Medicare Part D, TARP, auto industry bailouts, and the rest of the whole free-spending financial firehose that’s tried to float the ship of state on a fresh tide of fiat currency.

The dynamic, as it plays out, will veer away from those financial matters rather quickly, leaving a scenario worthy of an old UPN sitcom: a couple of colorless organization men versus a petulant child and his demented but lovable uncle. Bring on 2016 already.

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The Rawlsian standard

First, a bit of background:

John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice famously introduced the idea of an “original position,” a hypothetical situation in which citizens would come together behind a “veil of ignorance” to select principles of justice that can regulate their common life. There are different ways of understanding the OP, but one useful way — which Rawls himself favoured later in life — is to imagine that the “contracting parties” in the original position are not the members of society themselves, but rather their representatives. Each of these representatives — modelled as rational negotiators — is then supposed to bargain for the best possible “deal” acceptable to the citizens they represent on the terms of cooperation in society, but without knowing which specific set of citizens they represent. This is supposed to ensure that the negotiating parties will only agree on principles that would be acceptable to all citizens as “free and equal.”

There being no real-life analogue for such scenarios, please allow me to oversimplify by offering a scene from family life. Two children argue over who gets how much pie. Parental unit decrees that Child 1 gets the piece he desires — but that Child 2 will actually cut the pie. The Rawlsian legislator is never quite sure whether he is Child 1 or Child 2, and therefore he has to make his decision, not on behalf of a narrow constituency, but with the interests of all pie consumers in mind.

Implementing such a legislature, of course, is easier said than done:

An example [from New Zealand] may help. Imagine the electors for Wellington Central elect Grant Robertson their MP. At the end of his term, the Electoral Commission randomly assigns him a different constituency. Say he draws Auckland Central, for example. Robertson then has to go to Auckland Central to defend his record in parliament; let’s say he’s given one month to make his case. Auckland Central then holds an “up or down” vote deciding whether or not he can run in the next election. If he’s voted down, he cannot run in that electoral period (though he may run in later periods — no permanent disqualification is envisioned here); otherwise, he gets to run again, if he so wishes, in Wellington Central.

At no time does Mr Robertson’s official constituency change; however, whenever standing for election, he must make his case, not only to them, but to an entirely different district as well.

I don’t envision this happening in the States anytime soon — it would require substantial changes to the Constitution, and apparently no one currently holding national office has so much as read the Constitution — but it’s something to ponder while the politicians pander.

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Vintage ’53

Now this is an idea I like:

The concept behind the Year of Your Birth Rally is simple: you must drive a vehicle with a model year the same as your own. Nick Pon, Assistant Perp of the 24 Hours of LeMons, created the idea and swears he’s going to organize such a rally someday.

Lincoln Capri badgeEverybody’s favorite ’53, allegedly, is the Studebaker, what with its ultra-sleek lines breathed upon by design icon Raymond Loewy. But if I’m driving, I won’t be looking at it, so I’d be hunting down a Lincoln Capri, which is about two sizes bigger than I need or than I’m used to but which, as the phrase goes, was Built Ford Tough. In the legendary 2000-mile Carrera Panamericana, Capris finished 1-2-3-4 in the stock-car class two years running. (The winning car, both years, was driven by Chuck Stevenson.) The ’53 had the new 205-hp version of Lincoln’s Y-block V8, fed by a Holley four-barrel. The underpinnings were what you’d call old and proven: tube shocks, leaves out back, worm-and-roller steering, drum brakes all around. I’m guessing that the existing Ford-O-Matic slushbox couldn’t take the gaff of the big Lincoln mill, which is why the Capri came with a GM Hydra-Matic (four speeds!) standard.

And there’s a nostalgia factor here: I remember riding in one of these things, circa 1959. If I’m remembering correctly, my grandfather owned a ’55, the last of that generation before Lincoln went into full-fledged Bloat Mode. The fact that I can remember riding in a Lincoln half a century ago, yet can’t remember much of anything about any current Lincoln, speaks volumes — to me, anyway — about how Ford has bungled its luxury brand in recent years.

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There is a season

When I visited North Dakota in the summer of ’04, I found the weather delightful. It would not have been so at the other end of the calendar:

I talked to at least half a dozen Fargonians (if that’s the term) today, generally with kind words for the place, and always with the qualifier: “Of course, this is July. Had I arrived in February, I might think different.” All of them understood, but none took umbrage, and the general impression I got was “Yeah, we have horrible winters, but so what else is new?” Not that Oklahoma in February is particularly wonderful.

Jennifer Finney Boylan, writing in The New York Times, analyzes this mindset:

Most people consider the weather in their hometowns to be part of a cosmic bargain, without which we would all lose our minds. In Maine, the bucolic months of June through October are what we trade for the intense winter and the miserable late spring, also known as Mud Season. Likewise, during my D.C. days, the summer was as hot as an acetylene torch, but it still seemed like a fair price to pay for the jaw-dropping beauty of the cherry blossoms in April.

Walking out an Oklahoma front door in the summer of 2011, or for that matter the summer of 2012, has been the equivalent of volunteering to do a barrel roll or three in a Bessemer converter. Still, these things have a way of balancing themselves out:

In that horrible month of February ’11, I broke my snow shovel; after waiting for the spring price break, I bought one of those not quite industrial-strength, but still formidable-looking, pushers, and dared the stuff to occupy my driveway. Total snowfall for the winter of ’11-’12: 1.8 inches. The thing is standing in the garage, still wrapped. If I thought for a moment this would work again, I’d buy another one.

And Boylan just may be right about this:

The same Ruby Tuesdays and Walmarts might be found from Tulsa, Okla., to Bangor, Me., but the temperament of the souls who live in those cities will always be different, as long as Oklahomans have tornadoes and winter wheat and Mainers have blackflies and aurora borealis.

For myself, well, I could stand a lot more summer days like yesterday: low 65, high 96. (Normal high is 95.) It’s not the 100-plus afternoons that bother me so much; it’s the 80-degree sunrises, with the neighborhood runners sweating at 0530 and wondering what they did to deserve this.

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Devoid of risk

So this, then, is the new NASA: low-risk, but still high-cost, excursions to Nowheresville. We used to be better than that:

I have nothing against space exploration. In fact, I absolutely love it. I’ve been wearing fake NASA helmets and crashing my head into trees since I was 5. Still do upon occasion. I have Gus Grissom mounted on a crucifix in my bedroom. But these Mars probes are weak tea. We’ll find nothing. Perhaps evidence life might have existed there once. What kind of life? The shoulders in Pasadena shrug in ignorance.

For two and a half billion dollars I want intrepid souls with unstable rockets under their asses, flying into the unknown. I want a man to say “That’s one small step for man, and one curiously parasitic beetle crawling underneath my fingernail.” I want to see brave men in hyperbaric quarantine while we observe mutations.

Not going to happen. What used to be the American culture has been overwritten by underwriters: rather than pursue the incredible, we purchase the insurance. If Star Trek had debuted in this decade instead of five decades ago, General Order 1 would read “Do not send anyone in a red shirt down to the planet’s surface.”

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They can’t lose

Headline from this morning’s Oklahoman:

From page 4A of the Oklahoman 12 August 2012: Republicans hope to win new Senate seat

What are their chances? Pretty close to 100 percent, actually:

Voters in southern Oklahoma County and parts of Pottawatomie County will select their senator on Aug. 28 in the primary runoff between two Republican candidates.

Since no Democrat filed for the newly redistricted seat, the winner of the runoff will take office, replacing the incumbent Sen. Charlie Laster and giving the GOP one more seat in their super majority hold of the Senate.

Laster, a Democrat, did not file for reelection, so this is definitely a pickup for the GOP. (The online version of the story, otherwise identical to the print version, has a less-risible title.)

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Visors at the ready

This would seem logical enough:

People should live to the east of where they work. That way the sun would always be in your rearview mirror on your commute.

Instead of in your face, or more specifically in my face, inasmuch as I live west of where I work.

But this threw me a curve:

I heard once that cities tend to grow in a way that forms a 7 of developed, happening areas, but I don’t know why that would be true. Every city that I’ve lived in, it’s been either the west or the north (or both) that was the wealthier developing side, and the south and/or east that were poorer. I don’t know why any of these things would be intrinsic, but it’s a cliche that south and east are poor, no?

Definitely true of Oklahoma City; definitely not true of Tulsa.

I’ve brought this up before. At the time, Fishersville Mike advanced the theory that it was at least partially wind-related: “The wind blows the smells from west to east, so that side might be slightly more pleasant for an urbanized area.” Winds in the OKC are typically from the southwest and hot, or from the northwest and not quite so hot; as a result, I am generally spared two of the more godawful smells in this town, the Stockyards (on the near-southwest side) and the dog-food plant (on the far north end), which would fit this pattern.

There are 200 comments at that first link, containing explanations, outliers, and occasional randomness.

(Via Hit Coffee.)

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Strange search-engine queries (341)

Another week begins with another slog through the logs, in the hopes of finding just one search string funny enough to share with the world. And by “just one,” I mean “ten or so,” because otherwise this feature looks pretty darn pathetic.

beatles spice rack:  You have to be careful. I was looking for bay leaves the other day, and I wound up with pasta sauce redolent of Norwegian wood.

is there really a clock that always says 12:30:  Closest I ever got was a VCR that always said 1:00, except during DST, when it said 2:00.

how to revers a shrink ray:  First you switch off the power. (Actually, first you look for a ladder to climb up to where the device is located, and then you switch off the power, if you have the strength.)

ned ludd didn’t exist:  So they had to invent him, but no, they couldn’t have, could they?

how to extend range of nissan leaf:  Drive in only one direction: downhill.

how to dress as a nerd for prom:  Wear thicker glasses than usual, and show up in a Nissan Leaf.

erotica is like dog-whistle politics:  Watch for a new romance, tentatively set in the world of canine obedience training. Working title is 50 Shades of Stay.

can women have surgery on knee caps to look better:  Theoretically, but it’s a lot less complicated to wear a longer skirt.

“margaret cho used to be funny”:  Hell, Janeane Garofalo used to be cute.

spanking joni mitchell:  It’s pain’s illusions you recall; you really don’t know pain at all.

Paris Hilton a gold digger?  Paris Hilton doesn’t need your money. Then again, she’s probably not likely to date a clerk at Blockbuster either.

boy transforms into pretty woman porno:  In which a Blockbuster clerk wakes up one morning to find he’s been turned into Paris Hilton.

ask me about my vow of silence meaning:  Shhh. I can’t talk about that right now.

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Who let the doge out?

“It’s no longer necessary to be a doge to own a palazzo in Venice.” The current Italian government hopes to cut the country’s budget deficit by selling over three hundred historic buildings, including palaces and castles:

The government hopes to raise as much as €1.5 billion through the historic property sales, according to the Agenzia del Demanio, the agency that manages the state’s real estate assets. Currently the Italian state owns properties worth about €42 billion, according to a report by Edoardo Reviglio, chief economist of bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.

The city of Venice is going to sell 18 properties, including the 18th century Diedo Palace, which served as a criminal court for years. The price tag for the palace is €19 million. Milan intends to sell more than 100 buildings, including the Palazzo Bolis Gualdo. The city hopes to get as much as €31 million for that palace.

Not actually up for sale: the Palazzo Ducale in Venice, former primary residence of the Doge, which has been open as a museum since 1923.

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Just trying to be helpful

There are times when I just want to scream at the screen, and this was one of them:

Earlier today, I was on a message board. A woman was talking about how she’s 27 and still a virgin, and guys ignore her. She asked if there’s any chance that she’ll find someone.

I answered as honestly as I could. I said probably not. I wasn’t trying to be harsh, but I was blunt and honest. I told her that men are all about the visual. At 27, she wasn’t going to get any prettier. In fact, her looks had probably already started to decline. So if men hadn’t been interested in her when she was college age, they probably were going to be even less interested now. It is not as if she was 15 and an ugly duckling who could still potentially become a beautiful swan. Her time to be a swan (up to age 25 in most women) had already come and gone.

See also John Derbyshire’s attack on Jennifer Aniston from several years back.

Or, for that matter, this (fictional) discussion by Twilight Sparkle of an unfortunate event in her past:

“I told him to go away and he started screaming that I had no right to treat him this way and that he would tell all his friends about me and nopony would ever want me.” She was clearly fighting back the tears. “The rude suggestions, they didn’t matter. But it’s the worst thing in the world to tell a filly that nopony would ever want her, because she’ll believe it every time.”

Thirty or forty years of celibacy might be enough to pay back this jerk — maybe.

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We already have alternate-day watering restrictions, but that’s just not enough in an unusually-dry summer, so the city has now begun employing a costumed semi-superhero to encourage us to Squeeze Every Drop.

Okay, it’s goofy, but it will appeal to your first-grader, who will then nag you every time you turn on the tap.

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It’s a nice day for it

It got up into the 60s (Fahrenheit) in Johannesburg earlier today, so all the snow should be gone.

Yes, I know, it’s wintertime in South Africa, but they don’t get much snow there. Maybe you’ll see some heavy snow at higher elevations, but anything more than a dusting in Johannesburg is fairly rare, which probably explains this:

A South African couple married this week after a bout of unusually cold weather allowed them to fulfill a light-hearted promise to tie the knot the next time Johannesburg was covered in snow.

Portuguese emigre Rui Moca and Monique Joubert had planned to wed next year, but when South Africa’s biggest city was shrouded in a rare blanket of snow on Tuesday, Joubert’s sister called Jacaranda FM to tell them about the couple’s dream of a “real” white wedding.

The radio station leapt into action, organizing a minister, lawyer, photographer, flowers, cake and limousine, and the couple were married on air in the studio in the early evening — with Moca’s family listening in from Europe over the Internet.

“The entire wedding with all the bells and whistles was organized in just three hours,” Jacaranda DJ Martin Bester said.

It hadn’t snowed at all in Johannesburg for the last five years, and the last time they got this much — the highway to Durban was actually closed for 24 hours due to snowcover — was 1981, the year Billy Idol recorded “White Wedding.” (It was released in 1982.)

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We laugh at your feeble funnels

At least, that’s the idea with this concept by 10 Design, putting a dwelling on a hydraulic lift, which can lower it below ground in the event of, um, rotation.

“Think of a turtle,” explains Call Me Stormy, “which can pull its head back within a protective shell whenever danger arises.”

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How she did

Earlier this month, I happened to mention that a friend of mine had put together, and was starring in, her very first play. A trip to Toronto was out of the question, but I did watch for the reviews, and here’s the first one:

Violent be Violet is a dark, disturbing surge of emotional extremes touching on the very delicate subject of mental illness. It is a performance at this year’s SummerWorks that will leave plenty of room for discussion and reflection, something that is sure to stay with you for a while.

Fourteen years ago, Violet (Tanisha Taitt) became the only survivor of a bloody massacre of her classmates, killing the murderer in her own defense.

The tragedy haunts her to this day, at age 36, and severely affects not only her life but the life of her family — her mother Yolande (Sandi Ross), brother Amos (Peter Bailey) — and Sister Genevieve (Sarah Dodd), her former Psych professor now a nun. Her internal battle spirals out of control culminating to the truth behind the massacre.

Not the sort of thing you’re going to be humming on the way out of the theater. But Tanisha pulls it off:

It’s not an easy production to watch, especially if the topic of mental illness hits close to home. Much applause to Taitt (also serving as playwright) who is unapologetic and is relentless in the torrent of emotions she unleashes for the audience to soak in. You feel for Violet, you feel a lot for her and your heart reaches out to her family who only want her to recover but end up triggering her outbursts accidentally.

Dammit, maybe I should have found a way to Toronto.

Her next project: working on V-Day.

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As you may already know by now

I got a press release on this, embargoed until 5 pm Monday, but several hours before that the news was all over the place, so I’ll just link to the official announcement:

KOSU, the NPR station serving Oklahoma City at 91.7FM, Tulsa at 107.5FM and Stillwater at 88.3FM, will increase its audience services by adding new news/talk and music programs effective Monday, August 20, 2012. At the heart of KOSU’s schedule is a content partnership with The Spy, which produces original shows and brings a wide array of independent music to listeners. The Spy also engages in local partnerships that serve to educate the community and further the local culture.

“The Spy has done a tremendous job of tapping into the pulse of the community to provide a vibrant venue for music genres that are completely underserved in our state,” said Kelly Burley, KOSU Director. “Through our partnership, we look forward to amplifying what The Spy does best as we create more uniquely Oklahoma experiences for public radio listeners.”

Shorter version: KOSU will be simulcasting (presumably minus ad slots) The Spy’s evening and overnight programs, instead of whatever the hell they’re doing now. (Oh, right: classical music, which will now be demoted to the HD2 channel and a stream.) Still, getting Ferris and friends on actual radio, and with some measurable ERP instead of their former peashooter out in Los Boondocks, must be considered a boon.

Still: this must be some definition of “embargoed” that I missed back in Vocabulary Building and Maintenance. I had planned something for 5:01 yesterday afternoon, but scrapped it by noon after seeing the news all over my tweetstream.

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Perhaps they didn’t think this through

Chrysler’s 300 sedan is about one size class larger than my aspirations, but damn, it’s a sweet piece to look at these days, and maybe I’ll get a chance to get some proper seat time in a 300 between now and whenever. In the meantime, following a reasonably favorable TTAC review, a commenter has pointed out a possible drawback to the Majestic Mopar:

Q: Which features can only be controlled with the touchscreen?
A: The heated seats and steering wheel.

Q: When do you use them?
A: In the winter.

Q: What do you wear during winter?
A: Gloves.

Q: What doesn’t work when you wear gloves?
A: A touchscreen.

Q: Which features can only be controlled with the touchscreen?
A: The heated seats and steering wheel.

And so on, and so on, and scooby-dooby-doo. You’d think someone in Brampton, Ontario, Canada, Frozen North might have noticed this.

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Once again, a national Halleday

It’s been two years since I put up a picture of Halle Berry, but the occasion is the same: it’s her birthday. (Then again, do you really need a reason?) This particular shot comes from a profile in the March ’11 Ebony, in which she’s wearing something insubstantial by Alberta Ferretti:

Halle Berry in Ebony

If you prefer Ms Berry in something more substantial by Alberta Ferretti, here you go.

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Think of it as nine bucks an inch

Behold the most expensive wiener on earth:

Capitol Dawg specialty hot dog

One hundred forty-five dollars and forty-nine cents (for now, plus tax) fetches you the California Capitol City Dawg, constructed as follows:

Served on a foccacia roll, the world’s most expensive hot dog is an 18-inch beef frank topped with Swedish moose cheese, Italian white truffle butter, French mustard, garlic-herb mayonnaise, smoked maple bacon from New Hampshire and local balsamic vinaigrette.

Note that that’s French mustard, not French’s mustard.

Incidentally, this is highly atypical of the usual fare at Sacramento’s Capitol Dawg, most of whose dawgs run $4 to $6.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Not that she asked me or anything

Lynn requests that you not use this kind of language in her presence:

A sentence I would very much like to never have to hear or read again is, “You wouldn’t ask a man that question.”

That question is this question:

MODERATOR 1: Okay. Which designers do you prefer?

SECRETARY CLINTON: What designers of clothes?


SECRETARY CLINTON: Would you ever ask a man that question? (Laughter.) (Applause.)

MODERATOR 1: Probably not. Probably not. (Applause.)

Or, as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) once snapped at a reporter asking something of similar import: “You would never write about Chuck Schumer’s shoes.”

Says Lynn:

Reporters are notorious for asking inappropriate, irrelevant and just plain lame questions but people are interested in the personal lives of our leaders and since men and women are different that means different questions for men and women. If you don’t feel that it’s an appropriate time for a particular question the better response would be to say, “I would rather talk about the issues,” or “I would rather talk about [a specific issue].”

My own instinct is to yell out “NEXT!” approximately 3 dB louder than, say, Scott Lucas of Local H at the very end of “All the Kids Are Right.”

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An underserved market

Roger’s discourse on the not-yet-dead Esso trademark, owned by what used to be Standard Oil of New Jersey and is now ExxonMobil, ends with this fascinating tale:

In 1936, a “Harlem postal employee and civic leader named Victor H. Green” developed The Negro Motorist Green Book: An International Travel Guide … abbreviated, simply, as the “Green Book.” Those who needed to know about it knew about it. To much of the rest of America it was invisible, and by 1964 [when the Civil Rights Act was passed], when the last edition was published, it slipped through the cracks into history…

“The 15,000 copies Green eventually printed each year were sold as a marketing tool not just to black-owned businesses but to the white marketplace, implying that it made good economic sense to take advantage of the growing affluence and mobility of African Americans. Esso stations, unusual in franchising to African Americans, were a popular place to pick one up.”

Mr Green was on to something. Nicholas Dreystadt was in charge of Cadillac service for General Motors during the worst days of the Great Depression, and he advanced what was then a novel theory:

Cadillac was after the prestige market, and part of its strategy to capture that market was its refusal to sell to African-Americans. Despite this official discrimination, Dreystadt had noted that an astonishing number of customers at the service departments consisted of members of the nation’s tiny African-American elite: the boxers, singers, doctors and lawyers who earned large incomes despite the flourishing Jim Crow atmosphere of the 1930s. Most status symbols were not available to these people. They couldn’t live in fancy neighborhoods or patronize fancy nightclubs. But getting around Cadillac’s policy of refusing to sell was easy: They just paid white men to front for them.

Dreystadt urged the executive committee to go after this market. Why should a bunch of white front men get several hundred dollars each when that profit could flow to General Motors? The board bought his reasoning, and in 1934 Cadillac sales increased by 70%, and the division actually broke even.

One thing about old Jim Crow: he wasn’t worth a damn as an economist.

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It’s just tracks

Having failed to persuade anyone other than clueless members of Congress — but I repeat myself — that the impending Death of the Music Industry is the fault of those evil downloaders, said Industry perhaps should consider the idea that no one really gives a rat’s rump anymore:

Bill Gibson proposes that music has become “achronous,” that is, beyond time. For today’s youth, music is something on their music appliance, and has no real historical niche. I would add that the only exception to that — and it is a jarring one — is live concerts featuring dinosaur rockers. You can plug your JebusPhone’s speakers into your ears and watch an old Dick Clark, Ed Sullivan, or MTV video, and feel seemless young with your faves. Or, if you are young today, you can imagine that music is as young as you are.

Not being one of today’s youth, I react the same way to 1965 stuff now that I did in, well, 1965. I picked that specific year because it was the first year I spent my own money on music. The last one, I suppose, will be the one where I begin the everlasting dirt nap.

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Sparkle in shrine

A common complaint from bronydom is having to keep one’s My Little Pony obsession under wraps, lest there be unpleasant feedback from relatives, coworkers, or soon-to-be-former friends. As some of you have discerned, I tend toward the Better Blatant Than Latent side of the spectrum, especially in pony matters. I did not, however, expect what happened yesterday.

I have mentioned before, not necessarily in jest, that my Inner Child is probably a nine-year-old girl. Toward the very end of yesterday’s shift, an actual nine-year-old girl — I didn’t ask her to verify, but she wasn’t trying to look like a teenager, so nine is plausible enough, though I’m willing to believe ten or even eleven — wandered into my department and offered me some hand-drawn pictures of Twilight Sparkle, since I’m such a big fan and all.

Drawings of Twilight Sparkle

And we proceeded to run down everything we knew about all things Equestria, including the inevitable Best Pony discussion (she holds out for Fluttershy), whether Rainbow Dash was originally intended to be a stallion instead of a mare (no, it’s just the way she wears her mane), and why pegasi shouldn’t wear dresses. Were it not for my basso not-so-profundo, you might have thought it was a couple of nine-year-old girls chatting.

Yes, I’m okay with that. Now if I could just persuade Twilight to decipher the instructions on that ridiculous sort-of-programmable thermostat.

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Twin-spin of the week

The iTunes Shuffle served up this yummy combo yesterday: “I Took a Chance” by the Vinyl Kings, a dead ringer for the Beatles’ cover of Buddy Holly’s “Words of Love,” followed by Jessica Lea Mayfield’s version of, yes, “Words of Love,” off one of those Starbucks Sweetheart discs.

Okay, we can’t call it iTuring yet, but we’re getting close.

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All those laboring fans

Mark Alger, who knows something about putting words together, argues the case for fanfiction:

I would argue that a great deal of what is discouraged by copyright holders as infringement is not. But they generally have the deep pockets and big guns and can, to a certain extent, muscle the smaller fish out of commercial exploitation of “their” ideas. But, by all reports, 50 Shades is “thinly-veiled.” If so, the veil covers a multitude of sins, and the weight of the fabric is of no moment — it is a new work and, morally at least, must be judged as wholly original.

And, I suspect, that Stephenie Meyer knows that it hasn’t really done Twilight any harm, and, indeed, may enhance the brand.

I wonder how many Fifty Shades of Grey readers are even aware of the book’s origin as a serial Twilight fanfic. Meyer, for her part, has not been complaining:

“Good on [E. L. James] — she’s doing well. That’s great!”

Without Meyer’s novel, Fifty Shades might not exist. “It might not exist in the exact form that it’s in,” Meyer said. “Obviously, [she] had a story in her, and so it would’ve come out in some other way.”

I must note here that the title Fifty Shades of Hay has shown up on several items, including, yes, a My Little Pony fanfic. Thus the alleged ripoff is itself ripped off. In contemporary remix culture, this is the rule, not the exception, and we should probably get used to it already.

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Justice metered out

James Lileks tries out the new parking meters in Dinkytown:

Parked at one of the new meters, which is a really nifty thing. You don’t pay at your car. You memorize a five-digit number, walk to the middle of the block, put in your money, then walk back past your car, realize you got one of the numbers wrong because your short-term memory is what was I talking about? or because you read the wrong pole. Then you go back and feed the meter again. The amusing thing, in a bitterly unfunny sort of way, is that the terminal accepted a number that did not exist on the street. It’s programmed to take anything. Or, I paid for half an hour for someone downtown. In which case you’re welcome.

The New World Order, Malparkage Division, thanks you for your support.

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