Archive for March 2017

Because it’s blue

I probably shouldn’t say anything here:

Whose idea was it to put that stuff in a pump jar, anyway?

(This is where she was.)

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Clickbait for the eyes

“It is indeed a goddam noisy box,” Jubal Harshaw said to the Man from Mars. And of course he was right:

I think I’m done with local news. This morning they reported on a string of burglaries a couple counties south of me and spent about a minute on the story, and then lavished five minutes (roughly) on one of those “Florida Man” stories where someone gets themselves in trouble with the law in a highly stupid way and I was like, “I could use more detail about the LOCAL burglaries so I could know what to do to avoid becoming a victim” but of course, entertainment value and the freak-show that modern life has become seems to be more important and probably gets more eyeballs.

Once again, I think of my plan to offer a “Just News” channel that ran the important news stories — no celebrity fluff, no dumb-criminal stories, no oversweetened Human Interest stuff — and repeated it every 15 minutes or so. Or maybe devoted 15 minutes to Europe news, 15 minutes to The Americas, 15 minutes to Asia, and 15 minutes to Africa … and then loop it around. (And yeah: Australia would have to go in with Asia, I suppose.)

“You give us 22 minutes,” says WINS Radio in New York, “and we’ll give you the world.” And they’ve been doing that for over 50 years.

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The standard Fate

They buried John Schroeder last week, which struck me as slightly odd, since he died back on the 31st of January following a long battle with cancer.

Schroeder’s musical career was long and varied; where it intersected with my life was right in the middle of the British Invasion, when he teamed up with pianist Johnny Pearson at Britain’s Pye Records to provide, for lack of a better term, easy-listening sounds that could compete for radio airplay, and maybe even sales, with the beat groups.

At the end of 1964, using the name Sounds Orchestral, they cut this version of a Vince Guaraldi standard:

Pye had no formal US distribution in those days. Cameo-Parkway eventually acquired the US rights, and issued the 45 on Parkway 942 this week in 1965; it climbed to #10 in Billboard, and the subsequent LP made it to #11. Said LP contains two “Scarlatti Potions,” Number 5 and Number 9.

Schroeder and Pearson and various players kept up the Sounds Orchestral name through sixteen albums, the last of which came out in 1977. I saw only the first two of them here in the States until the CD-reissue era.

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Cash issue

The C in JCPenney stands for “Cash,” that being Mr. Penney’s middle name. (For you completeness-seekers: the founder of the store chain was James Cash Penney, Jr.) Penney’s first store was opened in Kemmerer, Wyoming in 1902. A hundred fifteen years later, JCP is cutting back:

JCPenney recently announced that it would close 130 to 140 stores in the next couple of months because of slowing traffic and sales.

The department-store chain hasn’t yet released a list of which stores it will close, but Morningstar Credit Ratings has identified 39 stores most at risk of closing, based on the stores’ sales data.

The stores that made the list have weaker sales per square foot than JCPenney’s average.

One of those stores is in Oklahoma City’s Penn Square Mall. OKC is the only city in the state with two JCP stores; the other is in Quail Springs Mall, five miles northwest. The ‘burbs, meanwhile, have three more.

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I am having no difficulty curbing my enthusiasm for whatever spaniel’s brunch the Republicans come up with to replace the ACA. Mostly, it seems hurried, as though someone went through an outline, printed up a set of bullet points, and then tried to come up with something for each of them.

That said, Megan McArdle thinks even less of it than I do:

There is no sensible thing that you can do to our health-care system that will not offend huge numbers of voters. Thus we got Obamacare, a program which, to a first approximation, 0 percent of Democratic policy analysts would have put forward if asked to design a rational program to extend coverage and improve health-care delivery. It was a gigantic Rube Goldberg contraption, deliberately complicated and opaque to avoid openly angering any important constituency, and arguably, fatally flawed for that same reason.

Now that Republicans have their turn in the spotlight, they’re resorting to all the same tricks: the secrecy, the opacity, the long implementation delays (the better to get a good score from the Congressional Budget Office, and oh, yes, also, get them past the next election before voters meet their program). The inability of either party to make a principled stand for sensible policy is a problem, a very big one. And Republicans sure haven’t fixed it.

The only people who are going to be happy about this situation, I suspect, are those crying in the wilderness for single-payer — because the worse it gets, the more likely they are to have their dream eventually fulfilled.

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A piece of the neighborhood action

He’s looking to buy houses in this neck of the woods, and he’s trying to keep his overhead as low as possible, which probably isn’t a bad idea.

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San Antonio trolled

How did the Thunder lose four in a row to league also-rans — the Suns, the Mavericks, and the Trail Blazers twice — and then come back to crush the Spurs? If I didn’t think too long, I might say it had something to do with Taj Gibson’s being moved into a starting slot. Or I might simply point to the location: three of those losses were on the road. But maybe it’s nothing more than this: it’s all in how you execute. Tonight, the Thunder executed, and they did it just a hair better than San Antonio did. Okay, more than a hair: before garbage time, the Spurs were down 20. So the final score — Oklahoma City 102, San Antonio 92 — might be slightly deceiving.

The Spurs were admittedly slightly below full strength: Manu Ginobili had been given a day of rest, and Tony Parker was not well. Still, most of the core was on hand, with Dewayne Dedmon starting in the middle and Pau Gasol coming off the bench. As usual, Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and the scary Kawhi Leonard were responsible for the offense: they got 54 of the Spurs’ 92 points. Leonard departed early in the fourth quarter for some reason we were not told. SA shot only 42 percent, 32 percent from the three-point line, and that just doesn’t happen, does it?

The difference, of course, is (1) Russell Westbrook got another triple-double (23-13-13), and (2) he didn’t have to carry the offense alone. Victor Oladipo was healed enough to snag 20 points, and Enes Kanter produced a double-double (14-10) off the bench. Domas Sabonis played about the same 20 minutes a reserve as he did as a starter, and got the same six points. Meanwhile, Semaj Christon, one of very few players with a five-letter, three-syllable first name, seems to have worked his way back into the backup point-guard slot. He didn’t score, but he didn’t turn it over either.

Up next: the Jazz, on Saturday afternoon. Utah leads the Northwest by five games and is wedged between Houston and the Clippers for fourth place in the West. (The Thunder are in sixth, a tiebreaker ahead of the Grizzlies.) So this is Serious Business for a matinee game. Let’s hope nothing laughable happens.

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Party time, excellent

It’s nice to know that one of the kids made it big:

Schwing America is located in St. Paul, Minnesota, and can be reached, should you require their services, at 888-SCHWING.

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“The Great Divide” continues to climb the dance-club chart:

The Great Divide by Rebecca Black at 27 on the Billboard dance-club chart

And there is, yes, another cover for your delectation, this time of “Starboy” by The Weeknd.

You should probably consider this totally unsafe for your workplace, what with the pseudo-Oedipal references scattered throughout.

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Unhermetically sealed

Roberta X channels her inner SwiftOnSecurity:

The young programmer — and he was no slouch; he’d recently created a custom version of the computer language “C” for his employer, finishing only a little behind the release of “C+” — took on this task with hope; after all, he’d got his start back when the clever students enjoying finding new ways to crash the nearby university’s big IBM mainframe, doing so in the dead of night, and showing the console operators how they’d done it so the vulnerability could be remedied!†

He thought and he thought and everything he came up with — had a hole in it. Allow unrestricted public access to a computer, and people you don’t want in it will get in. Passwords are a trivial problem, given time. Even air-gapping didn’t work, especially if media traveled both directions across the air-gap. Nope, the only way to be mostly safe was to run the support system on an isolated computer from which nothing ever, ever came back to his employer’s network — and that still left the users vulnerable, especially if the support machine was used to distribute software.

The general rule he evolved was this: “If you want to keep a computer safe, you cannot allow any form of unrestricted access. If it is accessible, people you don’t want in will inevitably get in.” That’s Stockman’s Law: if your computer has to be secure, it can have no network connection, no removable media, no unvetted users, no nothing but a display and HIDs — and even that can be defeated by a malicious authorized user. And then what good is it?

Actually, Swift is a bit more forgiving than that:

You cannot just buy “security.” It is something obtained through simple choices and knowledge. Tragically, these aren’t even hard to do or obscure to learn. But no one makes money telling you how to use what you already have. What you need is someone who doesn’t care about your money or looking smart by spouting off fancy words of no consequence — just that you not be a victim.

It pains me to see people who distrust and fear their computers, and who feel powerless in that fear. Because that’s not what I see when I look at computers and phones and websites. I see tools I trust with the story of my life, and the secrets I leave out when I tell that story to others. Everyone should be able to feel like that.

Which is about where I find myself. There is, of course, no way to fight off the most determined hackish types forever. Fortunately, most of the vandals on the far side of the firewall are looking for easy marks, and I work diligently to avoid appearing easy.

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It’s only a referendum

“This is the state’s admission that they’re locking up a hell of a lot more people than they probably need to be, and reclassifying some of the druggies, at least, might clear up some of the logjam in the corrections system.”yours truly, giving tepid support, but support nonetheless, to State Question 780 last fall.

SQ 780 passed. What’s in it:

State Question 780, which Oklahoma voters overwhelming[ly] adopted in November, made simple possession of any drug a misdemeanor no matter how many times the person has been convicted of the same crime. The change also repealed enhancements, which prosecutors could use to increase punishments to the felony level. That means anyone caught with drugs on or near a school would face only a misdemeanor charge. The new drug laws go into effect July 1.

Apparently some people are not happy with that, and by “people” I mean “politicians”:

House Bill 1482 allows prosecutors to charge a suspect with a felony if they’re caught with drugs within 1,000 feet of school property. It also allows the enhanced charge for possession in the presence of a child under 12 years old.

“This law exists for children and children only. It’s wrong to say this is what the people of Oklahoma chose when we didn’t allow them to vote on it,” said state Rep. Tim Downing, R-Purcell. “I don’t know what the Senate will do. I don’t know what the governor will do. But I want you to search and say, what should I do for the kids, and what should I do for the schools?”

“This is a War on Drugs, goddamnit. We can’t give up now!”

I hate to break it to you, Timbo, but you lost this one many years ago. And over those years and several more, we’ve been given ample cause to be suspicious of legislation undertaken “for the children.”

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So you think you’re anonymous

You probably wouldn’t want to bet your life on that:

In the Morse Code era, the phrase “fist” referred to the unique style that every telegraph operator brought to their communications. The phrase “recognized the fist” comes up again and again in various wartime and spy literature; it refers to hearing someone tapping out Morse Code and being able to distinguish the operator by their style. This was far from a trivial detail of the telegraph era; in more than one case lives were saved (or lost) because someone was able to differentiate between who an operator was supposed to be and who they actually were.

Fast-forward a hundred years, and it’s now possible to spy on what someone is typing by leaving a phone on their desk and having it pick up the vibrations from the physical activity of typing. (A laser mike pointed at your window works equally well, unfortunately.) Your typing style is like a fingerprint. It doesn’t even take a high-power microprocessor to determine what you’re doing on a computer. My first wife claimed to be able to tell, from a distance of across our house, whether I was programming, writing for a website, engaging in an Instant Messenger chat, or arguing with someone online on my old IBM Model M mechanical keyboard. Well, I shouldn’t say “claimed.” More like she just plain knew. Her accuracy rate was effectively 100%. Never once did she accuse me of not working when I was working, or vice versa.

Incidentally, this idea of being able to identify patterns in communications behavior is also how most cryptography is undone. There’s a brilliant scene in the novel Cryptonomicon where a highly complex cipher is broken because a cipher clerk doesn’t always close her eyes when she reaches into a bowl full of wooden balls — and although that scene is written right at the edge of the reader’s credulity, it has mathematical basis in fact. The whole difference between “128-bit” and “2048-bit” encryption is how effective the method is in reducing the “fist” or “fingerprint” of a conversation.

I do believe that tale of the first Mrs Baruth; I bang on a Model M to this day, and what it sounded like when I wrote this paragraph is nothing like what it sounded like when I recapped the Thunder-Spurs game. I don’t think anyone is listening — why would they care? — but I have learned not to be surprised.

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A modest spectacle

Singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb, forty-nine today, is probably best known for her trademark eyeglasses, which she eventually developed into a full line of designer specs. She’s also recorded 13 albums.

Lisa Loeb attends a BMI function

Lisa Loeb sits up

Lisa Loeb goes casual

Her 1994 single “Stay (I Missed You)” was played over the credits of Ben Stiller’s film Reality Bites, and eventually climbed to the very top of the Billboard Hot 100, despite the fact that Loeb didn’t have a recording contract at the time.

Ethan Hawke, who lived across the street from Loeb in those days, was the one who talked Stiller into buying her song for the film soundtrack; he also directed Loeb’s music video.

I frankly find it hard to believe she’s 49 years old. Must be the glasses.

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Nothing happening here

I’ve felt for years that actual football was a low priority at the Super Bowl, but I didn’t know how low until someone ran the stopwatch during the three hours, fifty minutes of Super Bowl LI, and duly reported:

Time distribution in Super Bowl LI

And actually, this was an unusually large segment devoted to Ball in Play, inasmuch as the Patsys and the Farkers played 64 minutes instead of the usual 60.


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The boss wants your DNA

No, not that way. This is an, um, enhancement to the GOP health-care scheme:

A little-noticed bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information.

Giving employers such power is now prohibited by legislation including the 2008 genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law known as GINA. The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a “workplace wellness” program.

Because what could be more important than allowing your employer to complain about the state of your health — and collect from you if they don’t like it?

The bill, HR 1313, was approved by a House committee on Wednesday, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed. It has been overshadowed by the debate over the House GOP proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but the genetic testing bill is expected to be folded into a second ACA-related measure containing a grab-bag of provisions that do not affect federal spending, as the main bill does.

This is, you should know, not an exclusively Trumpazoid evil:

Employers got virtually everything they wanted for their workplace wellness programs during the Obama administration. The ACA allowed them to charge employees 30 percent, and possibly 50 percent, more for health insurance if they declined to participate in the “voluntary” programs, which typically include cholesterol and other screenings; health questionnaires that ask about personal habits, including plans to get pregnant; and sometimes weight loss and smoking cessation classes. And in rules that Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued last year, a workplace wellness program counts as “voluntary” even if workers have to pay thousands of dollars more in premiums and deductibles if they don’t participate.

We have one advantage at 42nd and Treadmill: most of the staff is old and beaten down and highly cynical about BS like this.

(Via Fark.)

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Jazz cooled

Rudy Gobert is the center of the Utah Jazz, in several senses of the word; his absence from this afternoon’s game proved to be a serious handicap to the team — but not the sort that kills a team’s hopes, even with Derrick Favors also sidelined. The Utah bench rose to the occasion, and then some: no Jazz starter managed double figures, but the reserves definitely carried their weight, with Dante Exum scoring a career-high 22 points and Alec Burks picking up 21 more. If the Thunder thought this was going to be easy, their wake-up call came quickly enough: a 20-plus-point lead was almost entirely erased in the fourth quarter, waiting for Russell Westbrook to take over the game. Which, of course, Westbrook did, going 33-11-14 and sinking 12 of 13 free throws. And so it was that the Thunder would win the season series, 3-1, with a 112-104 victory over the visiting Utahns, pulling OKC to within four games of the Jazz for the Northwest Division lead.

The Jazz did shoot decently — 48 percent, nine of 20 treys — and pulled off nine steals. The Thunder owned most of the rest of the statistics, though, and any day that Gordon Hayward is held to nine points, the Jazz are going down. Victor Oladipo did another of his patented 20-pointers (22, actually), and the Stache Brothers collected double figures, 11 for Steven Adams starting and 16 for Enes Kanter off the bench. (Kanter, obtained from Utah, generally does well against his former team.) Taj Gibson started up front, but was pulled in the second half with what appeared to be a minor hip ailment.

Coming up next: a two-game Chill Factor tour, starting with Brooklyn (Tuesday) and then moving to Toronto (Thursday). In this time slot next week: the Sacramento Kings come to town.

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And 100,000 miles free

There was some flap a few years ago when owners of some Toyota cars saw their odometers freeze up at 299,999; you will never see the 300,000th mile, or 300,000th kilometer, on the face of the instrument.

What could be worse? How about an odometer that rolls over all the digits but the first? Apparently some mid-90s Ford trucks, once gotten to 399,999, reset to 300,000.

Far as I know, Nissans don’t have this particular issue. (Gwendolyn is showing 166,425, so I’m not likely to encounter any reasonable limit any time soon.)

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Quote of the week

Calling yourself “The Resistance,” are you? You flatter yourselves:

Resistance is fleeing from North Korea’s monstrous regime (buy this book!); resistance is a Tuareg man in Gao, Mali boldly going on television to demand that his clan, his people put down their guns; resistance is dousing yourself in gasoline as a final desperate act of violence in protest at a seemingly endless dictatorship, not because you want to die but because the police just seized your entire livelihood and you don’t know what else to do; resistance is joining a pro-bono law firm, running around behind the tens, hundreds of people arrested by Venezuela’s totalitarian regime, trying futilely to bend the regime to the law through the force your will and your righteousness alone — and sometimes even paying the ultimate prize.

No, sorry, you aren’t a resistance, because USA is not a dictatorship. Nobody is persecuting you; none of your rights are being violated; no illegal purges enacted; no tortures and disappearances. You didn’t like the results of an election — and want to pretend it is illegitimate, because you don’t want to do the hard work of rebuilding a constituency alienated, “Because you thought correcting people’s attitudes was more important than finding them jobs. Because you turned ‘white man’ from a description into an insult (…) Because you cried when someone mocked the Koran but laughed when they mocked the Bible. (…) Because you kept telling people, ‘You can’t think that, you can’t say that, you can’t do that’,” as Brendan O’Neill has said. Alas, the only people losing their legitimacy are you; who wear little pink hats and take off all your clothes and wander through public spaces offending friend and foe alike; who vandalize coffee shops and write little slogans misspelled on cardboard. No, you aren’t a resistance, and you don’t get to have that word.

On a scale of 1 to the daycare center burning down, how likely is it that, say, a sloppy solipsist like Keith Olbermann would burst into tears if he were ever subjected to any real injustice?

(Via American Digest.)

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Too much overhead

Technology, for the most part, is morally neutral: few inventions were actually intended for evil purposes. But you can’t assume that they will never be used that way:

Drones are a tool. In some cases, they can be a really useful tool (searching a large park area for a lost kid, for example: I suspect in some cases they could save lives). Or they’re a really cool tool: I’d love to be able to see my field sites from the air, and there are probably some research questions that could be answered faster or better with one.

But: like any tool, people can misuse them. When I first heard about drones for “civilian” use being equipped with cameras, practically my first thought was, “No woman is ever going to be able to sunbathe in the ‘privacy’ of her backyard any more.” (Not that I DO, but I know some people like to.) And I don’t even mean nude sunbathing, which is perhaps a legal gray area in a densely-populated area — even being ogled from afar while in a modest bathing suit is icky and gross.

Women, by and large, hate to be gawked at, not so much because they were told to hate it by the likes of Betty Friedan, but because it’s an invasion of privacy at a level they are disinclined to tolerate, and it doesn’t matter if they’re wearing DVF wrap dresses or hazmat suits or nothing at all.

And truth be told, as a person who is known to occasionally forgo clothing, I’m not that keen on being observed from a distance, though I will note for record that of those few people who have spotted me, only the males ever saw fit to complain.

But they had a reaction story from someone who owned, I think it was, a business that sold drones. And he was upset: why should homeowners be able to destroy someone else’s property?

And that’s where I got to thinking about the “living in community” thing: Sir, are you really saying you want your customers to be able to fly their mini-copters over their neighbor’s backyards without asking the neighbor’s permission first? You really want to be the guy who sells a product that annoys the heck out of people and makes them angry? Because I’d be angry if I were digging around in the garden and spotted a drone hovering around. Angry and creeped out, because why would someone want to be spying on me like that (provided the thing had a camera).

If someone else’s tree grows over the fence, I reserve the right to trim the branches on my side. (And if it’s my tree, I have no problem if a neighbor takes similar action.) If someone’s drone comes over the fence, I reserve the right to take whatever action I deem appropriate.

One thing about the Golden Rule: it’s eternal enough to cover even 21st-century dick moves:

The human population is ever growing (even though I live in one of the less-dense areas) and we have to be able to live with each other. To me, it seems simple: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” or “what would be abhorrent to you, do not do to your neighbor” and I know that having someone run loud equipment early in the morning (before I was up) would be abhorrent to me, and I also know that some people sleep a good bit later than I do on weekends. I just wish the 2-am drivers would realize the same thing. And if everyone followed the Golden Rule, we probably wouldn’t wind up with laws like “Homeowners who shoot down unauthorized drones will be held harmless” because there wouldn’t BE anyone flying unauthorized drones.

We are, alas, a long way from reaching that degree of perfectibility.

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In case you haven’t noticed

For “Cats,” please feel free to read “Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Cats,” the Nickelback of musicals.

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Every Texas sperm is sacred

That’s the premise of a law introduced into the Texas legislature [warning: autostart video]:

A lawmaker has filed a bill that would, among many provisions, create a $100 fine for men who masturbate and ejaculate outside of a woman’s vagina.

The bill, called “A Man’s Right to Know,” was filed Friday, the filing deadline for the legislative session, and appears to satirize current and proposed laws and regulations that have been criticized for restricting women’s access to abortions and health care choices.

The bill’s author, state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, who has been outspoken against restrictive abortion laws, said on Twitter Saturday that the measure “mirrors real TX laws and health care restrictions faced by TX women every #txlege session.”

The bill calls “masturbatory emissions” outside of a woman’s vagina “an act against an unborn child, and failing to preserve the sanctity of life.”

Amazingly, no similar measure has been introduced into the Oklahoma legislature, which I suspect is due to the difficulty in finding a member who knows the word “vagina,” or at least can pronounce it out loud.

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Something of an abrupt transition

At least, it seems so to me:

It is called “ambulance chasing.”

Attorneys in Oklahoma are prohibited by their own ethical rules from trying to get clients for personal injury lawsuits by just calling them on the phone.

But that’s exactly what an attorney from McAlester is accused of doing for eight years, having employees pose as charity workers to contact victims of traffic accidents.

So it’s probably a good idea for her to get out of this racket. But her next step makes little sense:

The attorney, Amy Elizabeth Harrison, 42, decided in February to resign from the practice of law rather than fight the accusations further before the Oklahoma Supreme Court. She has been an attorney since 1999.

She plans to become a minister, her attorney, Carl Hughes, said.

She always has been “really religious” but turned to God even more after her son was shot in a hunting accident in December, Hughes said.

Let’s see. Which one of the Commandments says “Thou shalt pursue every easy mark thou dost see?”

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Strange search-engine queries (580)

Why, yes, we are a trifle bleary-eyed this morning, no thanks to DST, but we’re still here at the old stand with your weekly selection of odd search strings, as reported to this very site.

Which of the following best summarizes the main idea of this paragraph? Most people steal money if i:  Send them a check on or before the 15th of April.

scott, a young professional, buys a new bmw, even though a ford would have cost him less. scott values the bmw brand. this is an example of:  A desperate attempt to build self-esteem.

female y chromosome:  Um, no, not really, though that cutie in the silver Bimmer is deadnamed “Scott.”

her name was joanne:  Well, yeah, once she decided she didn’t want to be “Scott” anymore.

a few inches later:  Okay, that’s enough talk about Joanne for now.

clock that says 12:30:  Hmmm. Must be half past one.

how to hack somebodys tinder:  Swipe their password.

fakelike:  Similar to, but not exactly equal to, a fake.

danny’s mother is even-tempered fair and tactful:  And therefore she will be defeated in her run for a City Council seat.

milf bimbo tumblr:  Can’t be more than, oh, fifty thousand of those.

amy taller than sonic:  Doesn’t matter. She only has eyes for the little blue blur.

taxpayers fork out $30k for shady feast:  $4k of that was for keeping the sun off the food table.

are they ill tempered:  They are if their lunches spoiled in the heat.

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Somehow we will cope

For reasons known but to God and/or Jeff Bezos, Amazon is showing me a fair amount of Ivanka Trump stuff these days, and I figure this little ballet flat was worth a paragraph or two:

Coper ballet flat by Ivanka Trump

The pitch for the Trump line:

Timeless. Classic. Elegant. The hallmarks of the Ivanka Trump footwear collection are shared with their namesake designer. Launched in spring 2011, the collection is reflective of Ms. Trump’s own personal aesthetic, and features clean, polished, and feminine styles. Signature silhouettes include classically proportioned pumps, casual sandals and boots, and embellished evening styles. As part of Ms. Trump’s comprehensive “lifestyle” approach to branding, the collection includes bridal, career, weekend, and red-carpet styles. The clean elegance of the brand appeals to women of all ages, with diverse backgrounds, careers, and incomes.

Um, yeah, okay, if you say so.

“Coper” is this grey flat, also available in beige, and I’m just surprised anyone’s willing to use the dreaded word “beige” anymore. The reviews from Verified Purchasers have been pretty good, though several pointed out that the sizes run a trifle large. Price is $109, and some of the sizes seem to be sold out already.

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When ripped won’t do

I have only recently made my peace with ripped jeans, conceding that their sheer ubiquity trumps my concern about perceived raggedness. Moms, I guess, are not supposed to wear ripped jeans, though I can’t imagine these as a substitute:

Clear Knee Mom Jeans from Topshop

I looked at those, and recalled from distant memory the nicest legs it has ever been my privilege to see. Will that little plastic viewing window convey just how nice they are? I don’t think so. Still, there are sillier things being offered in dead seriousness these days, so I don’t think I’ll get my Dockers knotted over these.

If you’re at all interested: $95 from Topshop, at Nordstrom.

(Via Holly A. Bell.)

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Good as dead

I suppose that I’ve already beaten the odds, or at least flattened them a bit:

Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general of the United States, has said many times in recent years that the most prevalent health issue in the country is not cancer or heart disease or obesity. It is isolation.

Do you think maybe we’re sick of other people?

Beginning in the 1980s … study after study started showing that those who were more socially isolated were much more likely to die during a given period than their socially connected neighbors, even after you corrected for age, gender, and lifestyle choices like exercising and eating right. Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke and the progression of Alzheimer’s. One study found that it can be as much of a long-term risk factor as smoking.

The research doesn’t get any rosier from there. In 2015, a huge study out of Brigham Young University, using data from 3.5 million people collected over 35 years, found that those who fall into the categories of loneliness, isolation, or even simply living on their own see their risk of premature death rise 26 to 32 percent.

Let the record show that “eating right” is something that requires a correction factor.

The studies under discussion deal with the longevity, or lack thereof, of men, which suggests the Real Reason why women live longer: less research.

(Via Jason Kottke, a mere 43 years old.)

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It should have been

We should have spent the weekend celebrating Christina Grimmie’s 23rd birthday. One of a very few YouTubers who made the jump to the Big Time, she appeared in season four of The Voice and finished third; Usher, one of the many who were impressed, dubbed her a “baby Céline Dion.” She wound up with a recording contract and a devoted fan base.

Christine Grimmie stretches out a bit

Christine Grimmie stands up for herself

Christine Grimmie takes notes

Then came that horrible night in June 2016 in Orlando:

Florida authorities answered one of the major questions in the shooting death of Christina Grimmie, the 22-year-old singer who made her name on NBC’s “The Voice.”

The man who killed her was Kevin James Loibl, 27, of St. Petersburg, Florida, according to Orlando police. But they didn’t give any background on Loibl or offer a possible motive.

Loibl, tackled by Christine’s brother Marcus, turned the gun on himself. It was subsequently concluded that Loibl was obsessed with her and at one time had hoped to win her affections, although one has to wonder how he was going to do that with a Glock 9mm.

And two nights later, another madman opened fire on The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing forty-nine.

This was Christine’s very first YouTube video, a cover of “Don’t Wanna Be Torn” by Hannah Montana:

There will be one last release, an EP titled Side B (there already has been a Side A), due later this month. This is the first single:

Happy birthday, Christina, wherever you may be.

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The new lie detector

Let us first get into the proper frame of mind:

And now perhaps we’re ready for this:

A Miami defense lawyer’s pants burst into flames Wednesday afternoon as he began his closing arguments in front of a jury — in an arson case.

Stephen Gutierrez, who was arguing that his client’s car spontaneously combusted and was not intentionally set on fire, had been fiddling in his pocket as he was about to address jurors when smoke began billowing out his right pocket, witnesses told the Miami Herald.

Judgment from On High?

He rushed out of the Miami courtroom, leaving spectators stunned. After jurors were ushered out, Gutierrez returned unharmed, with a singed pocket, and insisted it wasn’t a staged defense demonstration gone wrong, observers said.

Instead, Gutierrez blamed a faulty battery in an e-cigarette, witnesses told the Miami Herald.

Judgment from the jury box:

Gutierrez was representing Claudy Charles, 48, who is accused of intentionally setting his car on fire in South Miami-Dade. He had just started his closing arguments when the fire broke out. Jurors convicted Charles anyway of second-degree arson.

Pants, after all, don’t lie all by themselves. (Leggings? Well, they’re not pants.)

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Honest about his intentions

At a dime a dozen, this guy’s worth about 0.8 cent:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: What will a resonated tip do to my exhaust sound?

But maybe I’ve underestimated him:

I’ve been looking around a lot and I can’t find a straight answer, I have a 94 ford explorer 4.0 5 speed, I have the rear catalytic converter punched out and an 8 inch glass pack. I wanna put a tip on my exhaust but I don’t know which I should go with a plain tip or resonated, I’m looking for a sort of a little louder sound it’s hard to explain it exactly but I sort of want to make it more obnoxious sounding

Not to worry. You explained it just fine.

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Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening

But God forbid you have sugar at suppertime:

I know I need to be less credulous about such things but the “prediabetes” PSAs get under my skin because they seem to imply EVERYONE is (apparently 1/3 of people over 18 qualify by the standards, and half over 65). BUT: I have read a couple of articles recently that are by doctors/endocrinologists who are skeptical of the designation and who argue it’s not that helpful, and just leads to worry for some people (like me), other people who might actually benefit from lifestyle changes ignoring medical advice, and perhaps leads to unneeded interventions with medication. (And also, there is a strong streak in the US of “you brought this on yourself” — and if I turn up prediabetic or diabetic I will be FURIOUS because then why am I doing 150+ minutes of exercise a week, and trying to avoid added sugars, and not eating potatoes, and limiting how much bread I eat, and I gave up orange juice and sodas a long time ago … but of course, if you have that unlucky genetics, there you are.) I have enough of a perfectionist streak in me to make me miserable and ascetic about things, and I could see how hearing “your blood sugar is a little high” leading me to do something like give up ALL carbohydrates and try to exist on eggs, meat, and vegetables.

I am neither a doctor nor an endocrinologist, and it’s been a few years since I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, but I am becoming persuaded that this “prediabetes” business is a chimera. In the diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes, symptoms are largely irrelevant. What matters are the numbers: score badly enough, and down comes the giant foot to crush you into submission. And those numbers are purely arbitrary: 126 mg/dl (says WHO), A1C 6.5 (American Diabetic Association). What’s more, some medications you might take for other reasons tend to push those numbers up. I’m starting to believe that eventually everyone gets it, if something else doesn’t get them first. My own approach to the disease is simply to keep the numbers low enough to keep the medical profession from complaining loudly.

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While the city dreams

Robin Trower, after leaving Procol Harum, embraced the power-trio format, with James Dewar on both bass and vocals. By 1977, the trio had grown to a quartet, with Dewar still out front but Rustee Allen taking over on bass. This ensemble, with drummer Bill Lordan, cut In City Dreams, which eventually became my favorite Trower album, mostly due to its opening track, “Somebody Calling,” based on a ferocious bass line — Allen, after all, had replaced Larry Graham in Sly’s Family Stone — and featuring some Trower licks that Hendrix himself might have appreciated. The studio track still sounds amazing today — in fact, I spun a tape of it on Monday’s commute, mostly to help me forget it was Monday — but it’s deeply satisfying to know that Trower still has the chops.

This performance was recorded in Glasgow last fall. Trower turned 72 this month.

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Crushed ice

This year’s Blizzard of the Century turned out to be nothing of the sort, which surprises no one. And the Brooklyn Nets, winners of all of 12 games in the first 65, might have been figured by some for patsies, but they were, you got it, nothing of the sort. The game was tied 32-all after the first quarter, 62-all at the half, and only then did the Thunder defense get the measure of Brooklyn’s offensive machine, shutting down the Nets 122-104 and sweeping the two-game season series. Just the same, four Brooklyn starters cleared double figures, with long, tall Brook Lopez collecting 25 points and short, speedy Jeremy Lin adding 24. The Nets’ bench, despite the reputation they’d built this season, proved to be better tonight at defending than at scoring: they wrangled only 20 points. Still, the Nets shot 47 percent, splashed 12 of 24 treys, and missed only four of 30 free throws; you have to wonder where they’d be if they’d been a bit more consistent, or if they’d been able to put together a winning streak. (Longest win streak for the Nets this season: one game. That’s it.)

The Thunder had five in double figures plus Yet Another Triple-Double from Russell Westbrook (25-12-19). Victor Oladipo broke 20 again, with 21 points on 9-15 shooting. And Alex Abrines, who went 3-5 from deep and 5-7 overall, was christened by radio guy Matt Pinto “Señor Splash,” which the rookie seemed to appreciate. Abrines had 13 points, second only to Enes Kanter (17) among the Thunder reserves.

If I have any Great White North jokes left, they’ll have to wait for Thursday night in Toronto, fourth in the East at 39-28, where it’s snowing now and the predicted high for Thursday is, um, one degree Celsius. Also waiting in Toronto: Thunder expat Serge Ibaka, who will be happy to swat away anything he can.

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Nearly here

Dolly Singh at a confab in China, 2016Last spring, I waxed lyrical about Dolly Singh and the new high-tech shoes to be produced by her company, Thesis Couture. This quote seems as pertinent as ever:

To me, when you’re surrounded by some of the smartest people on the planet, building some of the biggest and most badass machines on this world, the idea that my shoes are such crap became really obnoxiously unbearable.

The next step, of course, was to build some noncrap shoes, and she has:

On Monday, Thesis announced that it is ready to bring its first product to market — but only for a select few customers. On March 22, the company will release 1,000 pairs of shoes, offered in two colors, for a 48-hour period. There is currently a waitlist of more than 12,000 people for the $925 shoes, according to the company.

The stilettos, which will start shipping this summer, are “intended to be a resort 2017 look,” says Singh. “For the first piece, I really wanted to indulge” in the design, she says. The fashion brand’s first full collection will launch in the fall and will include three wardrobe staples: a black pump, an ankle boot, and a high boot.

And the design is patented:

In December, the company received a patent for its Thesis LIFT technology, which reduces the load on the balls of the feet by 25%. Singh says this has the effect of making the shoes feel like wedges. “I wear them for eight to 10 hours a day,” she says.

Thesis Couture promotional photo

The Thesis site quotes The Wall Street Journal:

The exteriors will put them in a class with Jimmy Choo, but the technology inside is pure Jetsons.

What’s not to love? Except, maybe, that $925 price tag.

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You weren’t reared that way

There’s pretty much no way you can get this to sound good:

The Justice Department unsealed a fresh indictment Tuesday charging eight Navy officials — including an admiral — with corruption and other crimes in the “Fat Leonard” bribery case, escalating an epic scandal that has dogged the Navy for four years.

Among those charged were Rear Adm. Bruce Loveless, a senior Navy intelligence officer who recently retired from a key job at the Pentagon, as well as four retired Navy captains and a retired Marine colonel. The charges cover a period of eight years, from 2006 through 2014.

The Navy personnel are accused of taking bribes in the form of lavish gifts, prostitutes and luxury hotel stays courtesy of Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis, a Singapore-based defense contractor who has pleaded guilty to defrauding the Navy of tens of millions of dollars.

This is the incident that will stick with you, so to speak:

On another port visit by USS Blue Ridge to Manila in February 2007, Francis allegedly hosted a sex party for officers in the MacArthur Suite of the Manila [Shangri-La] hotel. During the party, “historical memorabilia related to General Douglas MacArthur were used by the participants in sexual acts,” according to the indictment.

Historical note: MacArthur’s legendary catchphrase was “I shall return,” not “I’m coming.”

(Via Aaron Mehta.)

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The Heinz is passed

The genius of Don Draper, however many years ago:

The genius of Don Draper, this week:

Don Draper’s ketchup-less pitch for Heinz was rejected by the marketer’s fictional team on Mad Men, but now the real-life Heinz team is embracing the idea.

Creative agency David is taking only some of the credit for its newest Heinz campaign, which includes three New York billboards and ads in two print publications. The ads are nearly identical recreations of ads Mr. Draper, played by Jon Hamm, showed the client during a 2013 episode of the AMC series.

Heinz has been selling ketchup since 1876. I am told that there are competitors, sort of.

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Where the taxes aren’t

There’s no state income tax in Tennessee — maybe:

[F]or entrepreneurs whose income is mostly derived from a self-owned company, the whole “no income tax” thing in Tennessee is misleading. In fact, I just had to prepare and pay 10 different quasi income tax submissions in TN — the state Excise tax on businesses, the state Franchise tax on businesses, and county business tax in 8 counties. Some of these are not actually income taxes but are taxes as a percentage of revenue, but in some sense these are even worse than income taxes as they must be paid even if the company is losing money. Only California with its $800 minimum tax just for existing do we see a worse setup for a startup or money-losing entity.

Moral: A governmental entity will always try to shake you down.

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When one’s gears are ground

If they’re still taking nominations for America’s Most Needing Disembowelment, I nominate these utterly worthless sons of bitches:

A father was shot and killed in front of his wife and 10-year-old daughter after being carjacked because the killer didn’t know how to use a manual transmission, police said.

It happened just before midnight near Richcrest Dr. and Greenbriar Park [in north Houston].

This, unfortunately, does not look promising for those folks who swear by the stick shift because it thwarts crime.

Pedro Aguilar, 47, was in his car on the street in front of an apartment complex when two men in their late teens to early 20’s approached him to carjack him, police said.

They weren’t able to get the car into drive because it was a manual transmission, not an automatic, and shot the man in anger, police said.

This is generally the time I remind you that if it’s not cruel and unusual, it’s not much punishment, is it?

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Down to get the friction on, or off

One thing about those handy little skis for the back of one’s walker: they don’t last all that long. Of course, six months ago I would never have believed that I’d still have to use this cursed thing half a year later.

Anyway, after going through half a dozen of them, I switched brands. The newer ones come from Yunga Tart, and I’ve only worn through one pair in two months. The bag says they’re “Super glidey,” and I don’t know about that, but putting on the spares last night made the hated device several percentage points easier to push.

These attach differently from all the others: instead of friction-fit around the base of the walker leg, it has an expandable (so it fits sizes other than 1″) center section, placed with a setscrew.

According to the bag, the bag is made in China, and printed there, but the actual equipment is made in the USA.

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Cashless in India

It works something like this:

[S]ix villages in India are the first to go cashless. This means all adults have bank accounts, use SMS-based banking and plastic money while businesses use swipe machines for cashless transactions. Banks are also linking their Aadhaar cards to accounts to ensure benefits gets transferred directly to the beneficiaries.

The Aadhaar card is like our Social Security card, only more so: it’s based on biometrics, and 99 percent of the population has already been signed up.

Still, one seemingly obvious question remains:

[W]hat if the internet etc fails? Floods, electrical brownouts, typhoons, landslides are common, alas.

Anything that’s SMS-based, cell phones can carry: it’s the same technology that runs text messages. But cell-phone technology isn’t always 100 percent either.

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Curly bracket

She wandered into the shop and asked if we’d filled out our brackets yet. We hadn’t, and said so.

Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the truth of the matter: she wanted to play, but her knowledge of college hoops was right up there with my fluency in conversational Urdu. “I’d just pick them at random,” she wailed. As practicing members of Guydom, we were expected to be conversant in all aspects of sportsball, but she’d never had the time or the inclination.

In other words, she was the opposite of this March Madness stereotype:

Folks who know diddly about basketball opine on the relative merits of teams they have never seen play a single game. These so-called experts lament the inclusion and exclusion of marginal teams, each of which one could make an argument for and against.

I accepted a sheet from her, and then proceeded to just pick them at random. (Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad. And I will divulge how badly I failed shortly after I do actually fail.)

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