Archive for Dyssynergy

The gentleman’s cipher

So you turn in absolutely nothing for the assignment. What grade have you earned? No, guess again:

Diane Tirado has been a teacher for years. Most recently, she was an eighth-grade history teacher at Westgate K-8 School in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Diane recently gave her students two weeks to complete an Explorer notebook project, but several students simply didn’t hand it in. Since there was zero work done, Diane gave them zeros.

She got fired for it.

Apparently school policy requires a minimum grade of 50, whether any work was done or not. Says Mrs T:

“I’m so upset because we have a nation of kids that are expecting to get paid and live their life just for showing up and it’s not real.”

And Bill Quick notes:

I expect the next step will be to require that no student be given any more than a 50. Can’t have anybody’s self esteem damaged by those who aren’t actually moronic ignoramuses.

No, indeed.

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At least he tried

But we are not always successful, are we?

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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It’s gotta go somewhere

Yesterday the office got a small check from a local paper recycler. We don’t know what they’re doing with all that shredded-tree extract, but we hope it isn’t this:

The conscientious citizens of Philadelphia continue to put their pizza boxes, plastic bottles, yogurt containers and other items into recycling bins.

But in the past three months, half of these recyclables have been loaded on to trucks, taken to a hulking incineration facility and burned, according to the city’s government.

It’s a situation being replicated across the US as cities struggle to adapt to a recent ban by China on the import of items intended for reuse.

The loss of this overseas dumping ground means that plastics, paper and glass set aside for recycling by Americans is being stuffed into domestic landfills or is simply burned in vast volumes. This new reality risks an increase of plumes of toxic pollution that threaten the largely black and Latino communities who live near heavy industry and dumping sites in the US.

Greeniacs around this town insist that you not throw pizza boxes in the green bin, presumably for grease-related reasons.

Wait a minute. Grease is flammable, is it not?

(With thanks to regular reader Holly H.)

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With neither cheese nor cream

This is one of those times when you wish Harry Chapin could be here:

About 40,000 pounds of broccoli on the side of a metro Atlanta freeway Monday morning won’t ever make it to a dinner plate.

That’s good news for picky youngsters, but it caused trouble for drivers through Clayton County overnight. A tractor-trailer overturned on the ramp from I-285 to I-75, spilling the frozen vegetables all over the interstate.

In the absence of Mr Chapin, we bring you Russ Giguere and the Association:

(Via Fark.)

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The American tax

In that little piece about a Japanese luxury train, I suggested that such a conveyance would “never catch on here.” One reason it wouldn’t is simply that an American operation would have to charge several times as much, and it’s not hard to see why:

American infrastructure is this costly because of immense, endemic, universal public-private corruption — systems of both direct and financialized graft at every stage of infrastructure development, from the planning to the ribbon-cutting to the use of deferred maintenance to ransack public transportation budgets for cash, year after year, after which the responsible authorities claim that fixing the century-old signals is just too damn pricey. This system of legal fraud begins with the bevies of project consultants, continues through ludicrous private contractor and labor costs, and continues when, years later, high-paid administrative fixers and new armies of consultants and contractors arrive to fix what broke because it was never maintained. It is a system of tolerated kleptocracy that may be the only thing that America still does better than anyone else in the world. It is baked into every assumption about building for the public benefit.

To which Dave Schuler adds:

That isn’t true only of high-speed rail. It’s true of education, health care, the military, and every other action of government at any level in the United States. It will be true of a “Green New Deal” if such a thing were to be embarked upon. It is why we pay more for just about anything than anyone else in the world. Can we fix these things? Yes, we can. Will we? The smart money says “No.”

“Greed is good,” said Gordon Gekko, and legions enlisted under his banner; the fact that he was a fictional character made absolutely no difference.

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Friends are clamoring to know

One of the innocents on Quora asks:

When people use the phrase “asking for a friend” on social media, about what percentage of the time is this untrue and they are really asking for themselves?

“Percentage” meaning literally “out of a hundred,” what you do is start at 100 and count backwards.

You will never reach 99.

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On the far side of the Rio Grande

You’ve seen some of these names before:

As our road trip wound through some of the industrial centers of he country I saw corporate brands you would deem exclusively “American,” each taking advantage of the cheaper labor and costs in order to remain competitive domestically.

Much angst was generated locally and nationally when United Technologies planned to close its unionized Carrier factory in Indianapolis. The Trumpster even got involved. Lots of folks vowed to never buy a Carrier again. Of course they will forget this notion in fifteen or twenty years when they finally need a new furnace or air conditioner. More to the point, I read nothing about boycotts of Lennox, who, by the way, has a factory in … Mexico.

I know nobody who would likely ask the HVAC tech “Where is this product made?” But this could just be a manifestation of fear that the answer might be “China.”

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A very high pitch

Brian J. is not impressed by this gadget:

When we bought Nogglestead, one of the outlets in the corner of the lower level had a Bell Howard Ultrasonic Pest Repeller plugged into it. It was out of the way, so we just left it there. For a very long time. Seven or eight years.

However, we have professional pest control services for bugs and quadrupeds for mice, lizards, and snakes. So about a year ago, when I was plugging or unplugging something from behind the chairs or perhaps doing one of our decennial vacuumings behind the reading chairs, I unplugged it and set it on the bar behind the coffee pot and electric tea kettle.

My own thinking: (1) this device comes from Bell and Howell, an old-line optics operation, and (2) you’d think an old-line optics operation would balk at having its name appear on questionable technology like this.

I doubted that it served its claimed purpose; the only mouse intrusion we’ve had was when one got in from the garage when we stored the cat food underneath the bar sink — right next to the repeller. The mouse didn’t have to cross any cat-patrolled ground for a snack, and I’ve not seen any other evidence of mice in the house since we’ve moved the cat food to a different cabinet. Nor did it keep out the various snakes, frogs, and lizards that the cats used to find (but they haven’t found in a while, which must mean the new cats are lazier than their predecessors, or the reptiles and amphibians are more cagey).

I own a similar device, and have similar questions about its efficacy. On the other hand, its placement makes it a good night-light.

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You’re on Rancid Camera

If you aren’t being watched already, muses the Z Man, you will be:

Every internet drama seems to involve one party publishing chats, video or audio of another party. Super villain Jeff Bezos is an obvious example. He broke the cardinal rule of super villains: Never write when you can speak. Never speak when you can nod. Most important, never send pics of your wiener to people. He was cavalier about being recorded and now is the world’s silliest super villain.

The result of all this is two things. One is the total lack of privacy. The only place that will be safe for anyone to imagine bad things is in their own head. When the internet of things is quietly spying in every home, car and public place, there will no longer be the concept of privacy. Imagine a land where there are no walls and no clothes. Everyone walks around naked and in full view of everyone else. It sounds crazy, but people adapt. The citizens of the future custodial state will get used to a word without privacy.

The other thing is no one will take anyone’s word for anything. This will include people in authority. If you can’t trust your own senses, you’re unlikely to trust the senses of some guy on television claiming to be your leader. Civic duty will have to be replaced with some form of coercion. Perhaps nudge technology will reach a point where the nudged will think they are acting of their own free will. Maybe the people in charge will fit everyone with a WiFi enabled technology collar that ties them into the internet of things.

In this technological dystopia, my utterly-dumb kitchen appliances will be, for a few minutes before the powers that be take notice, worth more than their turn-of-the-century prices.

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You’re bugging me

The Hemsley Conservation Centre in Fairsea, Kent perhaps understands this day too well:

For those that don’t quite require revenge, there’s another way to make you feel better about getting back at your ex this Valentine’s Day.

​The HCC is offering the chance to name a cockroach in honor of your friend’s worthless ex-“someone” on this special holiday of love.

​We are highlighting these creatures through our “name a cockroach programme” (we think adopt is a little too strong, after all — you probably don’t want to adopt your friend’s ex) to raise money for our projects at the zoo.

The price is a mere £1.50. Think of it as 25p per leg.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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It’s madness all the way down

And maybe a few meters beyond that:

Remarkably, none of this occurred in Florida.

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Big dreams, little chance

Insomnia, it appears, can cause madness: Is there any way that I can hire someone to force the San Antonio International Airport to permanently shut down?

Symptoms:

I need to stop having my ears, heart, and mind blown out by the extremely loud, low-flying planes that practically hit my roof every minute (including in the middle of the night when I’m trying to sleep)!

Then why did you move there, you nitwit? The runway has been there for only seventy-six years.

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Vestigial colonialism

Things you should know about the Kenyan national anthem “Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu”:

It is notable for being one of the first national anthems to be specifically commissioned as such. It was written by the Kenyan Anthem Commission in 1963 to serve as the state anthem after independence from the United Kingdom. It was expected that the lyrics would express the deepest convictions and the highest aspirations of the people as a whole.

The YouTube channel 2nacheki posted the Top 10 National Anthems of Africa:

The Kenyan anthem was deemed Number One.

And then:

[T]he channel soon received notification from YouTube that their video had infringed upon the rights of UK-based music company De Wolfe Music, a claim that was made via content monetization company AdRev Publishing.

Needless to say, the channel was pretty shocked to see this claim on their account. Not only does the Kenyan government consider the piece to be its property, but it was written by the Kenyan Anthem Commission in 1963 to serve as the state anthem after independence from Great Britain, where De Wolfe is based.

Only adding to the complications is that since the anthem is more than 50 years old, it has officially fallen into the public domain. This has caused the Office of the Attorney General and Department of Justice to issue a joint press release denouncing the action against a piece of its heritage.

Sheesh.

(Via Fark.)

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Standing instructions

The pizza guy gets these instructions from me when I order: “Customer uses a walker and may be slow coming to the door.”

Some pizza guy somewhere gets this from someone:

Customer requests

How else are we going to know these things?

(With thanks to Amy Poindexter.)

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Pall Mall goes to hall

There’s a movement in Hawaii to outlaw cancer sticks:

In Hawaii, they’re looking to ban cigarettes in a manner that would make the Volstead Act look like a polite suggestion: the minimum purchase age would rise to 30 next year, 50 in 2022 and by 2024, no one, no matter how old, would be allowed to purchase cigarettes. Legally, that is, and what possible chance is there that a black market would arise for a prohibited product of that nature, especially one readily available elsewhere?

Generations of bootleggers and drug dealers are laughing.

I’d be most amused to see that tried here. Tobacco taxes mean big bucks for the state, and you know damned well they’re not really “earmarked” for health-related stuff: if you’re the government, you know that money is fungible.

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Over the transom

An email from the social-media site Gab.com:

Gab.com operates on one rule: if political speech is legal in the United States, that speech is allowed on Gab.com.

Companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Netflix, Patreon, Square, and Stripe disagree with this proposition, and believe not only that it is morally correct to dictate to Internet users what opinions we are and are not allowed to hold, but that it is morally correct to deplatform any company that disagrees with the California consensus, and actively suppress opinions, as well as the people who express them, where their users’ beliefs don’t accord with corporate interests.

As a result, Netflix now pulls comedy shows that offend Saudi monarchs, Twitter removes content of journalists and human rights activists in Pakistan, and Patreon kicks off conservatives and libertarians in the United States.

There’s no mention of Facebook, which may be because everyone knows Facebook is a gun for hire, or because FB is overwhelmingly populated by bots.

That said, the one person I support via Patreon will continue to collect her minuscule stipend from me; I figure she needs the money more than I need to make some ephemeral political point.

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Wanna be stoppin’ something

The Brickmuppet will not be joining the pile-on-Michael Jackson bandwagon:

While acknowledging that he was extremely talented, I’m actually not a particular fan of Michael Jackson and, frankly, his effete mannerisms give me hives. However, I also think it’s important that my hangups not be someone else’s problem.

Something is truly whacked in our society when I (a bit of a social conservative) have to be the one speaking up for whackadoodle eccentrics and the libertarian blog Instapundit, has as I type this 131 comments on the matter almost universally supportive of what appears to be a meritless hit piece.

It is crucial to the health of our culture that our society allow eccentric oddballs to exist. That was Michael Jackson’s REAL crime. He was a goofy loon who didn’t give a tinker’s damn about how the scolds and meangrrls thought he should comport himself. I think that he showed poor judgment at times and if there were actual proof of these allegations I’d be on board with digging up his grave and desecrating his corpse. But, there’s no proof and a lot of evidence to the contrary. Jackson’s good name is being sullied by a bunch of lying lampreys who are, in turn, being facilitated by a culture that has, even more than usual, become the implacable foe of zany bohemians.

And I’m sick of it.

Of course, if you think your hangups deserve to be respected, even honored, by everyone else, you’re wackier than Michael ever was.

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Back from the shadows again

Rob O’Hara’s back to work, and he’s got something to say about it:

[R]ight now I feel like little more than a pawn in a big game of chess that’s being played out across 24-hour news channels. I am way past whose fault the impasse belongs to, or which political party was more responsible for the stalemate. For the past 35 days, all I’ve wanted to do is go back to the job I was hired to do.

Early Saturday morning, talking heads continued to argue whether Nancy Pelosi or Donald Trump “won.” I can tell you who didn’t win. For 35 days, approximately 400,000 federal employees have been working and not getting paid. They didn’t win. Another 400,000 federal employees, including me and my wife, were prevented from working and also stopped receiving pay. We didn’t win, either. Then there are the estimated two million federal contractors who were also sent home during the furlough, and will not receive any back pay when (or if) they return to work next week. They certainly didn’t win.

I don’t think any of us who read the occasional newspaper — I subscribe to two dailies — feel the slightest bit victorious.

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And Mommy won’t buy me beer

Child with a complaint: Where can I get a cheap fake ID?

I mean, it’s just awful:

I’ve looked up all these fake ID websites and they are all $100+

I think we can safely assume he’s not primarily interested in committing vote fraud.

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One of those things that never change

Student gets bad grade, and is desperate to conceal it: How do I edit an online report card without Photoshop?

The spiel is always the same:

okay so I just saw my online report card and I’ve been skipping this class and I have a lot of absences on it and I need a way to change that without Photoshop so when my dad asks me to show him it he won’t know I’ve been skipping

Not that you could edit a Web page with Photoshop in the first place. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

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Don’t look, Ethel

Part of the Pergelator Report on a restaurant at Portland’s newish Hoxton Hotel:

The restrooms are accessed through a door in the rear of the dining room that leads to a hallway. There is a door to the kitchen there and this sign was posted on the door jamb.

What sign? This sign:

Nothing to see here

The Braille was a nice touch, I thought, though perhaps not as nice as this.

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The Internet of crap

I guess I’m old enough now to blame everything on Millennials:

I resent, bitterly, the invasions of my privacy that have been growing year by year, allowing me no say in whether or not I’m prepared to permit them. To the extent possible, I block them. I’m an old-fashioned guy, who believes in personal privacy and is prepared to invest in it to the extent I can. Unfortunately, such attitudes appear to be vanishing among modern young people. They’ve been raised in an era of corporate and government intrusiveness, to such an extent that they see little or nothing wrong with it. They even pay for voice-operated and/or “smart” gadgets in their homes, to make their lives more “convenient” — forgetting that those same gadgets can record anything and everything they do, and make it available to marketers and others. Want a passionate evening with your lover? If you have one of those gizmos in your bedroom, there will be a record of it — and who knows who may listen to it? If a divorce results from your behavior, will a lawyer obtain a court order to get a copy of it, and play it in open court to prove infidelity? What will that do to your reputation?

In 2019? Probably nothing, especially if you’re a Democrat.

Still, I can relate to this:

I feel like a technological and ethical dinosaur. Oh, well. Extinction is something we all face, sooner or later. I hope mine arrives before I become nothing more than a digit in the global, all-encompassing system. At least I can go out extending a more appropriate digit to all concerned!

While you’re at it, flip the bird to those who profess to be unconcerned.

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Two years or 20,000 ice cubes

Remember when you filled out one side of a card, slapped a stamp on the other, and the manufacturer of whatever you just bought — a refrigerator, for instance — would start the warranty forthwith? Things seem to have gotten a little more complicated:

Some goofball over there decided it would be best to set it up so you can text them a picture of a part of the warranty notice that comes with the unit, but when I tried to do that the paper was too close to the phone and the serial number was out of focus. So I took a picture from further away, including the larger-print serial number next to the intended picture, but their photo reader algorithm misread the number. I declined to confirm those numbers.

So I went online and tried again the new old-fashioned way; the first time, the wrong model number was my fault, but I went back through to try again, got it right, and discovered that neither registration was shown on my account page where it was supposed to be (I hoped to delete the wrong one). So I tried again, again making sure both numbers were correct. Still nothing on the account page.

Sometimes it’s easy; sometimes it’s Kirk vs. Nomad.

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Solution proposed

As a matter of course, some of the same complaining I do here ends up being repeated on Twitter, and this was suggested as an answer to my scumbag-solicitor problem:

Which invited another question; but this, too, was answered:

If I could drop this landline, it would save me, if not a ton of money, certainly a few kilograms here and there.

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Geographical dystopiary

These places almost defy explanation. And for a few of them, “almost” is the practical equivalent of “absolutely”:

The farther you go into this 11-minute opus, the stranger things get.

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Up to here in ticks

Wait, what?

A snake which had more than 500 ticks removed from its body has been left very weak and suffering from anemia, vets in Australia say.

Snake catchers rescued the carpet python from a backyard swimming pool on the Gold Coast in Queensland last week.

The snake, nicknamed Nike, was treated by vets for a “nasty infection.”

“[This] may have caused his immobility, allowing the ticks to take advantage of him,” the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital said in a statement posted online.

Ticks, in general, are opportunistic little bastards:

The hospital said it had also recently treated a joey koala which was found covered in more than 100 ticks.

The marsupial had been separated from its mother when it was rescued, said wildlife group Friends of the Koala.

The group said it believed the marsupial had attracted so many ticks because it was sitting on the ground, a possible sign that it was sick or injured.

It took two hours to scour the creatures off the koala.

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You know, this just might work

Back in 1972, our Basic Combat Training company was put through something called “Survival, Evasion and Escape,” which featured a simulated breakout from a POW camp, after which we were scored on how many of The Enemy’s troops we prevented from reaching friendly forces a few miles away. About halfway across, there was a river to be forded; we hit on the notion of hiding behind the farther bank, one of us every few hundred yards or so, and capturing everyone who came across. The company commander was sorely vexed, until the scores came in, and no one had gotten past us, at which time he was happy to take credit for the idea.

Which is not to say that no one else has ever thought along these lines:

Well, no, not exactly, as you’d have to keep those positions manned 24/7, and sharpshooters don’t stay sharp after being up all day and all of the night. So they’ll of necessity be a bit farther apart. (Our own little experience in 1972 was over with in less than six hours.)

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Plunder, then plundee

Or something like that, anyway:

Three people have appeared in court in Zimbabwe, accused of stealing a suitcase containing $150,000 (£117,600) of cash from the country’s ousted president, Robert Mugabe.

The suspected thieves allegedly spent the money on cars, homes and animals.

A relative of the ex-president, Constantia Mugabe, is among the accused, government-owned media report.

She allegedly had keys to Mr Mugabe’s rural home in Zvimba, near the capital Harare, and gave the others access.

The other suspects were employed as cleaners at the time of the theft, which allegedly happened sometime between 1 December and early January.

It’s kind of a shame the suitcase wasn’t stuffed with Zimbabwean dollars. In 2009, when the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe finally threw in the towel, a Samsonite bagful might, or might not, be enough to buy a Big Mac.

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Fur high, furlough

Rob O’Hara is off work for the duration, and he’d really like to know how long this duration will be:

Back in 2013 I wrote that the first week or so of the furlough was fun — and it was, like a little free vacation … before the dark clouds moved in. By the second week of a furlough, I begin to think weird thoughts. Every day I wonder when the furlough’s going to end, and worry whether or not we have enough money in the bank to get us to the finish line. I start thinking, if things get rough, what am I going to sell, and in what order? Which car could I live without? Which laptop do I use the least? Around the end of the second week, which is today, I start thinking about getting a part time job, something to hold us over and help pay the cable bill and the cell phone bill until our paychecks start coming in. Around that same time you realize that there aren’t a lot of other jobs I could do. Nobody’s looking for a temporary network administrator. I don’t really want to deliver pizzas.

If you’d like to help out a Federal employee who never did you any harm, you can buy his old house for $400k.

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Not quite essential

The Z Man no longer answers his phone:

I’ve had the same number for a long time that I registered with the do not call registry. I have no idea if that works, but the lack of spam calls had me thinking it must have worked until recent. Out of curiosity I went to the site for the FTC to see if maybe that service had been discontinued. It turns out that it still exists, but the web site is down, supposedly because of the government shutdown.

You’ll never persuade me that it works. Too many losers get through. My wireless company has started branding as “Scam Likely” the sort of thing said losers are pushing, but my DumbPhone™ keeps the call in memory and, next time I open the phone, be it five minutes or five hours later, offers to return the call. (Dear Samsung: How about a “Like hell” button?)

This small little incident I’m describing is a microcosm of what’s wrong in the country. The FTC website should not exist. There’s no need for a do-not-call registry. The government could simply make the telephone companies responsible for the abuse that goes on with telemarketers. The phone companies would then demand the government pass laws that discourage these scams. The phone system operators would then aggressively police their networks and turn the scammers over to the state.

As if. Phone companies don’t even consider themselves responsible for providing phone service.

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