Tenants, anyone?

As of last weekend, Vancouver, British Columbia, is imposing a 1-percent tax on empty homes:

Vancouver city council has voted to approve a tax on empty homes, the first of its kind in Canada.

Self-reporting owners will be assessed a one per cent tax on homes that are not principal residences or aren’t rented out for at least six months of the year.

That means a $1-million home left vacant would be taxed $10,000.

Mayor Gregor Robertson thought this was a swell idea:

Robertson has said the tax is a way to combat what he called the housing crisis in Vancouver, and justified the measure as a “business tax” on owners he said were treating housing as an investment property.

Robertson has said the tax will improve Vancouver’s rental vacancy rate, which is currently around 0.6 per cent, by persuading owners of thousands of empty apartments and houses to put them up for rent.

That was last fall. With the tax going into effect on the first of July, landlords have been in Scurry Mode:

[Real-estate agent Cameron] Fazli said many of the people he has talked to are thinking of renting or selling their properties. He recently met with a woman who owns three empty properties in Vancouver — and says one of them is now listed for rent, another will be listed shortly and she is thinking of selling the third.

“This is a scenario of someone who is kind of in a panic now and needs to rent them out,” he said.

Other property owners are still figuring out exactly how much of the year they spend in the property, Fazli said, and are seeing if they can find a family member to occupy enough to make it over the six month threshold.

The agent predicts that there will be more available properties, but not necessarily affordable properties:

Fazli said while it will lead to more housing being available because of lower vacancy rates, it won’t drive down prices.

“It’s going to bring more rental properties onto the market but, on the affordable aspect, I think we’re going to see the properties being more on the higher end side,” he said.

Which means likely no change to Vancouver’s status as the third most unaffordable housing market on the planet:

Vancouver ranks 3rd in the 2017 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey [pdf], down one spot from 2016 when it was second.

The survey compares 406 metropolitan housing markets in nine countries: Australia, Canada, China, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It’s the 13th edition of the report, which links median house prices to median household incomes otherwise known as the “median multiple.”

A value 3.0 or under is deemed affordable. Vancouver’s median multiple is 11.8.

At the very top of the scale is Hong Kong, which posted a score of 18.1. Should anyone care, Oklahoma City rates a 2.9.

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A headline for a summer’s eve

The story, such as it is:

Mayor de Blasio — forgetting that he’s accountable to eight million Big Apple residents — blew off a Post reporter Saturday after he gave a speech in Hamburg, Germany.

The mayor did extensive interviews with German media after delivering a speech to activists protesting the gathering of world leaders at the G20 summit.

But when a reporter for The Post greeted de Blasio after he’d talked to the German reporters, he smiled, turned and walked away without any acknowledgment.

That, by itself, would not appear to be a big deal. But:

De Blasio flew to Hamburg on Thursday afternoon after skipping a somber NYPD swearing-in ceremony following the murder of officer Miosotis Familia.

And the combination led to this Post front-page headline:

Front page of New York Post 9 July 2017

This would never have worked if the G20 summit had been held in Spain.

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A high point in town

This gorgeous private home on the city’s northeast side was on the 2014 Architecture Tour:

Mass Home on Persimmon Hill

At the time, I said:

Up on Persimmon Hill you’ll find the National Cowboy Museum, Coles Garden, and this five-acre plot, which used to be occupied by a small 1920s cottage, expanded a few times, and then rebuilt following the December 2007 ice storm. Somehow the place looks both traditionally rural and up-to-date suburban, which I attribute to the fact that they didn’t raze the original storm-damaged structure, preferring to incorporate it into the new one.

It is Bad Form, I think, to speculate on “What is this place worth?” at the time you’re getting a peek at the inside. But three years later, they’ve sold it — for $890,000.

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Enjoy your virginity

Because you’re never gonna get laid at this rate:

The quantity of sex to which you are legally entitled: zero. And I’m pretty sure you’ve just disqualified yourself for any conceivable mercy boink.

(Via Signe Dean.)

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Not who you think it is

Jennifer Hast got to this point on her Shoe Calendar, and she was generous enough to share:

Minna Parikka shoe that is not at all Rainbow Dash

Of course, my first response was “There’s a shoe calendar?”

And after jumping to conclusions, I thought: “Hold on there. Rainbow Dash doesn’t have a horn.”

Which is the point: this means that Finnish shoe designer Minna Parikka, who put out this shoe in 2015 for a staggering €345, is wise enough to avoid the mighty lawyers of Hasbro.

Or maybe not: it’s called “Celestia.”

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Imperfect angel

Apparently nobody knows for certain how old Mariah Carey is: we know her birthday, which is the 27th of March, but we’re not quite sure how many birthdays she’s had, and it’s not like she’s front-page news these days. Still, she sells a fair number of records, and she’s always had the looks to go with the voice.

Mariah Carey on the steps

Mariah Carey draws a crowd

Mariah Carey is backlit

During her 1990s heyday, I paid little attention to Mariah, but then I paid little attention to most musical performers in the 1990s, mostly because I had to put my own life in order, but at least partly because she seemed just a hair gimmicky to me: just because you can sing over a five-octave range doesn’t mean you should. The newer, darker Carey did put out some good records, though, including this Foreigner cover:

The second single from her 2009 album Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel, “I Want to Know What Love Is” died at #60 in Billboard— but spent half a year at Number One in Brazil.

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Vehicularly challenged

Almost anyone else I know, faced with a totaled automobile, will start shopping for a new one.

Not me, though.

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Or was that just PR?

“Press releases,” says indie author Bill Peschel, “are garbage”:

I spent decades in newspaper journalism, and in my experience, the vast majority of all press releases are trashed. In the pre-internet days, we’d receive by mail easily a hundred releases a day. When fax machines came in, it became much cheaper to spam every newspaper in the country, and we’d get even more. The newsroom fax machine would spit out letters from readers, official government releases, police reports (cops were happy to do this if it kept away from the cop shop, and it made our job easier), crank letters, scam faxes selling printer ink and paper, and press releases.

Each department tasked someone to go through the stack to pull out their needed faxes. The rest were trashed.

PR World’s belated response: press releases that don’t look like press releases. Once they figured out how to get this stuff on television — it looks like a local news clip, but it isn’t — it was just a matter of time before the newspapers themselves were similarly infected. Every now and then, the Oklahoman will devote as much as half a page, a hefty fraction of the daily news hole, to something called BrandInsight, which turns out to be a press release written like a news story. The times are sufficiently dire that
the paper actually admits what’s going on:

BrandInsight provides a place for local organizations and companies to connect directly with the NewsOK audience and The Oklahoman readers by publishing sponsored native advertising articles of interest on the NewsOK digital platforms and to participate in the resulting conversation. BrandInsight content may be produced by the organizations or our BrandInsight content studio.

And after all, that’s what it’s all about: content. Doesn’t matter where it comes from anymore.

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We like Cakes

And it wasn’t even close:

The newly rebranded New Orleans Baby Cakes have overwhelmingly won a contest for the best logo in Minor League Baseball.

According to an article in Baseball America — and according to the Baby Cakes’ own Twitter page — the angry baby won Baseball America’s 2017 #Logomania contest with a whopping 67,349 votes, or 81.2 percent of the vote.

New Orleans Baby Cakes logo

A distant second: the Vermont Lake Monsters.

Vermont Lake Monsterss logo

The Baby Cakes play in the Triple-A Pacific Coast (!) League; the Lake Monsters play in the Short-Season Class A New York-Penn League (formerly the PONY League, until the last Ontario club dropped out in 1957).

(Via Fark.)

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Still horsing around

Down the sidebar is a section called “Pony tales,” which contains links to the stories I’ve written — one series of 3.something (the fourth is unfinished) and two standalones — in the universe of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Word count is somewhere around 70,000.

Fimfiction, the repository of stories of this ilk, counts a “view” when someone reads the most widely read chapter in a story. Usually — not always — it’s the first chapter, for the sensible reason that most readers start on Chapter 1 and are most likely to lose interest before ever getting to Chapter 2. Second Act, weirdly, seems to have more views on Chapter 3, presumably because that chapter provides a marginally believable scenario for transforming a fairly ordinary human to an equally ordinary earth pony. And I’m fond of this deadpan expository paragraph:

From the bog at the south end of the Everfree, through the near side of Ponyville, to the caverns under Canterlot Mountain, runs a single ley line, a channel for the transmission of magic. Some believe Star Swirl the Bearded himself, finding a resonance at a constant frequency in those caverns, followed it on hoof all the way across the forest, seeking its source. Others, more skeptical, suggest he foisted off the job on Clover the Clever. One assignment given to second-year students in Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns is to calculate the exact frequency of that resonance. They are not told, of course, that the number denoting that frequency is an irrational number, the decimal places stretching out to infinity. Focusing mechanisms generally round it off to 1.7 million cycles per second, which provides 99.8 percent accuracy.

Why “cycles per second”? Heinrich Hertz does not exist in this universe. I have to work around a lot of handy idioms, including, well, “handy.”

Anyway, some time this week I got my ten-thousandth view. This is about 9900 more than I ever figured on getting.

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When she was hot

The important thing is to preheat:

Cover for the week: “Uh Huh” by Julia Michaels:

She finds some remarkable stuff, I have to admit.

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I can’t believe it’s not Butterick

Time to take the dust cover off the sewing machine:

The Vintage Patterns Wiki boasts more than 83,500 patterns that are at least 25 years old, which makes for a fascinating look back at fashion history. As a collaborative effort, the database is constantly being updated and organized, with any newly uploaded patterns dating prior to 1992. Just click on the cover and browse the list of pattern vendors who have the look.

Whether you just want to ogle the fashion illustrations or get your hands dirty and make a new look, it’s worth browsing the well-organized site. Arranged by decade, garment type, designer, and more, you might just be inspired to whip up a dashiki for your next costume party or try out a Mad Men chic outfit at the office with a skirt suit from the 1960s.

High fashion names like Dior and Givenchy, as well as looks modeled off costumes from movie stars like Audrey Hepburn remind us how pervasive patterns and creating fashions from scratch once were. And with a whole new era of young women going retro, it might be worth giving up vintage shops in favor of creating new pieces based on these vintage patterns.

Obviously they’re not going to have Every Pattern In The World. But the wiki serves as a useful guide to what’s out there and who’s worked with it. I pulled up a pattern at random — Vogue 6368 — and found someone who’s put it to good use.

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Mildly rotten phish

If you get email through Earthlink, you might have received this low-grade annoyance:

During our last check, your account did not meet the security requirements according to our new policies.

One or more entries are inaccurate and need to be updated, your account will be placed on hold until you provide the required information.

To correct this issue and resume normal activity, please use our secure link:

Click here <http://dzyadzorm.com/%3fearthlink1rlev6/> to login and confirm your phone number.

You have 24 hours to provide the information or your account will be locked.

Yes, that’s the actual link address.

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Dumbass with the heart of a smartass

The operative word, of course, is “ass,” and this is what this particular ass wants: “I’m not getting the answers I’m looking for …?”

The last time I asked these questions, everybody ignored them. I asked these questions so people could answer them, not ignore them.

I’d ignore this jerk myself, but I feel the need to make an example of someone.

Sometimes when I’m using my computer, it’ll freeze, and I’ll get a caption that says “A script on this page may be busy, or it may have stopped responding. You can stop the script now, open the script in the debugger, or let the script continue.” This caption features buttons that say “Continue”, “Debug Script”, and “Stop Script.” What does this mean? What do I do when this happens? By the same token, sometimes my computer will freeze, and I’ll get a caption that says “Not Responding.” Can I get a repairman to come in and change things around somehow to where these things never happen again until the end of time? Thank you in advance for your answers.

Jeebus. It means what it says it means: a script is not responding properly, and these are your options. You have no others. And pretty much everyone who’s gotten beyond Windows 3.1 has seen this before and has learned to deal with it, though not exactly happily.

Then again, this is how this dimwit identifies himself:

I hate being single

You got to figure he’s been living with that for a long, long time.

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Wondering who Dimeback was

There are plenty of musical acts you never heard of. Most of them, even Kathleen Turner Overdrive, actually exist. And then there are the ones who don’t:

According to a lengthy piece pinned to Vulture, Spotify has been reportedly paying producers to create songs under fake names. Filling its playlists with fake artists, Spotify saves money that would otherwise be allocated to real artists demanding the reasonable streaming checks that come with prime placement in its premium playlists. By placing these fake tracks in high-ranking playlists, the company “limits the opportunities for real music-makers to make money,” according to Vulture’s Adam K. Raymond. Spotify didn’t respond to the claim.

Then again, there is fake, and there is fake, and some of these characters who do exist probably ought not to. Says Raymond:

With 65 albums, most with more than 50 tracks, Sir Juan Mutant appears at first glance to be among the most prolific artists on Spotify. But dig a little deeper and it quickly becomes clear that something fishy is going on. Several of the albums use the same artwork, while others have many of the same songs. Take, as a representation of his catalogue, the album Cash the System, which has 50 tracks and clocks in at over 11 hours. The first track, “Can’t Pay You,” is just over three minutes of noodling on a distorted guitar. The 10th track, “Did You Distort Their Minds,” is the exact same song, as is the 11th track, “The Same Agreement,” the 12th track “Bubble Gum,” and the 17th track “Did You Put that Man on Fire.”

This is classic keyword spam. By flooding Spotify with song titles, Sir Juan Mutant is increasing his odds that someone will accidentally listen to one. And each time someone does, his bank account grows by a fraction of a cent.

For the hell of it, I dialed up YouTube — I have no Spotify subscription — and found several of Sir Juan’s tracks. An example:

I’ve heard worse than “That Is To Say,” and probably so have you.

(Via Dallas music critic Preston Jones, who quipped: “In hindsight, Tuney McTuneface was a step too far.”)

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Bucking buck privates

Buck Privates was an early-1941 Abbott and Costello film, which introduced the Don Raye/Hughie Prince jump blues called “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” sung by the Andrews Sisters. As technology improved, it was no longer required to have three singers to do three vocal parts, as Bette Midler will readily testify.

And there things stood, until further technology permitted a single singer to triplicate herself on camera:

Michelle Creber is seventeen; among other things, she’s the voice of Apple Bloom on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Here she looks kind of Carol Burnett-y, which fits: like Burnett, she has a gift for physical comedy, and also like Burnett, she has killer gams.

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