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5th December 2013
Facebook page/ad redirection.
How very odd. :
This sponsored ad came up on my Facebook feed:
Clicking on the link takes you to thishttps://www.facebook.com/FCCCarrollton?sk=app_208195102528120
which redirects after a short time to thishttp://www.oakleybay.com/sale.html
oakleybay.com is registered by a registrar in Shanghai:
Domain Name: OAKLEYBAY.COM
Registrar: SHANGHAI YOVOLE NETWORKS INC.
Whois Server: whois.yovole.com
Referral URL: http://www.yovole.com
Name Server: FREEDNS1.REGISTRAR-SERVERS.COM
Name Server: FREEDNS2.REGISTRAR-SERVERS.COM
Updated Date: 08-may-2013
Creation Date: 08-may-2013
Expiration Date: 08-may-2014
Their holder is
name: Food Mart
address: 684 Jody Road
changed: 2013-10-08 15:28:09.0
193010 fails to return a valid result from the China Post postal code finder. However, +86 is the country code for China. 137 and 138 are prefixes for telephone numbers provided by China Mobile.
More digging could happen here, but this is curious enough, particularly becausehttps://www.facebook.com/FCCCarrollton
contains a page which is apparently connected to the First Christian Church of Carrollton, TX.
I wonder if the church realizes its "Welcome" link (https://www.facebook.com/FCCCarrollton/app_208195102528120
) points at a page in China that purports to sell sunglasses.
4th December 2013
Online Christmas Card from Thorntons.
is cute, but it's a bit odd to have the Google Street View image from summertime overlaid with snowflakes.
The cards can only be sent if you "like" the Thorntons Facebook page
(I have nothing to do with Thorntons chocolates. I don't even remember having tried any.)
This will be interesting.
From : the Boston Globe
Governor Deval Patrick’s administration filed suit in state court Monday to block the Wampanoag Tribe of Aquinnah from opening a small casino on tribal land on the western edge of Martha’s Vineyard, the renowned resort island and presidential vacation spot.( more behind the cutCollapse )
The tribe insisted in November it has all necessary federal approvals to immediately open what US tribal gambling law calls a Class 2 facility, which could offer games such as high-stakes bingo, poker, and certain varieties of slot machines. To run a wider variety of games, the tribe must negotiate with Patrick on an agreement known as a compact. Compacts provide tribes certain benefits in exchange for giving the state a share of gambling revenue. The Aquinnah have formally asked to open negotiations.
From the New York Times
An expert on gambling in Massachusetts said the move appeared to be an indirect attempt by the tribe to try to win a license for a casino on tribal lands on the mainland, the theory being that the threat of a casino on the Vineyard would be so awful that the governor would give in to one on the mainland.
A casino in the small town of Aquinnah, formerly known as Gay Head, which sits at the western edge of the island and is served only by a two-lane road, would not be easily accessible and would strain the local infrastructure. And local opposition could be fierce, with a casino being antithetical to the island’s noncommercial aesthetic.
“All the legal issues aside, just from a pure economic standpoint, it’s a terrible place for a casino,” said the expert, Clyde W. Barrow, a professor of public policy at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth.
“What this is really about,” he said, “is trying to get leverage to force the governor to negotiate” for a casino on the mainland.
(For bedfull_o_books, by request.)
Two unrelated stories about late-night transit.
From : The Guardian, 21 November 2013
Tube trains will run throughout the night at weekends, London Underground has announced – but most tube ticket offices will go and 750 jobs will be lost.
From 2015 trains will run on Friday and Saturday nights on core parts of the tube network, as part of a package of measures for a "21st-century tube service", including direct payment by bank cards. But unions and Labour hit out at moves to close ticket offices and cut jobs.
The weekend "night tube" service will start on the Piccadilly, Victoria, Central and Jubilee lines, as well as key sections of the Northern line, from 2015. All stations will be staffed while services operate. The network, which should be expanded to other lines in future, is planned to dovetail with night buses for integrated services through the night.
A map of the proposed overnight service is here
, showing the parts of the five lines which will run overnight.
From the Boston Globe, 3 December 2013
Starting next spring, the T will run all subway trains and the 15 most popular bus routes until 3 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Yes, the T is still cash-strapped, and the state budget remains tight, but Governor Deval Patrick has found about $20 million, along with pledges from corporate sponsors, to launch a one-year pilot program to begin in March or April.
The new late service, which will include the Silver Line, will be a one-year experiment. If it proves popular, it could become permanent.
The 15 bus routes that will run until 3 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday starting next spring are: 1, 15, 22, 23, 28, 32, 39, 57, 66, 71, 73, 77, 111, 116, 117
20th November 2013
This is odd.
: 19TH ANNUAL
FREE HAT FULL OF POTATOES DAY
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2013 - ALL DAY
Bird Watcher's General Store
36 Rt. 6A, Orleans, MA 02653 * 1-800-562-1512
(Note to GPS Users: Enter 36 Cranberry Highway, Orleans, MA)
Saturday 9:17 a.m. to 5:11 p.m.
19th November 2013
File this under "interesting idea".
From A Winter Innovation: The Airport Coat Check
With passengers stowing all those coats on jam-packed airplanes, it’s more difficult than ever to claim space in the overhead bins for carry-on bags. Ask any flight attendant about that challenge. But one international airport has come up with an idea that in a small way addresses the question of what to do with that bulky coat.
That would be Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s main hub and, with 57.5 million passengers last year, the third-busiest in Europe after London Heathrow and Paris Charles de Gaulle. Frankfurt recently expanded a winter-coat service that it introduced last year as a holiday promotion.
Another coat-check service is offered by Korean Air for its passengers at Incheon International Airport in South Korea. It’s very popular, said Penny Pfaelzer, an airline spokeswoman. “Who wants to lug a winter coast to Hawaii?” she asked.
The standard daily price for checking a winter coat at Frankfurt is 50 euro cents, about 67 cents in the United States. At Incheon, Korean Air provides it free to passengers.
Many major airports offer services to check suitcases for limited periods of time ($4 to $16 a day at Kennedy in New York; $6.50 to $24 a day at Heathrow), but coat-checking looks like an idea that could work elsewhere. Coin-operated airport lockers still are available at some airports abroad, but they mostly disappeared at domestic airports after a terrorist explosion in a locker at La Guardia in 1975 killed 11 and injured more than 70.
“Well, it’s an interesting thought, but a very limited market,” said Michael Sommer, a technology consultant who travels frequently. But like any seasoned traveler, he also saw some potential bumps in the road. “What if you’re leaving from Frankfurt to Miami in February, but you get diverted to Boston?” he asked. “Or Moscow?”
Still, he agreed that it showed the value of innovation at airports. And he had an idea, too: “Why can’t they also offer you dry-cleaning service at the coat check?”
18th November 2013
Allie Brosh interview on Fresh Air.
It occurs to me that some friends missed this when it was broadcast. Allie Brosh, the creator of Hyperbole and a Half, was interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air. :
I was on my way to the dentist so I only caught half of it, but you can find the whole interview here
in both audio and transcript versions.
Trigger warning: she talks about depression and suicide at some length. It may help to glance at the transcript first.
And another thing for digitalemur, before it slips my mind.
The only match for "famous people with alpacas" is actually "Kjentfolk som har alpakkaer/famous people with alpacas" in a post from October 23rd on the Facebook page for Knapper Alpakka ( : http://alpakka.org/
), an alpaca farm in Norway. All it has is a short list of celebrities who own alpacas.
If you want to start a tumblr blog of famous people with alpacas, that road is wide-open.
The oddest things show up in Ta-Nehisi Coates' comment threads.
For digitalemur, from : this thread
:К нам в редакцию попал клип на песню Get lucky, которую хор МВД, вероятно, готовил к кремлевскому концерту 10 ноября.
RIA Novosti received a video clip of the song Get Lucky that the Russian Interior Ministry's ensemble most likely prepared for a Kremlin concert on November 10.
Смотрите также: Генерал Елисеев и солисты хора МВД рассказали правду о ролике Get lucky: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AT4oqLvDgpw
(the "making of" video)
I suspect the Department of Homeland Security lacks an equivalent musical group.
Yesterday's New York Times Magazine published : this piece
by Luke Mogelson, with photos and video by Joel van Houdt. Excerpt:
It’s surprisingly simple, from Kabul, to enlist the services of the smugglers Australian authorities are so keen to apprehend. The problem was that every Afghan I spoke to who had been to Indonesia insisted that no Western journalist would ever be allowed onto a boat: Paranoia over agents was too high. Consequently, the photographer Joel van Houdt and I decided to pose as refugees. Because we are both white, we thought it prudent to devise a cover. We would say we were Georgian (other options in the region were rejected for fear of running into Russian speakers), had sensitive information about our government’s activities during the 2008 war (hence, in the event of a search, our cameras and recorders), traveled to Kabul in search of a smuggler and learned some Dari during our stay. An Afghan colleague of mine, Hakim (whose name has been changed to protect his identity), would pretend to be a local schemer angling for a foothold in the trade. It was all overly elaborate and highly implausible.
When we were ready, Hakim phoned an elderly Afghan man, living in Jakarta, who goes by the honorific Hajji Sahib. Hajji Sahib is a well-known smuggler in Indonesia; his cellphone number, among Afghans, is relatively easy to obtain. Hakim explained that he had two Georgians — “Levan” and “Mikheil” — whom he wished to send Hajji Sahib’s way. Hajji Sahib, never questioning our story, agreed to get Joel and me from Jakarta to Christmas Island for $4,000 each. This represents a slightly discounted rate, for which Hakim, aspiring middleman, promised more business down the road.
14th November 2013
When You Have Everything But Friends, Why Not Buy Some?
Richard Kirshenbaum has been getting some attention for his piece : Paid Friends: Weary of Genuine Relationships, Rich New Yorkers Hire Stand-Ins
Illustrations by Ivan Brunetti.
Sycophants have existed as long as there have been rich and powerful people, of course. This is a modern version.
A woman on her ex-husband's paid friends:
“When we first started dating, I was annoyed that so many people were always around. But I learned that powerful men all have posses.”
“I think many really successful men don’t actually have time for real friends. Their old friends are either resentful or bitter or ask for money, and the new friends are often competitive. In my opinion, very rich men have paid friends as an expensive filter, because they can control them. They love to manipulate everyone.”
“Look, let’s be real. If he didn’t have any money, he’d be sitting all alone in his apartment with a container of Häagan-Dazs and a bottle of vodka.”
A guy about his entourage:
“Once you’ve had paid friends who don’t argue with you, it’s actually quite hard to go back to real friends.”
All anecdotal, of course, though it did remind me of the old saying about DC
: "If you want a friend in this town, get a dog."
Evidently there are people for whom that plan isn't enough.
21st October 2013
"Lines are overrated, and totally empty restaurants are underrated"
: Tyler Cowen's post today on restaurants with lines and empty restaurants
was best summarized by two of his commenters.
I read it as, don’t let emptiness deter you if you have other reason to think it’s good. Which is a potentially useful rule. It also has been true in my experience.
The larger point I see is that popularity-based measures are only as good as the information level of the people doing the rating.
[I]f the line is evidence of a temporary fad, then that’s a good reason to avoid it, from Tyler’s point of view. The food isn’t any better now that it’s a fad right now.
And yes, one has to be fairly well-informed in order to decrease the use of existing fads and rather be the kind of person who helps starts fads or “likes things before (and after) they were cool.”
The post itself is also worth a look. Tyler Cowen is an economist who blogs about DC ethnic dining
17th October 2013
"Robert Costa wins the shutdown."
This is largely inside baseball, but Robert Costa of the National Review has been getting kudos from just about : everyone else in the media
for his coverage of the shutdown.
From the Politico piece
with the headline I borrowed my Subject: line from:
"There are no winners here," White House press secretary Jay Carney said of the negotiations to end the government shutdown.
Except, of course, Robert Costa, the National Review editor who has been widely celebrated over the course of the past two weeks for his unparalleled reporting on backroom Republican dealings.
I'm really glad one of my public policy friends pointed me in the direction of Costa's articles
a week or so ago. Costa's twitter feed
was worth watching, too.
Like I said, mostly Washington media insider stuff, but interesting.
I've been noticing something interesting lately. I'm finding it easier to get to the stage in a language where I can generate some intelligible speech utterances. :
I'm sure this has to do with a couple of things. The collection of random vocabulary
in various languages has in my head gets larger and more varied every year, so I have a lot more points to start from. Also, I seem to have much less inhibition about launching into a language I kind of sort of know than I used to.
I say this with the caveat that I continue to know jack all about grammar in most languages other than English and Mandarin, both of which I picked up more or less in infancy*, and have forgotten most of what I learned about grammar in French, which I actually took classes in. I don't particularly learn languages via formal grammar rules, which probably also has something to do with the way I use the languages I do.
Nonetheless, I keep having experiences where I am confronted with a situation where I have a specific need to say something in a language I don't actually know and some words will fall out of my mouth, and be understandable enough to get me a useful response. Sometimes it's even correct!
I'm generally surprised by this after it happens.
It's not as useful as it sounds because I'd like to be able to come up with something to say on command instead of just having words fall out of my mouth unpredictably, but I'll take it. Besides, people claim words randomly pop out of my mouth when I'm speaking English and Mandarin, too. :)
*In both English and Mandarin my usual response to someone asking if some sentence is gramatically correct is to say it to myself to pass it through the "sounds right? sounds wrong?" test, and then backfill to try and apply some rule I learned sometime. Formal grammar and I have a somewhat fraught relationship.
: Punted to the new year
. I obviously can't say I'm surprised.
Waiting until the next time it comes around on the guitar, that's me.
10th October 2013
Remembering the Horn & Hardart Automat.
AP file photo, taken June 8th, 1987, of a customer buying a cup of coffee at the last Horn & Hardart Automat, Third Avenue and 42nd Street, Manhattan. (Via Peter Nowak's blog post).
I feel an odd nostalgia for the Horn & Hardart Automat. (digitalemur and I were talking about the neighborhood around the Chrysler Building, which reminded me of the Automat.) I say odd because I didn't get to eat there much. In any case it wasn't the food that was memorable.
My Dad originally suggested I stop in when I was in Manhattan. By the time I got a chance to eat there its glory days were long over. By then the food wasn't particularly good, and despite its prime location--now a CVS pharmacy--it wasn't very busy the few times I got to eat there before they closed. It was cheap, though, which meant that poor people often hung out there as there weren't staff to chase them away.
I was fond of the whole nostalgic, Art Deco feel of the place. The whole coin-operated concept was cool, in a retro-modern way, even if the doors occasionally stuck. I sometimes had to jiggle them to get them open, and I worried I'd lose my tokens if I couldn't.
I must have realized at the time that the automat was dying because I bought a couple of tokens, one brass and one silver-colored, just to keep as souvenirs.
(Not my tokens.)
I missed last winter's New York Public Library exhibit on the Automat
, but that's really okay. It's not like they were actually selling food out of the machines. It wouldn't have been the same just to look at the machines and maybe take a recipe
Competition from fast food forced cost-cutting in response. Ultimately that killed the Automat. Horn & Hardart closed the central commissary on the West Side
which made freshly-made food
every day when their remaining New York locations could no longer support it. The food quality never recovered.
The Automat was yet another small part of the New York of the '80s that helped to form my concept of a real city. So I miss it, the way I miss a lot of long departed New York.
FEBO in Amsterdam still has similar machines, but how many frikandellen and krokets can you really eat? FEBO's machines vend fried snacks for the crowd at closing time. Horn & Hardart had real food. Besides, the last time I went to a FEBO their change machine ate one of my €1 coins and the guy behind the counter was annoyingly unsympathetic.
One final thought about Ventra.
It occurs to me that I haven't yet tried to put money on my card. :
With #Ventra's convenient vending machines you can check your balance, add value, or smash your head against the side until you pass out!
If there's anything the last few years have taught us...
...it's that when they're faced with a hard deadline, politicians' first impulse is to kick the can down the road. :
It's been true in Europe, and it seems to be the same in the States.
Mistresses keeping the Chinese real estate bubble afloat? Naah.
From : Quartz
Keeping a mistress is a normal part of life for successful Chinese businessmen and government officials, and in some ways they have become more visible in recent years, playing roles in corruption scandals and even, sometimes, turning in their lovers.
They and their big-spending partners may also be contributing to ever-increasing real estate prices in some of China’s biggest cities. That’s because these women, often from rural areas, are regularly kept in apartments that their lovers buy for them in urban centers, near his work or home. The practice has created entire neighborhoods of apartments in big Chinese cities filled with women who would otherwise be living at home with their families, or perhaps sharing a rental.
Personally, while I wouldn't minimize the number of mistresses rich officials and businessmen--and I'd put them in that order, in the few cases they aren't actually the same guy--are keeping, I question just how big a problem this is compared to the number of empty apartments have been built. It makes a eye-catching story: "Oh, those corrupt Chinese officials!" but in fact the ideal places for officials* to stash mistresses is someplace convenient to work or home.
Damn few of those places convenient to work or home are out where the ghost cities are. Those empty apartment complexes are empty because of location. Also, no mistress is going to put up with being stuck somewhere out in the sticks: the traffic to get to and from those neighborhoods is absurd. The official would never get to see his mistress and she'd walk out because she couldn't ever get in to town. (The public transit out there isn't ideal either, not that either he nor she would ever be caught dead riding a bus or metro.)
Aside from that, I'd actually claim that this is better than having the buildings empty. At least there's someone living in an apartment, spending money and supporting local services.
No, the real driver behind all this development is that local governments derive their income from land-use fees from developers. The more development, the more land-use fees.
Also, I'm not using the photo Quartz used for this story. The woman pictured is a balloon vendor. (Photo 9 of 10 in a USA Today gallery from February 13, 2012: http://mediagallery.usatoday.com/S183321
, by Alexander F. Yuan of the AP, captioned "A balloon vendor sells Valentine's Day balloons in Beijing.")
*In case you're wondering, the majority of officials in China are male, and an even greater majority of those male officials present as straight. Traditional gender roles which reinforce misogyny and homophobia see to that. So yes, it's mistresses.
Ventra and its issues.
Chicago's new Ventra card.
Chicago is having a rather difficult time rolling out its new Ventra fare payment system. Ventra is meant to replace its earlier Chicago Card. This is not going well.
I myself got a Ventra card to replace my Chicago Card.
One of the problems with giving your contactless fare card MasterCard debit card functionality is that it makes the activation process much more complicated. This is for understandable fraud prevention reasons.
As a result, however, the activation process is significantly more difficult than registering a new credit card. This is the case even if you never decide to active the debit card functionality at all.
Here's what I had to do:( A long procedure behind the cut.Collapse )
This is a rather elaborate procedure to set up a transit farecard.
I am never going to set up the MasterCard debit facility on this card, not only because I have a bank account and a credit card, but because the fee structure is annoying
(pdf). To be fair, it's probably not any worse than most standalone debit cards. But I'm not the intended market for the debit card: all I want is a farecard. So none of the above complexity is a direct part of setting up the debit card account, although I'm sure some of it exists so that the debit card functionality can exist.
I am an experienced Internet user with some understanding of security issues, and a transit geek who has proved in the past to be very willing to jump through elaborate hoops to get a transit farecard
. I had little trouble with the process, which I completed without ever speaking to a human. But even I thought this process was a bit much just to get a transit farecard.
I don't have to imagine how this process has been received by other users, because it's been reported in the press.
From a story in today's Chicago Tribune
CTA fare options that expired this week are back in place until the company that is being paid almost a half-billion dollars to manage the implementation of the new Ventra system fixes problems that have left thousands of customers frustrated, the president of the CTA said Wednesday.Yes, the operator is Cubic Transportation Systems. Yes, the CTA did pay $454 million for the new system.
The transit agency made the abrupt, if temporary, reversal in response to angry riders who this week overwhelmed a Ventra hotline in an effort to activate their new cards and in some cases have demanded their old, time-tested fare-payment choices back.
So until further notice, sales of magnetic stripe transit cards will continue at rail stations, and Chicago Card customers will be allowed to add value to their cards. But CTA President Forrest Claypool said Wednesday he is determined to stick to a Dec. 15 deadline to stop accepting the old fare cards on trains and buses.
"The security procedures, in retrospect, were a little too complicated with the access codes," Claypool said.
"That's why we are getting the confusion and that's why we got so many calls to the customer support system, which had insufficient numbers of operators," Claypool said after a CTA board meeting in which the issues with Ventra were not raised.
In response to questions on the issue, Cubic spokeswoman Kim Gregory responded: "Our policy with the CTA is to not answer media questions and refer them to the agency."
Driving from Massachusetts to New Jersey during rush hour.
The world is full of people doing things you don't like.