Holding Hands and Demonstrating 

Wednesday, October 5th, 2022

Speaking of nonsense, friend-of-the-site Chris D. alerted me to a terribly stupid argument New York and New Jersey are having over automated enforcement of traffic laws.

A little background: At present, over 1/3 of American states ban the use of red light and speed cameras. There are many good reasons for this, including issues with privacy and due process, as well as perverse incentives for local governments (such as shortening yellow light times to be able to issue more red light violations and collect more fines). Like my own state of Massachusetts1, New Jersey bans automated enforcement. They’re now considering extending that idea with a proposed bill that would prevent the state government from sharing information with other states that do use automated enforcement.

That brings us back to the aforementioned nonsense. In retaliation for New Jersey potentially refusing to share driver information, New York state legislators are proposing a not-particularly-serious $50 fee for NJ drivers to enter New York. New Jersey legislators are countering with an even-less-serious proposal for a $100 fee for New Yorkers to drive into New Jersey. It’s all quite dumb, as New Jersey state Senator Declan O’Scanlon notes:

“It’s one of the dumbest ideas I’ve ever heard. It will drive more people away from a city desperately trying to recover from COVID,” O’Scanlon told NJ Advance Media. “New Jersey bans automated enforcement because we know it doesn’t improve safety and is theft.”

O’Scanlon said New Jersey lawmakers could retaliate by proposing a $100 fee for New Yorkers to enter New Jersey. “It’s toll to enter NYC. If they want to go down this path … we’ll propose our own fee,” he said. “Let’s hold hands and demonstrate how stupid we are.”

That is an option, but it’s probably not the best one.


Footnotes:

  1. While I’m very wary of the use of automated enforcement, Massachusetts has a very real and very dangerous problem with red light running. It’s the single biggest difference I notice driving here versus other places, and I sure do wish we could manage to correct it. ↩︎

The Latest Twitter-Musk Nonsense 

Tuesday, October 4th, 2022

Back in April, world’s richest man/internet clown Elon Musk signed a deal to purchase Twitter for $54.20 a share (That’s a weed joke). Not long after, he declared the deal “on hold”, which is not a thing. He then repeatedly attempted to terminate the deal for what would charitably be called “nonsense reasons”. Twitter wanted to go through with the deal, and so has sought to hold him to it. Reuters has a solid timeline of the events to date.

Now, shortly before a trial is set to begin, Musk has decided he is in fact willing to complete the purchase. Slate has a brief look at why Musk might have changed his mind. Just a heads-up, it’s all very stupid. In particular, the texts that have thus far been revealed in the run-up to the trial are so bad I had to stop reading them, lest I die of second-hand embarrassment.

Fat Bear Week Draws Near 

Monday, October 3rd, 2022

Last year, I was only able to tell you about Fat Bear Week after it had concluded. This year, I had a reminder to find it for you ahead of time. Some preliminary contests have already taken place, but Fat Bear Week 2022 officially starts Wednesday. Get ready to place your bets!

This is a single elimination tournament. For each match-up, vote for the bear you believe best exemplifies fatness. The bear with the most votes advances to the next round. Only one will be crowned champion of Fat Bear Week.

Voting begins in just two days. I can hardly wait!

The Future Is Here and It’s Awful 

Friday, September 30th, 2022

I have approximately no desire to go to Walmart in the real world, so the odds of me visiting Walmart in the regrettable metaverse are very long indeed.

Screenshot from Walmart’s risible video presentation
A screenshot of a truly risible Walmart presentation inside Roblox1

Personally, my hope is that “the metaverse” is the 2020s version of 3D TV: Massively hyped and an utter commercial failure. Bonus points if it bankrupts Facebook Meta on the way down.


Footnotes:

  1. The video is archived here. ↩︎

No One Seems to Have Cake

Thursday, September 29th, 2022

On Monday, I showed you some recent text messages with a wrong number. At the time, I believed a confused person had message the wrong phone number while trying to reach a friend. In fact, I created a whole imagined scenario.

In my mind, Linda (the intended recipient) and Ruth (the confused Floridian sender) were long-estranged sisters who had recently taken tentative steps towards a reconciliation. Ruth magnanimously attempted to ask Linda to her party. But as a result of my responses, Ruth now thinks Linda is only willing to come if there is cake, and she is simply aghast.

My pal Stephen H. put a bit of a damper on this amusing fantasy, however, when he told me he had previously received a similar text. In his words, “I’ve gotten the birthday SMS spam as well. It starts with cake but I assume it ends with you texting your social security number to a stranger”. Though I expressed that I hoped it was indeed a real message and that my hijinks were not simply received by a bot or spammer, the very next day, the illusion was shattered. It was then that I received the same text from three additional numbers.

Stranger sez: Will you be free to come to my birthday party next Friday?; Paul sez: Will there be cake?;

Stranger sez: Will you be free to come to my birthday party next Friday?; Paul sez: Aw, 💩, I’m busy Friday. Can we reschedule your birthday?;

Stranger sez: Will you be free to come to my birthday party next Friday?; Paul sez: Time is an artificial construct. Birthdays are not real.;

I can’t explain why I got three more of these in quick succession. It’s possible a prank was being played on me by one or more OFT readers, but spam seems the most likely scenario. Wherever the truth lies, no one ever responded to me, and I never got any cake.

One Helluva Grudge 

Wednesday, September 28th, 2022

A hat tip to friend-of-the-site David S., who passed along this gross, goofy story of a man urinating on the grave of his ex-wife, from whom he’s been divorced for almost half a century.

Camera timestamps showed the man coming to grave while his wife waited in the car around 6:15 a.m. for four consecutive days last week.

I can’t imagine what this goof told his current wife he was doing, and I’d really love to know.

Cheers to You, Sam Adams

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

Today marks the 300th anniversary of Samuel Adams’s birth. More than just a brewer (maybe), Adams was a politician and Founding Father of America. In that capacity, he wrote in favor of resistance to the British rule over the colonies. Earlier this morning, I came upon a particularly stupendous quote of his which I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since:

Copley’s portrait of Samuel Adams, with the text of the quote embedded: If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.

Telling those siding with the Crown “may posterity forget ye were our countrymen” is just so gracefully vicious. To my modern ears, the “ye”s make it all that much more cutting, but it was surely devastating even back in 1776. Happy Birthday, Sam, you fantastic firebrand. I’ll have a beer in your honor.

Text Messages With a Wrong Number

Monday, September 26th, 2022

Occasionally, my funniest writing is done in wrong number text message threads:

Stranger sez: Will you be free to come to my birthday party next Friday; Paul sez: Will there be cake?; Stranger sez: You're kidding, Linda; Paul sez: I never kid about cake.

Though I hoped for more confusion upon which to riff, that was the end of this brief but amusing conversation with a mixed-up Floridian.

We Don’t Need Robots for This 

Friday, September 23rd, 2022

Delivery food is seldom particularly good, but it’s grown enormously popular in recent years, in no small part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, pools of workers bustle around cities for companies like Grubhub and Uber Eats, delivering food from dozens of different restaurants. This army was already strange, but Los Angeles has one-upped it., with multiple companies using robots to carry out these deliveries:

Over the last two years, a handful of delivery robot companies have popped up in Los Angeles, which are essentially remotely piloted (or autonomous, in some cases) cooler-shaped chests on wheels. The issues associated with these robots vary: In Santa Monica, a company called Coco has basically turned food delivery into a video game. Delivery “drivers” pilot the robots remotely, using an Xbox controller and using a series of cameras to help guide them. Serve Robotics explains that its robots operate with “Level 4 autonomy,” meaning they are fully autonomous in certain areas.

The linked article is actually about one of these robots driving through an active crime scene, which is not great! But really, the idea of sidewalks crowded with delivery robots moving autonomously or piloted by unseen humans seems terrible all on its own.

Might Someone Out Taco the Bell? 

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

OK, sure, Taco Bell has the Mexican pizza. But do you know about Pizza Hut’s Italian taco?