This blog covers everything except sports and gardening, unless we find a really good link about using dead professional bowlers for mulch. The author is a StarTribune columnist, has been passing off fiction and hyperbole as insight since 1997, has run his own website since the Jurassic era of AOL, and was online when today’s college sophomores were a year away from being born. So get off his lawn.
I expect the rain to turn to snow, something the meteorologists call a “reverse Fogelberg.” This isn’t that unusual. When did Spring ever arrive with the calendar’s definition? Besides last year. And that other year you remember. I’m always happy if the ice is gone on the sidewalk by tax time. After that, we’re owed.
Speaking of which:
MONEY Generational split: some people read this story . . . .
The words on his robbery note were spelled incorrectly, authorities said, and he was unable to articulate his demands. So the confused teller at the downtown Washington bank turned the man away, saying she couldn’t help.
The FBI says the man didn’t fare much better at a second bank three blocks away. There, authorities said, it took the teller a few moments to realize that the man standing at her window April 1 was not a customer.
. . . and instantly thought “I have a gub.”
Do I have to explain? No? Good. Anyway, the foiled robber t went to a computer at the library after that, stuck the pistol against a USB port and asked for all its Bitcoins.
Do I have to explain that? I suppose so. If you're unclear on the meaning, use, and origin of Bitcoins, this should help. No, seriously, it will. Hot off the presses, too.
Will anyone take a Bitcoin and sell you a cup of coffee? No. “Here, good fellow! Please take this is non-corporeal concept. It’s worth seventy dollars.”
"Sorry, pal, I prefer the non-corporeal concept associated with a rectangular plastic card, embossed with numbers and stamped with a recognizable logos. Semiotically speaking, those signifiers provide a reasonable reassurance I will be reimbursed in non-corporeal sums that nevertheless have been imbued with value, thanks to our shared assumptions about the current economic structure. Bitcoins may some day fill that role, but not now. So no, I won’t give you a cup of coffee for that Bitcoin."
"Yeah, well, I see why you’re going out of business."
BTW: when I read that “Caribou Shuts 80 Stores” I think “I hope they let everyone out first.” I read the story, thinking “Well, they’re closing one Minneapolis location - can ‘t be the one I go to.”
And it was. But that’s my Friday’s column.
MEMORIES Misty water-colored , etc. A look at some abandoned video stores. Why? Because the site has a guy who rounds up pictures of abandoned things, and these pictures Say Something About Us.
Once as common as the VHS and Betamax tapes they rented out, video stores these days are fading away faster than the images on a well-worn cassette someone forgot to rewind. These 10 abandoned video stores are caught between the night they closed and the day a more relevant tenant takes over the lease.
Well, Betamax tapes weren’t too common. In the early days of video-rental joints, the mix was probably 10 VHS for every Betamax. The images didn’t fade - they accumulated static and lost their crispness, so colors bloomed everywhere. And the bottom of the picture jiggled up and down. This is why I don’t lament the end of the video-rental store - now we see tape as a stop-gap technology, something we endured between vinyl and digital. Tape broke. Tape got loose. Tape got stuck. Good riddance.
A few examples in the list were big chains that went to DVDs, as if that might keep them relevant. Blockbuster and Hollywood were the big ones; there was . . .Help me out here, internet. What else? Movie Gallery, that was one. Rogers, that was another. Rogers? you ask. Yes, it surprised me, too. Rogers had something called Rogers Video Direct. They would mail you DVDs, like Netflix. It failed, because A) there was Netflix, and B) it was named Rogers.
IIRC, Rogers ran cable TV when that life-changing innovation rolled out through the Twin Cities. This is what you’d get when you ordered a movie:
Kids today have no idea how modern this felt.
I don’t miss them. I miss the trips to the video store with toldder daughter, looking for something pastel and cheerful, but otherwise, no. They were out of that movie you wanted. The carpet smelled. Likewise, some people have no warm feelings for the small motels that lined the roads before the interstate. Hard water, cold shower, cheap soap, scratchy sheets, thin towels. But those who grew up in the era of the interstate miss the old motels: signage and modern style. As in:
BUSINESS Aaannnd he’s gone:
According to a report by CNBC former Apple Retail head Ron Johnson has been fired from his position as CEO of JC Penny, a job he had taken after leaving Apple in late 2011.
Readers might remember that Ron Johnson joined Apple from Target and helped build the retail giant that Apple is today, he introduced the Genius bar and other brilliant features during his ten years with Apple.
Penney’s shares dropped 51% during his tenure. The market cap was almost halved. So it’s not as if it came as a surprise, really. Too bad: he tried to do something new in retailing, which is stop fooling people with sales. But people want to be fooled. You can’t stand in the way of herds of people who are angry that they’re not being fooled. FOOL US LIKE YOU DID BEFORE! MARK EVERYTHING DOWN 23%! Expect the stores to be retooled accordingly.
The only question is where he'll work next; no doubt he'll land on his feet.
Unless Caribou already hired him, which would explain a few things.
If you read the comments on websites - and yes, I know, there’s a prescription for misery and woe right there - you will discover that youth all over the world, particularly those in countries where job prospects are scant, and the future holds only a small flat with a hotplate for cooking, hate America because we are fat and stupid. Other countries are awesome, like Russia, because Putin is a tough guy, and other countries are awesome because they build really big things, like China. But the only thing Americans do is eat and drive around on scooters at Wal-Mart. They are very certain of this. They have heard it said on the internet.
Well: here’s what McDonald’s is serving in China.
Via Brand Eating, which has all sorts of other foods in other counties. They’re maddening, because we can’t eat these things. This is Subway in Japan:
Keep reloading and replaying. There are dozens of scenarios. Warning: there's some of this.
COMICS Who drew “Peanuts”? You know who. Everyone knows that one f the most famous and beloved strips in comic history was the work of Al Plastino.
MEANWHILE, AT 30,000 FEET This story from the Guardian contains this paragraph:
We arrived in Frankfurt, 27 hours late. "Thank you for choosing Lufthansa," said the captain. "I hope we'll see you on another Lufthansa flight some time, and that you have enjoyed your flight with us."
“Enjoyed” is an odd word to use when there was smoke in the cabin and the flight attendants were crying. Nice punchline on the story, and it makes you wonder why they don’t lay down a no-crying rule for the crew.
SCIENCE! They’ve discovered a galaxy so big it has its own new class: Giant Radio Galaxy. It’s actually a “triple galaxy system,” which gives you something else whose incomprehensible dimensions make you wonder what’s going on there. Surely at least one star has a warm wet globe where they're looking at us.
The snow made the commute less than pleasant. Your possible mood:
But if you complained about this morning’s drive, try to channel this Russian. He’s either hungover beyond the ability to care, or his temperament is so rock solid that an enormous flaming streak across the sky does not rise to the level of things about which he could give a fig.
At least it’s pretty outside. But wouldn’t you like to ride in a subway heated by the fires of hell itself?
Speaking of pretty:
APPS Expereal is a way to obsess over your emotional states. You assign numbers to your mood, and the program crunches the data to sum up your emotional temperature. You can add tags and pictures. This way, if you thought you were reasonably happy last week, and you really weren’t, you can be reminded that you were miserable.
One hitch: Facebook’s required. Goodbye! I have Facebook and I use Facebook, but there’s no reason to require it to run a program. It’s turning into the Mark of the Beast, it is.
URP I haven’t read the Atlantic magazine in a long time, but the website is turning into something quite useful. Today: “59% of the ‘Tuna’ Americans Eat Is Not Tuna.” Whoa:
In Chicago, Austin, New York, and Washington DC, every single sushi restaurant sampled sold mislabeled tuna.
84% of fish samples labeled "white tuna" were actually escolar, a fish that can cause prolonged, uncontrollable, oily anal leakage.
Those last three words are a link in the original story, and may be today’s winner for “things no one clicked, but actually caused them to back out of the page with a keyboard command lest their pointed inadvertently launch the link.”
Well. I clicked on it, so you don’t have to. Here’s the explanation:
Escolar is a type of snake mackerel that cannot metabolize the wax esters naturally found in its diet. These esters are called gempylotoxin, and are very similar to castor or mineral oil.
There you go. Literally. When I was a kid I remember cartoons of kids being forced to take castor oil, something that was dreaded and loathed.
At least it's not horsemeat. Yet.
A Chinese shipyard has formed a panel and upgraded its facilities to prepare for the construction of a replica of the Titanic for an Australian billionaire. According to the State-owned CSC Jinling Shipyard Co Ltd in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, it will take three years to build the luxury liner.
It will sail from England to North America on its maiden voyage, of course. If it does encounter difficulties and everyone has to go to the lifeboats, will anyone believe the announcements? Or will they think it’s part of the package?
Of course, the ship will have sufficient lifeboats - and that’s the twist. It’s not a replica if it has onboard internet. It’s not a replica unless the third-class rooms look like this.
Four to a room with no bathroom or shower. It’s not a replica unless the menu has things like Cold Leek Consumme and Poached Quail in Aspic or other dishes of the era. It’s not a replica if there are lifeboats for everyone.
I think people may be surprised how small it seems, compared to today’s vessels.
SCIENCE! No one wants to be unaware of the consequences of over-medicated perch. Don’t worry. The Swede are on it:
Researchers in Sweden exposed wild European perch to water with different concentrations of Oxazepam, an anti-anxiety medication that can show up in waterways after being flushed, excreted or discarded.
Researchers reported that fish exposed to Oxazepam became less social, more active and ate faster, behaviors they said could have long-term consequences for aquatic ecosystems.
Because even the lowest concentration of Oxazepam in the study was higher than that found in a Swedish waterway that researchers tested, “the relevance of their study to the real world is unclear,” the United States Environmental Protection Agency said in written answers to questions.
That’s the NYTimes. The WSJ version, which I’m quoting from the paper version:
Typically, all kinds of drugs get into the water supply qhen people flush unneeded medication down toilets or pass trace amounts in urine.
I’m not saying the drug might be overprescribed or handed out a bit too easily, but when the behavior of fish is altered because enough people are peeing metabolized residue, well, let’s say a lot of people must be on the stuff. Perhaps we could do something about the zebra mussel by pumping Viagra into their breeding grounds. They couldn’t swim. They’d just float around like decks of cards, tumbling and sinking.
That's it a column to write and a My Minnesota to do. But as long as we began with an animated GIF, here’s one I found at Gliphy. Hope this is the absolute antithesis of the rest of your day.
Okay, one more. However your winter day unfolds, chances are it won't be like this.
Here’s an idea for a great movie - Orson Welles goes back in time to talk to H. G. Wells about “War of the Worlds”! Except A) he wouldn’t need to go back in time, and B) they did talk, and C) here it is. Orson should sound familiar. Nothing prepares you for how H. G. sounds.
MOVIES Provocative headline of the day: Did the U.S. Air Force Ask Walt Disney to Make a Movie Revealing That UFOs Are Real?
. . . around 1955 or 1956 Walt Disney was contacted by the USAF (United States Air Force) and asked to produce a documentary about UFOs that included USAF-shot footage proving the existence of real UFOs. At the time the USAF had promised to give Kimball and Disney this footage to include in the documentary, and the idea was that this sort of news would be received better if it was coming from the family-friendly Disney, who was no stranger to working with the military having produced propaganda videos during World War II.
So Disney went ahead and began creating the documentary, tasking his animators with coming up with a concept for what an alien would look like, but when it came time to insert the real footage the Air Force rescinded its initial offer, all but squashing the documentary. Apparently it just didn't think the world was ready, despite Kimball being told that there was "plenty of UFO footage" by Air Force officials.
If that’s not odd enough, Jonathan Winters gets into the mix.
WEB Wouldn’t it be great if your Facebook emoticons were hand-drawn by a Pixar artist?
Nah, you say, that’s too loose and clever for the rigid look of Facebook. Well, it’s happening.
FOOD No horsemeat news today. It’s worse.
John Alleman, a 52-year-old unofficial spokesman for Las Vegas's death-happy Heart Attack Grill, has died after suffering — yup — a heart attack. Alleman reportedly ate at the restaurant nearly every day, despite owner "Doctor Jon" Basso's warnings that Triple Bypass Burgers really weren't everyday food.
I wouldn’t call it “death happy,” but this isn’t the first time.
In March 2011, the 575-pound official spokesman for the restaurant's original Arizona location died at the age of 29, just four months after taking the job. In February 2012, a man in his forties went into cardiac arrest while trying to finish a Triple Bypass Burger, and was wheeled out to an ambulance.
How many calories does the burger have? Guess. Then click.
That's it for today; busy with stuff. The sort of stuff that makse you busy. See you around.
Take a look at this character. Whose voice would sound right coming out of this design?
Answer at the end.
LANGUAGE This New York Times story on coffee-bar lingo is actually a graphic, so it cannot be copied and pasted. But here are some examples from Simon Sips, in New York City.
“SIPSTERS: Local customers. (Also, hipsters who insist on porcelain rather than to-go cups.”
Are your teeth on edge yet? No?
TOP MY HOP Toping off the hopper with espresso beans. (“Hey, can you top my hop?”)
Still in a good mood? Here’s some lingo from Abraco Espresso:
Bert & Ernie . . . cream and sugar
Special Day . . . sugar only
Man’s Drink . . . . iced latte with sugar
Little Jeffy . . . . small drip coffee
If a coffeeshop requires you to say “I’d like a Little Jeffy” to get a bleeping cup of coffee, then go somewhere else. And now, the most unbearable line of tem all, from an Olympia WA roasting company:
To be falling in love with (or especialy font of) a particular type of espresso. “She is having a ‘SPRO-MANCE with the single origin Ethopia Worka Espresso.”
I believe you are entitled to slap anyone who uses that phrase seriously. I believe it is necessary. You must stand quickly, as though alerted to great peril, and slap the speaker. Not enough to leave a mark, but enough to shake them up a little. “Why did you do that?” “Because you said a very stupid word and you should not say it again.”
Of course, no one would say it seriously. These are words you say with wiggled eyebrows to let everyone know it’s a joke.
That said: there’s some serious restaurant lingo in there, and you’ll find some local brandnames you could say without feeling completely foolish. Like “Canadian” for a decaf Americano.
NIGHTMARE FUEL Necessary to the ecosystem as insects may be, I can do without them. You know those pictures where a guy’s grinning as a two-foot walking stick sits on his arm? The opposite of that picture is me. But some insect pictures are fascinating, as long as there’s not too much hair and too many eyeballs. This moth might be trying to make a face to deter predators. On the other hand, it was doing a magnificent job of warning predators when it was a caterpillar. Just take a look at this thing. Go on. No? Okay, a hint.
If it wasn't Australian you'd think it had been mutated by drinking water outside of a Starburst factory. Here's the whole thing.
What’s that, you say? You love insects? Fine. Here’s a shower of spiders raining down in Brazil. Happy now?
RETAIL Penney’s, says this Forbes contributor, was the most “interesting retailer” of 2012, mostly because it went into a death-spiral at Mach 3:
In just one year, J.C. Penney lost more than half its market value or $5 billion in market capitalization. It’s debt rating cut to junk status. For the first nine months of J.C. Penney’s fiscal year ending October 27, 2012, the retailer saw sales decline 23.1%, gross margin drop 31.4% and comparable store sales drop 22.3%. Worse still, net income fell more 100% from the prior year. That’s right, income declined more than 100% during J.C. Penney’s first three quarters combined compared to the same period a year earlier.
Why? Because they gave up sales, and stuck with one price. None of this Presidents’ Day sale nonsense where the price is 20% off the pre-sale price, which was 15% more than the 7% markdown after the post-Christmas inventory blowout sale, although if you had a coupon AND used your ShoppersReward card you could get points that would give you an additional 5% savings off non-discounted items.
People love that stuff. You can’t take it away. They feel cheated. So this is what Penney's learned: its customers are idiots. If you tell them “all that sale stuff is hooey. It’s our way of bamboozling the innumerate. From now on, one price all the time! You don’t have to wait a week for some ginned-up event like Mid-March Irish-Hued Early Spring Madness to get the price lowered!” they will stare like cows asked to do calculus. They want to be bamboozled.
In case you’ve forgotten about the downtown Penneys, it looked like this, once upon a time:
Underneath all that beige metal was this, the old Syndicate Block:
TRAILERSThe comments for this Monsters Inc prequel say it gives away 2/3rds of the movie. Watch at your own peril.
I’m looking forward to this one, and have no idea why I would want to know the story before going in.
Visual non-spoiler: I asked whose voice you could imagine coming from this new Pixar character.
OOPS Always fun when a DM goes public. Major Garrett has Twitter wondering what he meant by this Tweet, and what, exactly, constitutes “Shirty business.” Warning: naughty language. But at least he didn’t say “‘Spro-mance.”