Archive for February 2014

I’d call this a half-assed approach

Wouldn’t you?

And remember: you can’t spell “masochism” without “Sochi.”

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Although it may be cute, it’s just a substitute

Smokey Robinson has his reservations about social media:

Legendary Motown singer/composer Smokey Robinson thinks texting, Facebook and Twitter have a real hold on young people. “Social media is out of hand,” he told us recently at the National Association of Music Merchants convention here, where he was awarded the “Music for Life” award.

“Social media is running rampant,” he says. “We could get to the point where without those phones or iPads or whatever kids are texting or typing on, they (young people) won’t even know how to communicate, how to sit down and have a conversation with each other verbally.”

Robinson, who either wrote or co-wrote such classics as “My Girl,” “Tracks of My Tears,” “Shop Around” and “I Second That Emotion” for both Motown performers and Robinson and the Miracles, does say he’s comfortable with technology. His Windows Phone is his lifeline, and he’s all over Facebook and Twitter himself. But that’s just for professional reasons.

Well, you know, we gotta dance to keep from crying. (Which is a rarity: a Smokey song that he didn’t write.)

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Knickety split

What the cameras came to see, apparently, was Carmelo Anthony vs. Kevin Durant, and Durant had all the better of it. Then again, Durant guarded ‘Melo most of the game, and when he wasn’t — well, Kendrick Perkins went after him at the 1:41 mark in the fourth, and Perk laid him low. By then, of course, it was academic: the Thunder were up by double digits; the Knickerbockers went on their unmerry way with yet another road loss, 112-100, certainly closer than what the Thunder did to them on Christmas day but still not the sort of thing that makes Mike Woodson feel better about his future.

Anthony wound up shooting 5-19 for 15 points, including 1-5 from beyond the arc, and collected five fouls for his trouble. The Knicks, sensibly, did not rely on ‘Melo for all their offense; both Raymond Felton and Amar’e Stoudemire knocked down 16, and Tyson Chandler and Iman Shumpert scored 12. (Shumpert got all his points from outside, hitting four of eight treys; he took only one shorter shot, and missed it.) While the Knicks were outrebounded by the Thunder 41-38, New York retrieved far more from the offensive glass (12 vs. 5), staying close early on with second-chance points.

Meanwhile, Durant, the master of first-chance points, threw down for 41 (12 of 22) and missed a triple double by one assist; KD trailed Perkins 11-10 in rebounds. Reggie Jackson put up 19 for the day; Derek Fisher led a relatively quiet OKC bench with ten.

Spotted in garbage time: former Thunderman Cole Aldrich, credited with one assist in one minute, and The Artest Currently Known As Metta World Peace, who hit his one and only shot.

Blazers, Lakers, then All-Star break. Not the scariest section of schedule, and it’s the last time the Thunder will see the Blazers in the regular season. (Portland is up 2-1 in the season series.) After the break: six in a row at home. Then again, the first opponent is Miami.

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One of those “weird tricks”

You may even have heard this on the radio. Steve Blow of the Dallas Morning News certainly has:

It’s a simple ad. No music or special effects. Just an announcer talking. But he speaks with an urgency that grabs your attention:

“If you’re a baby boomer or a senior, please listen closely to this important message. Politicians in Washington are quietly plotting to decrease your Social Security payments drastically. And they want to do it soon.”

This is consistent with current Washington policy, which is to beggar the middle class, buy off the proles, and enrich the elites; but Social Security’s third-rail status tends to insulate it from the worst governmental ideas.

Also current Washington policy: the War of All Against All. From that same radio spot:

“In fact, despite rising prices at the gas pump, grocery store and doctor’s office, retirees have received a mere 1.3 percent annual increase to their Social Security checks. Meanwhile, food stamp recipients have seen their payouts increase over 30 percent under the Obama administration. That’s shocking.”

Which latter was part of the dubious “stimulus package,” long since expired; SNAP has since been trimmed back a bit. But that’s not what they came to tell you:

“So when we stumbled upon a weird trick that could add up to $1,000 to your monthly Social Security checks, we knew we had to share it with you. To get started, simply go to [link redacted].”

And if you go there?

If you go, you’ll discover this is just a come-on to get your credit card number for a trial subscription to financial newsletters. And those newsletters tout even more government freebies.

Of course, those terrible people in Washington can take away those freebies more easily than they can cut Social Security, but you’re not supposed to know that.

And if you’re supposed to resent all those freeloaders on food stamps, yet you send away for all this stuff to get your very own government cheese — well, what does that say about you?

(Via this Jeff Greenfield tweet.)

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Making a fuss over the bus

The name is “EMBARK,” and it’s the name I’ve seen painted on exactly one city bus so far. (Most of them, in fact, seem to have full-length exaltations of oil, courtesy of Harold Hamm and Continental Resources.) The city sent a bookmark with this month’s water bill, detailing the following changes:

Re-aligned for optimum connectivity and efficiency, the redesigned bus routes provide a solid foundation for future transit enhancements.

Pending further announcements, I assume this means “We get near the streetcar routes.”

Designed with performance in mind, buses will travel major arterial roadways to achieve 30-minute service, and create two high-performance 15-minute service corridors.

The current standard is — well, calling it a “standard” implies something is actually followed.

Driven by performance, all buses are equipped with cutting-edge technology including automatic vehicle location (AVL) devices, onboard cameras, audible stop annunciation system, and onboard public WiFi.

How to explain AVL? Let’s try this: “Where the hell is Number 108? It’s supposed to be on Route 5 at 122nd and Penn!”

Powered by innovation, customer-focused tools like text notifications, journey planning, and mobile tools (to name a few) will be available for customer convenience and accountability.

“Will be” means this summer, they say. And they probably need to combine as many of those tools as possible into a single phone app.

So far there’s not a lot of promotional material; there’s a web site, with a brief video clip and a place to sign up for spam. I’m not sure whether all this will make for a better bus experience, but it’s hard to imagine how it could be much worse than the way it’s been.

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Oh, those lonely rivers

Cover art for Bear Family release I Hunger For Your TouchAlex North and Hy Zaret are no doubt beaming from whatever cloud they’ve been uploaded to; there have been perhaps a thousand different recordings of “Unchained Melody,” a throwaway song from a 1955 Warner Bros. prison film that caught on immediately with the general public, even those who wouldn’t be caught dead seeing a 1955 Warner Bros. prison film. Thirty-one of those recordings are collected on a new Bear Family set called Unchained Melody: I Hunger For Your Touch, which contains all the versions you know, along with rather a lot of the ones you don’t, or at least rather a lot of the ones I don’t.

After Hy Zaret’s death in 2007, I wrote this:

“Unchained Melody,” as it was called, hit the charts in four versions in ’55; Les Baxter (Capitol 3055) took it to Number One, but his version was more or less an instrumental (there’s a brief chorus), leaving the vocal prize to Al Hibbler (Decca 29441), who coaxed it to #3 and bestowed upon it pop-standard status. Lots of people recorded it over the next decade or so; Phil Spector tossed it into a 1965 Righteous Brothers session as the B-side to “Hung On You” (Philles 129), the intended follow-up to “Just Once in My Life.” But “Hung On You” never broke Top 40, and DJs turned the 45 over to find, not the usual Spector throwaway instrumental, but a lovingly-produced Bobby Hatfield solo performance in front of the Wall of Sound at its lushest. (This being a B-side, rumors persist to this day that the other Righteous fellow, Bill Medley, actually produced it; I have my doubts, though Medley’s production for the Brothers’ post-Spector discs for Verve demonstrates his mastery of the Wall.) “Unchained Melody” climbed to #4; its inclusion in the 1990 romantic fantasy Ghost led Verve to reissue the single, which reached #13. (A re-recording by the Brothers also charted, reaching #19.)

Zaret, of course, approved. He was reportedly not amused by a George Martin-produced version by the Goons, which Parlophone stuffed back into the Abbey Road vaults before it could see the light of day, prompting the Goons to move to Decca. The recording finally surfaced in 1990, and apparently not even Dr. Demento would play it.

The Bear Family set includes a version by Todd Duncan, who sang the song in Unchained; it did not chart, despite Duncan’s brand-name status — George Gershwin himself had tapped Duncan for the lead in Porgy and Bess — perhaps because Duncan’s operatic baritone seemed out of place on mid-Fifties pop radio, and perhaps because the record was saddled with the title “Lonely Rivers.” Judge for yourself after the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Strange search-engine queries (419)

It wasn’t so easy getting hold of the logs this week: they were buried under a quarter-inch of ice, two inches of snow, and wispy traces of the dreaded Freezing Fog. But we persevered somehow, and here’s what we found:

clankity meaning:  What you get when you look up a word in that newfangled steampunk dictionary.

why wont my 1990 4 cylinder 2.0 liter ford probe go into reverse:  It’s gone all clankity on you.

defordable:  Something Lincoln needs to be.

ferragamo patent braniff:  I don’t think they pay flight attendants enough to wear shoes like that anymore.

bektok gamas:  Is this a new line of shoes?

What is the meaning of b in automatic mirage glx in shifting lever:  Read the manual. If you don’t have the manual you are not fit to drive.

how does covalent bonds involve with mpemba effect:  We’re sorry, this is one of the answers that was previously frozen. We’ll try to thaw it out later.

Xxx daver dashie India com:  Well, it’s not my little Dashie.

outgoing mail weather issues baltimore md:  Your electric bill is still due Tuesday. Nice try.

will a nissan automatic transmission fit a mazda:  Probably not. If it’s the only slushbox you can afford, then definitely not.

your fifteen minutes is up:  Yes, they is.

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Doing asbestos we can

Marie has gutted many old houses over the years, and she hasn’t always taken the precautions she should have:

Somehow I’m wary of lead paint, wearing full body-armour and a ventilator to strip wood, but oblivious to asbestos wearing only a t-shirt and shorts to put in a floor on top of the attic insulation.

And asbestos is genuinely nasty stuff, though that nastiness only recently persuaded the Canadian government to allow asbestos production to die in Quebec:

The future of asbestos mining in Quebec ground to a halt [in 2013] after the newly elected government of Pauline Marois announced it would not honour a commitment of the previous government to lend the Jeffery Mine $58 million to restart production…

As recently as 2010, Canada was producing 150,000 tonnes of asbestos annually, all of it in Quebec, and exporting 90 per cent — worth about $90 million — to developing countries.

More than 50 countries ban the mining and use of asbestos because it causes cancer, but Canada, traditionally a major exporter, has successfully lobbied in the past to keep it off a UN list of hazardous substances.

Residents of the area were of course delighted when the “White Gold” was discovered in 1879; the town of Asbestos was founded around the mine. They don’t mention it so much anymore, preferring to talk about “cultural, social and sporting organizations.”

And this is what gets to me. Between 2001 and 2011, the population of the town grew, from 6580 to 7096, and the median age of its residents went up by four and a half years: 48.4 for men, 53.5 for women. This does not sound promising.

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A mere twelfth of a minute

You’ve already heard of the Five-Second Rule. What you may not have known is that there’s a related corollary:

When transferring laundry from the washer to the dryer, if you drop a clean but damp article of clothing to the floor, it will not pick up dirt from the floor if you pick it up within five seconds. If you do, you can just throw it in the dryer.

Been there, done rather a lot of that.

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The J is for

Actually, I don’t know what it’s for, except to give her a last name of sorts: the Wikipedia article about Jessie J begins with “Not to be confused with Jessy J, Juicy J, or Jessie James.”

So there. Anyway, the Grammy-outfit roundup from neo-neocon brought this picture and a possibly dismissive caption. “Hot pants are back,” said neo. “The top half speaks for itself, or tries to:”

Jessie J at a post-Grammy party 2014

I tried to find out if this was typical of Jessie J’s garb, and stumbled upon this outfit, which she wore to the Royal Variety Performance last fall, attended by the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. And if Chuck and Camilla were kind of formal, well, Jessie wasn’t:

Jessie J at the Royal Variety Performance 2013

In Jessie’s defense, she’s not exactly waving stuff in your face.

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The discreet elite

Jack Baruth explains why Woody Allen and Roman Polanski had to get away with it, and it’s not “male privilege” or “rape culture” or any of that yammer:

Had young men made the allegations, the reaction would have been the same.

No, the reason everyone winks at Roman Polanski anally raping a thirteen-year-old girl or Woody Allen forcing a seven-year-old child into a closet is simple: society, as a whole, has decided that the souls of the abusers are bigger, and more vibrant, and more important than those of the victims. After all, Polanski directed the admittedly brilliant Chinatown. What had that girl ever done for anyone? And Woody Allen made all sorts of films that, if they perhaps fell flat in flyover country, resonated deeply with our privileged coastal overlords. Measured next to those brilliant pictures, who cares about Dylan Farrow’s vagina and what’s been in it?

And as you may remember, Polanski’s defenders became quite irate at the cavalier treatment of Their Hero by mere governments, and the repeated references to his victim bit o’ fun:

What’s the big deal? She should be grateful; it could have been Michael Bay or someone without talent.

It has always been thus, with every elite ever established since the Neanderthals began to select on the basis of, well, anything: privilege has its perks, and if you complain about that, you just don’t understand how the world works.

This is, not incidentally, why the current Republican establishment is so utterly devoid of feck: they’re convinced that if they can spout the right platitudes, they too can drive women off bridges in the dead of night and be lionized for it.

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The preparations are in place

I am now in the proper mindset for Valentine’s Day:

Vintage Valentine card

What? Oh, they’re not so bad. Martin Luther endured an entire Diet of Worms.

(Via BuzzFeed.)

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Too long, or not too long?

This is a question because:

Most edit boxes pass the string you enter into some sort of processing or database. Within the processing process or the database table, the code expects some sane limit on the amount of text entered.

Now “sane” is open to discussion, but I’m guessing you’re probably not planning for this many:

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, stripped of line breaks and punctuation, contains 135,014 of the most thought-provoking characters in the English language. This should exceed the limits of most individual controls unless you’re testing a word processor.

I ought to try that on some of our 40-character fields, just to watch the database stand and unfold itself.

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Maintaining the escape vehicle

You’ve heard of drama queens? Here’s a jack, or maybe the nine of clubs:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Is it possible to flee from a cop chasing you if you overfill your windshield washer fluid box?

No, he says he’s serious:

I do not have any coolant nor oil. All I have is windshield washer fluid. Will I be able to get away long before my vehicle stalls on me?

I only had a few dollars so I had to buy windshield washer fluid and fill it up before my engine overheats.

I did not have enough money to buy all 3 fluids, so I made sure that I bought windshield washer fluid because I had none because it was empty.

Would I be able to elude 200 miles off into the distance as long as my windshield washer fluid box if full?

And in case you missed it the first time:


Based on your reading of the above, how much Thorazine does this guy need?

  1. 10 mg.
  2. 20 mg.
  3. 40 mg.
  4. 80 mg.
  5. Enough to turn his brain pan into a wok.

Yeah, I know; that’s just the way they troll. I live in the hope that these people can get, if not the help they need, at least the hardware failures we’d appreciate.

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Vampire weakened

Can you tell the difference between an actual person and a fictional character with the same name? The court says you can:

The real-life Erin Bates says she was devastated when the character with her name became “shallow, materialistic, promiscuous and heartless” in the 10th book of a popular young adult series about fledgling vampires.

“It was very shocking,” said Bates, 27, who once was the personal assistant of Tulsa author P.C. Cast.

So, Bates sued. And, she lost.

Hidden, the tenth book in the House of Night series by Cast and her daughter Kristen, has been generally well received; some Amazon reviewers have been highly critical, but the series is averaging about 4.0 stars. Bates’ complaint:

“The first books — one through nine — the character was a fine character. There were no issues. Right before the 10th book came out, she and I had a falling out … She fired me without any cause … and, then, a couple of months later, the 10th book came out and Erin Bates was a completely different character,” Bates told The Oklahoman.

Cast says no, this was the 10th story in an arc of twelve, and everything was sketched out in advance.

Said the court:

“The Erin Bates character is a teenager while plaintiff is in her mid-20s. The locale of the book is entirely fictional,” Judge Larry Joplin wrote in the appeals court opinion. “The only similarity is the identity of the fictional character’s name and plaintiff’s name.

“Given the fictitious, ‘otherworldly’ setting of defendants’ book and its cast of wholly fictitious vampyres, no reasonable reader of the defendants’ book would conclude the fictional character, Erin Bates, depicts plaintiff acting in the way portrayed in the book.”

Final blow: Bates — the real one — was ordered to pay $5500 toward the Casts’ legal expenses.

We’ll see if Bill Peschel is available for comment.

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Another nightmare for Portlandia

I need hardly point out that the officiating tonight was somewhere between terrible and really terrible. (The reason I don’t have to mention it is that radio guy Matt Pinto mentioned it several times.) Still, questionable calls don’t explain why neither Serge Ibaka nor Reggie Jackson made a single shot in the first half. The Thunder were down ten at the half; they tied it up after three, and it was still tied with 2:38 left. Then an arguable foul on Ibaka, his fifth, persuaded Serge to argue, and he drew a tech, the third for OKC. (Scott Brooks and Kevin Durant each got one in the first quarter.) It came down to 0:13, with OKC 96, Portland 95. Out of bounds, and a very long inspection of the tape; the ball was awarded to the Thunder. Less than a second later, an almost identical situation; the Trail Blazers got this one, though, and when OKC got a stop and two free throws at 0:06 and a Blazer trey at the horn never met the rim, the Thunder wound up with a 98-95 win, evening the season series at 2-2, which may be an issue come seeding time.

All five Blazer starters made it to double figures; for a change, LaMarcus Aldridge wasn’t the major thorn in the Thunder’s side, hitting 5-22 for 12 points, none of those field goals in the second half, and gathering 12 rebounds. Nicolas Batum had a team-high 18; Robin Lopez kicked in 17 points and pulled down 14 boards.

There was a time when Durant was the only OKC starter who’d made a shot, and that was halftime. Jackson took care of that, finishing with 17; Ibaka wound up with seven points and 11 rebounds; Jeremy Lamb, who deserves as much credit as anyone for pulling the team out of its first-quarter funk, shot 8-11 for 19 points. Nick Collison added nine. And oh, yes, there was that Durant guy, with 36 on a 15-28 night.

To L. A. to meet the Lakers, and then it’s All-Star Time.

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Work as a four-letter word

Work, it is commonly believed in some circles, is that thing you do to support things you’d rather do instead. This decidedly mercenary approach constitutes denigration, says Francis W. Porretto: work is being defined in terms of its economic significance. This notion is reinforced by endless streams of bogus employment statistics, inflicted on us by an organization — the government — which, despite claims to the contrary, cannot create so much as a single job without depleting the nation’s stores of wealth. (Reminder, not that you need it: government earns no actual money of its own, which is why so much effort is put into inflating the currency.)

There are, indeed, other reasons to work:

He who values money above all else will work at whatever he can do that offers the highest financial return. He who values certain conditions of life, such as the enjoyment he derives from his labors, higher than money will do otherwise. The modern Informational / Industrial Economy allows for both. We are not subsistence-level hunter-gatherers that must follow the bison herds sixteen hours per day, seven days per week, to keep life in our bodies. (To be fair, there might have been Neanderthals who enjoyed it, though I’d bet they kept that fact to themselves.)

In contrast, the denial of the privilege of working, even if cushioned with a comfortable degree of external financial support, is soul-crushing. One’s dependence upon others cannot be concealed, especially from oneself. Worse, one’s irrelevance to others’ well-being is all too plain.

Given the enthusiasm with which some elements of society reject that privilege, I think it’s safe to assume that some souls are so ragged and deformed that crushing them will have no significant effect. How they got that way is open to debate; however, it’s also safe to assume that the persons in whom those souls dwell hotly deny any responsibility for their care.

And what if Bill Quick’s right about the possibility of a “post-scarcity society”?

We’re not going to have magic wands, but there is at least a reasonable chance we will manage strong AI, full nanotechnology, and robust replication systems. The combination of the three just might be all we need… All of the hugger-mugger about how the human race will curl up and die without the goad of getting out of bed in the morning and dragging its ass down to the ditch or the office is, of course, hysterical hooey.

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t, but I can speak only for myself.

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This is an ex-foliant

Way back in the before-there-were-multiple-versions-of-Clearasil era, my brother happened upon a product called something like MegaScrub, which contained nine parts standard face goo and one part plastic beads, the better to scour one’s jowls with. Not wishing to appear to have an interest in, God forbid, cosmetics, he referred to the stuff as “True Grit.”

As has often happened with plastics over the years, we gave no thought to what happened after we tossed them out:

Legislation … introduced by Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney of Suffolk County [NY] on behalf of Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman would prohibit the sale of cosmetic and beauty products that contain the beads, which are added to aid exfoliation and abrasion.

The beads appear in the tens of millions in the Great Lakes, according to scientists’ estimates, with high concentrations along the New York shores of Lake Erie. They become coated with toxins like PCBs and can be eaten by fish and other marine life. Scientists suggest that those toxins could be working their way back up the food chain to humans.

The beads and other bits of tiny “microplastic” debris slip through wastewater treatment plants and have also been found in the Los Angeles River and in the Pacific Ocean. Antipollution activists argue that limiting the use of cosmetics, which can have hundreds of thousands of beads in a bottle, can help limit the environmental risk.

I suppose it might be theoretically possible to make these little bits of polygravel decompose after some period of time, but this would almost certainly limit shelf life, and if there’s anything your local dollar store loves, it’s a five-year-old product they can sell for a few percent off list.

(Via Consumerist.)

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You don’t mess around with Raj

Joe dials up customer service, and is not happy with what he hears:

The guy who answered was clearly Indian (subcontinent, not reservation). He told me his name was Jim. He had a very thick accent and I was instantly pissed off. Not because he was answering from India, but because he claimed his name was Jim. Had he told me to call him Ganesh, or Raj or Anoop, or even Dhruv, I would have been fine.

By my own highly unscientific estimate, about a third of our 20,000 or so local residents with Pacific Rim ancestry — we don’t really have a lot of Indian-type Indians — have sort-of-English-sounding first names, and nobody thinks anything about it. Then again, they’re here and not a couple of continents over.

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Offensive rebound

Firefox is about to send you ads:

Mozilla made itself the villain of the online ad business early last year by announcing that the latest version of Firefox would block third-party ad technologies by default, a move the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s top lobbyist called “a nuclear strike” on the industry.

A year later, the non-profit Mozilla is launching an ad business, at the IAB’s annual meeting in Palm Desert, Calif., no less.

The ads will appear within the tiles of Firefox’s new tabs page, which will also begin to suggest pre-packaged content for first time users. Mozilla is calling the new initiative “Directory Tiles.”

Not being a first-time user … oh, wait, what am I saying? They’ll get me soon enough.

And “tabs page”? I don’t quite like the sound of that at all.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Human nature in action

Thirty-four distraught Michael Jackson fans demanded compensation:

The fans brought their suit against Jackson’s doctor, Conrad Murray, who served a two-year prison sentence for his role administering the singer what turned out to be a lethal dose of the anaesthetic propofol. The plaintiffs claimed in court they had suffered “emotional damage” from Jackson’s death at the hands of Murray.

Were the plaintiffs told to beat it? Not all of them:

On Tuesday, five of those fans actually claimed victory, albeit a symbolic one, in French court, which ruled that they had successfully proven they had endured emotional suffering as the result of the King of Pop’s death and were awarded damages — of one euro each (about $1.36).

Then again, they apparently weren’t after actual money:

[Their lawyer told Agence France-Presse] the distraught fans weren’t planning on seeking payment from Conrad Murray, but “they hoped their status as recognised victims would help them gain access to Jackson’s gravesite in Los Angeles, which is closed to the public.”

A decidedly off-the-wall idea, if you ask me.

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Pavane pour un enfant surmené

You might remember the “Mozart Effect,” the notion that babies given a regular dose of Amadeus come out smarter. Suppose it had been other composers? What then? Greg Hlatky tells us what then:

  • Liszt Effect: Child speaks rapidly and extravagantly, but never says anything of importance.
  • Bruckner Effect: Child speaks slowly and repeats himself frequently. Gains a reputation for profundity.
  • Mahler Effect: Child continually screams at great length and volume that he’s dying.
  • Wagner Effect: Child becomes a megalomaniac. May eventually marry his sister.
  • Raff Effect: Child becomes a bore.
  • Shostakovich Effect: Child becomes very nervous when his parents discuss sending him to camp.
  • Vivaldi Effect: Child says the same thing 600 different ways.
  • Glass Effect: Child says the same thing 600 times in a row.
  • Ives Effect: Child says 600 different things simultaneously.
  • Schoenberg Effect: Child never repeats a word until he has used all the other words in his vocabulary. Sometimes talks backwards. People stop listening. Child blames them for their inability to understand him.
  • Babbitt Effect: Child talks complete gibberish. People stop listening. Child doesn’t care because his friends think he’s cool.

Side note: Firefox spellchecker choked on only one of those names. Sorry about that, Dmitri.

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Still there, but barely

Stuart Weitzman has come up with a shoe he calls “Nudist,” and it does seem to have a certain lack of adornment to it:

Nudist by Stuart Weitzman

Definitely meets my spec for Insubstantial. In a rare concession to reality, this flavor is Goose Bump Nappa; there’s also a black version, similarly textured. The heel is 4½ inches. Price is $398.

I can’t imagine any nudists actually wearing this, except to the occasional formal. (If the next question is “How would you know?” I just point to the shoes.) Certainly the shoe has little potential as beachwear. I plan to spend the next several hours not thinking about how I’d react were someone to show up at my door wearing these and these only, though I’m pretty sure I have a better chance of being struck by a meteorite, and indoors at that.

(Via this nudiarist tweet.)

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Where the Boise are

Is your homeowner’s insurance bill vaguely, or perhaps not so vaguely, reminiscent of the national debt? Tough noogies, says Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute:

Oklahoma ranks No. 5 in the nation for the price of homeowners insurance premiums — an average of $2,386 in 2011, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Oklahoma is the most expensive landlocked state for homeowners insurance premiums, Hartwig said.

If Oklahomans don’t like what they pay for homeowner’s insurance, moving to Idaho is always an option, Hartwig said.

“Nothing ever happens in Idaho, so they pay about a third of what people in Oklahoma do for their homeowners insurance,” Hartwig said.

Thanks, Bob. If a glacier comes to Coeur d’Alene, I’m going to point in your general direction.

Oh, and the graphic that accompanied this article said that the average Oklahoma premium was $1,386, so one of the two is wrong. Maybe both.

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Attaining a grasp of the obvious

Admittedly, some of us are better at it than others:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: I'm buying a 94 geo prizm but it don't have a starter do that mean it wont start?

Perhaps he should ask the ever-lovin’ 8-ball.

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No higher accolade exists

No more need be said, at least by the likes of me.

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Escape from L.A.

Who are these Lakers? There were only eight of them: old guys, D-League castoffs, and Chris Kaman. And yet they thoroughly dominated the Thunder for three quarters, shooting over 50 percent and taking a ten-point lead — it had been as much as fifteen — into the fourth.

Halfway through that frame, Los Angeles had rolled up nine turnovers, and the Thunder got their first lead of the game. The Lakers would not, however, go away willingly; with 22 seconds left, Kaman slid past Serge Ibaka for a bucket, but missed the and-one opportunity that would have tied the game. With 11 seconds left, it was Thunder 107, Lakers 103; Los Angeles had one more possession, but the ball ended up in Reggie Jackson’s hands, and Jackson calmly dribbled it out.

Six of the eight Lakers hit double figures, but none made it to 20: Kaman and Wesley Johnson had 19 each, and Kaman added 10 rebounds for the double-double. Most impressive, at least to me, was Kendall Marshall, a second-year man starting at the point for L.A., who turned in a stirring performance, scoring 14 and delivering 17 assists.

Against all that, what could the Thunder bring? The answer, as seemingly always, is Kevin Durant, who knocked down 19 points in that fourth quarter, finishing with 43. Oh, and 12 rebounds too. What the Thunder did best was take away the ball: L.A. wound up with 22 turnovers, 14 of which were steals by the Thunder. (Jeremy Lamb had four of them, along with 11 points, before fouling out.) And there were eight blocks, five by Ibaka.

One question, at least, was settled: does this ragtag collection of misfits deserve to call themselves Lakers? Damn right they do.

And the season is “halfway” over: it’s the All-Star break. See you on the other side.

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Cents and sensibility

More of the former than the latter in this case:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Can I pay my car payment in pennies?


I recently purchased my first vehicle from a used car lot in LeFlore County Oklahoma. They promised me it would be a great truck for the price and will not fail me when driving to and from work. The 2nd day I had it the brakes went out, and one week after I drove it off the lot, it broke down for the first time. It has now broken down 4 times, and this last time the rear differential locked up on me ($500 for the part) I’ve owned the truck for 2 weeks now. I signed papers that said ‘As is’ and ‘No Warranty’ My first payment is coming up and is $250 and I wanted to pay in pennies. I put $2000 down. Do they have to accept my payment even if its in pennies? is there any way I can send it through the mail so I dont have to sit at the office while they count it all? These guys are real scumbags that cheat any ol person dumb enough to buy a used vehicle from them (me)

“Send it through the mail”? Twenty-five thousand pennies at 2.5 grams each = about 138 pounds. It’s going to take several trips to the Post Office. Good thing there’s a truck available.

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The ride never ends

“Life is a roller coaster that we all ride,” 10cc once declared.

I never did like roller coasters.

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Not to be hemmed in

The fellow from the Telegraph was interviewing pianist Yuja Wang, in London for a concert series, and he brought up a distinctly nonmusical subject:

It seems as good a moment as any to raise her fondness for riskily short, clingy dresses, which have generated even more comment than her fabulous playing.

[A] certain determination, not to say stubbornness … shows in the exasperated shrug that greets my question. “It’s just natural for me. I am 26 years old so I dress for 26. I can dress in long skirts when I am 40.”

I’m betting she won’t. In the meantime, here she is in a Little Black(ish) Dress:

Yuja Wang in LBD

“Little” is evidently played sforzando.

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Quote of the week

Tam explains the debt ceiling, starting with the reason why “debt ceiling” is an inaccurate term:

Why do they even call it a “limit” or “ceiling”, anyway? In aircraft terms, a “ceiling” is an altidude beyond which the plane cannot climb; in political terms, a “ceiling” is just any one of a series of ever higher points on a curve that went asymptotic long ago.

In the world of personal finance, credit card limits work because your credit card magically stops being able to buy stuff when you reach them. Congress, on the other hand, just tells the cashier “Run it again, it’ll work,” and it does!

Come to think of it, we have customers who believe in that mantra with all their flinty little hearts.

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Oh, but we insist

This particular scenario seems inevitable with Windows:

Of course there’s no “I don’t want an automatic update, thanks” and my computer has gone into Nag Mode, where it periodically throws up a “Hey, I’m’a gonna update in 15 minutes unless you expressly tell me that’s not OK” which is really annoying and I’d love to make it go away. I’d love to tell it “NO. I am the user, you are the computer. You will only install updates when I expressly tell you to install updates” but as far as I can tell, that’s not an option. (I found a way, but because I don’t have “full administrative privileges,” I can’t turn off the auto-download. Dang.)

I know of one XP machine, pushed off into a corner to perform a particular server task, which downloaded just as many updates as it wanted — but didn’t get rebooted for five months. (The longest I’ve yet gone with a Win7 box is three and a half months.)

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Not so quiet on the set

“Sooner or later,” I said, “a strain relief doesn’t,” which was the reason I was shopping for a new cassette adapter to plug my little music player (Sansa Clip Zip, modified by Rockbox) into the big Bose box in the car. I had planned three steps, all of which proved to be unsuccessful: contact the individual manufacturer (the US distributor is dead in the water), consult with other users (most seem to have ripped out the head units by now), and resolder the cursed thing myself (which will require much thicker glasses, I’m afraid).

So I’m buying a book on Amazon this past weekend, which is hardly news, and as always, Amazon remembers everything I’ve bought and everything I ever thought about buying, which is also hardly news. While I’m working on the sale details, they toss up a photograph of a cassette adapter now being offered by one of their myriad of merchants, and except for an obviously glued-on label and a 90°-angle plug, it’s the same one I used to have. I anted up ten bucks plus shipping, and waited a week.

It’s here, it’s a little bit noisy, but it works. (And who’s gonna hear the noise with the stereo cranked up?)

Oh, the book? It’s coming in from Jolly Old, so it probably won’t be here until next week.

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No synths to it

For some time now, I’ve been entertaining the notion that contemporary pop songs might actually work better were they treated as songs instead of cogs in the Great Rhythm Machine. Some of this stuff — obviously, not all of it — is highly singable, after all.

Toward this end, I give you Postmodern Jukebox, headed by pianist Scott Bradlee, who once issued an album called A Motown Tribute to Nickelback, with a ragtime version of a possibly recognizable tune. The vocalist is Robyn Adele Anderson, and she’s waiting for your call below the jump:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Or, “I will have only lived once.”

And in the time of that life, it perhaps would not have occurred to me that #yolo, the hashtag, might have been a first-conjugation Latin verb, until I saw this, which admittedly is not complete.

(Via Fark. Working title for this was “Yolare, oh, oh.”)

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Mastery demonstrated

Well, not really; it’s just something fished out of the spam trap. This is what it said:

I like this website its a master peace ! Glad I found this on google. “Tears are the rinse water of an unhappy heart.” by Raynor Schein.

I suspect this might not be the Raynor Scheine who played Ernie Crane in My Cousin Vinny, but I could be wrong. The master clearly has no peace.

The “author” credited to that spam was “buy short prom dresses,” which I endorse as a concept but refuse to link.

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Crease is the word

Yahoo! has an interview with Al Jaffee, who created the MAD Fold-In 50 years ago. How it’s done is interesting enough, but what I did not know is this: there was one Fold-In that was pulled after the magazine had gone to press, resulting in several hundred thousand copies being sent to the shredder.

It’s a video, but a shortish one. And Al, now well into his 90s, sounds a lot more on-the-ball mentally than I do.

(Via Joy McCann.)

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Once more upon a dream

Usually when I get two recommendations for something, I have to go check its papers. This was the case with “Once Upon a Dream,” remade by Lana Del Rey for Maleficent, Disney’s upcoming prequel to Sleeping Beauty: Mr Pergiel calls it “compelling,” and Trini wrote me to tell me she found it “haunting.”

You definitely want to size this one up for yourselves. Del Rey, to me anyway, sounds thin here, even gaunt; however, for a spectral enterprise like Maleficent, it’s wholly appropriate.

Still undetermined: whether someone mispronouncing the title of the film will assume that it has something to do with, um, males.

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Darn siblings

This month’s Maxim contains some nifty pictures of Laura Vandervoort, an “uncensored” interview with Fozzie Bear (!), and this woeful letter from the recipient of a gift subscription:

Last year my brother, Jack, gave me one of the coolest presents ever, a one-year subscription to Maxim! I was so excited, but month after month passed and I never received it. Finally I wrote your customer service team. Turns out the USPS postman was sending them back as “undeliverable.” I confronted him and found out that my brother had bought the subscription for Jacks Littlebitch. The postman found this offensive and has delivered only one magazine and refuses to deliver anymore until the name is changed. And we wonder why the USPS is going bankrupt!

I figure this carrier has a lot of free time. On my block, I’m very likely the only person who gets both Maxim and Out, which generally show up on the same day, and I have yet to hear a word about it.

Maxim’s advice: “Tell him you’re French and that your name is actually Jack Litt-Lebitch and that this is discrimination!” Yeah, that’ll work.

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There can be only one way

In retrospect, I suppose it was my fault for being on May Avenue on a Saturday in the first place, May Avenue being basically where strip malls go to die. (There’s exactly one stretch of May between 10th and 150th with no discernible commerce: east side between 43rd and 47th.)

6900 block of North MayThis strip mall at 6900 North May is largely indistinguishable from other strip malls: there are two entrances, one in front of the north building, the other in front of the south. (If you live in these parts, the north building is distinguished, if that’s the word, by the Honeybaked Ham Company; Ted’s Somewhat Mexican Restaurant Escondido Cafe is near the opposite corner.) I’m southbound on May at 4:00 or so when the lumbering SUV ahead of me pulls to a stop, just before the north entrance. There being no left-turn facilities between 69th and 65th, I figure someone a block or two ahead is making a left turn. The flow of northbound traffic ceased for a moment, and up ahead, barely, I could see someone indeed making a left turn.

We plow ahead, slowly, and then the SUV signals a left turn into the southern entrance. Now there was a window of about 30 seconds when the driver could have pulled into the northern entrance while that other character up the street was turning; but no, it’s got to be the southern entrance. This is the sign of a person who not only hasn’t developed Plan B, but who is several steps away from a workable Plan A.

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