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August 20, 2019

"A Case of You" — Joni Mitchell

In concert at Wembley Arena in London in 1983.

August 20, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

FlightAware Misery Map

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Unfolding in real time right here.

August 20, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

On not getting my potentially life-threatening defective airbags replaced*


About five or so years ago Mercedes-Benz identified the Takata airbags in my 2010 vehicle as among those that needed to be replaced because there had been reports of the airbags spontaneously exploding and maiming or killing front seat occupants.

However, Takata had gone bankrupt and then reorganized yadda yadda yadda long story short: Mercedes did not have replacements ready, as earlier recalls of millions of defective Takata airbags in other makes were in progress and took precedence over Mercedes' relatively delayed recognition that its vehicles carried these faulty devices.

The notification letter from Mercedes said that by law they were required to notify me of the status of my replacements on an annual basis, and that they would do so.

And so every year I've received a letter from Mercedes saying my airbags need to be replaced but they don't yet have the parts.

Earlier this year my local dealer, where I purchased the car used in 2013 (last payment was in February this year w00t!), called to tell me that the replacement airbags were in.

I made an appointment and got a loaner and didn't hear from them for a couple days which was fine with me 'cause the loaner was a 2018 E350 with every bell and whistle available, a $65,000 car, and I was having a fine time putting it through its paces.

When they called again, they were apologetic: it seems Mercedes sent them the wrong replacements and they couldn't locate the correct versions, so would I please come and get my car.

No problema.

Then I got this giant fire-engine red postcard from Mercedes (above and below) saying my airbags needed to be replaced and it was urgent.

I thought, "How urgent could it be?" after the events related above.

I decided not to bring the car in instanter but rather to wait until October, when I need to bring it in anyway for its annual Virginia state inspection.

You know me: do the least possible.

But as the summer has passed, and as I drive around without the airbag exploding and maiming or killing me, it has occurred to me that if it was gonna explode, it should've done so by now.


I've been tooling around in my car quite happily and uneventfully since August of 2013 and nothing's happened.

So rather than bring the car into the dealership in October for airbag replacement and an inspection, I'm gonna choose a faster, simpler option, namely, bring the car into University Tire & Auto — where I've purchased a tire to replace a flat and where I know there won't be any upsell to get my brakes and transmission flushed like the Mercedes dealer always does — for just the inspection.

I'm gonna let the sleeping, potentially defective airbags lie in situ.

What would you do?


*Free, the way we like it

August 20, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Mystical Charms and Amulets of Pompeii

Monili Regio V foto Cesare Abbate ANSA (12)

From Atlas Obscura:

When Mount Vesuvius exploded nearly 2,000 years ago, the residents of Pompeii and Herculaneum were directly in its path.

Some fled before the explosion, others tried to shelter in place, while still more attempted to flee.

All those caught in the pyroclastic flows — fast-moving surges of toxic gas and superheated ash and rock — were killed instantly. (One study found evidence that their blood boiled and their skulls exploded.) Pliny the Younger, famed recollector of the eruption, wrote of a "thick black cloud advancing over the land behind us like a flood."

The ash encased the cities in time, and every year brings new signs of Roman life.


In Pompeii's House of the Garden, archaeologists have now uncovered a large trove of amulets, gemstones, beads, and pendants, which are believed to have served mystical purposes, alongside the remains of 10 people.

"Imagine you live in Pompeii and you don't have a cell phone," says Eric Poehler, a Pompeii historian and archaeologist at the University of Massachusetts, "and all of a sudden you realize your mom's in one part of town and you're brother's in another part. What do you do? You go home."

When the volcano burst to life, Pompeians rushed to their residences to formulate a disaster plan; they were familiar with earthquakes and more.

In the House of the Garden, down the street from the home of banker Caecilius Jucundus, 10 women and children took refuge while a storm of ash accumulated at an alarming pace and the searing flows prepared to rush down the mountainside.


"You can imagine sitting inside your house and realizing this 10-, 15-foot pile [is building] in your living room," says Poehler. "And you realize you are being buried alive."

Near these individuals was a wooden box, since disintegrated, though its metal joints remain in place.

In it was a dazzling array of cut gems and figurines.

"It's really a remarkable discovery," says Drew Wilburn of Oberlin College, a specialist in the ancient Roman practice of magic. "Finding magic and evidence of the practice of rituals like this, it's pretty uncommon."


The finds vary in size and suspected purpose.

Some are seashells, which Wilburn says symbolize fertility, and small phallic charms that were typically worn by boys to ward off evil.

Others include engraved depictions of the god Dionysus and a satyr, as well as a figure of Harpocrates, the Hellenized name for Egyptian god Horus in child form — fittingly, a god of secrets and an embodiment of hope.

Wilburn says the number of Egyptian charms in the trove is striking, even for a time when Egypt was under Roman rule.


Many of the objects are associated with health, children, and fertility.

"It's a fascinating cache in terms of showing us what these individuals were doing at this time, but also the range of objects that were used in these rituals," says Wilburn.

It's thought that the objects did not belong to the Pompeiian upper crust, because they aren't necessarily tied to the traditional Roman pantheon, and aren't made of gold—a "good proxy for wealth," Poehler says.

"If you wanted to venerate Jupiter, you could walk to the largest temple in town," he adds. "These are a collection of items that people are accessing powers outside the standard set of powers."

August 20, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Vanishing Point Fountain Pen

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From the website:

This Pilot fountain pen comes with a retractable black ionized 18k gold nib — just click to expose or retract.

A hidden trap door helps keep the nib from drying out when not in use.

A Pilot CON-40 converter is included as well as a Pilot ink cartridge.

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Its brilliant design and ingenious technology make it a pen for the new age.

A large durable metal body and attractive appointments make it unmistakably unique.

The pen is beautifully presented in a black gift box.

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August 20, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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