This story has been at the top of Google News for hours, and every time I see it I read it as “Expensive Agenda.”
This story has been at the top of Google News for hours, and every time I see it I read it as “Expensive Agenda.”
Drunkblogging tonight’s State of the Union Address will begin at about 8:45PM Eastern. Check in at the PJMedia home page for the hottest and freshest link. We have a new liveblogging system that’s supposed to keep our servers from melting down, but we haven’t yet had the chance to test it against my liver.
Afterwards, I’ll deliver the Drunk Response to Rand Paul’s Tea Party response to Marco Rubio’s GOP response to the President’s speech.
The New Normal keeps getting weirder.
The saddest story you will read all day:
Maker’s Mark is getting a little less boozy.
The bourbon producer, known for its signature red wax-sealed bottles, is watering down its whiskey in an effort to meet rising global demand.
The change was first announced in a letter from company executives to loyal customers.
“Fact is, demand for our bourbon is exceeding our ability to make it, which means we’re running very low on supply,” wrote Rob Samuels, the company COO.
Samuels said that “after looking at all possible solutions,” the company was reducing alcohol by volume by 3%.
Fact is, all liquor is watered down.
The stuff in the casks is a much higher proof (typically close to 50% ABV) than the stuff in the bottles (typically 40-46% ABV, depending on the booze and the brand). Distilleries add water during the bottling process to even out the proof, since the alcohol will evaporate at different rates out of different casks. Ideally, the distillery will use the same water used to make the booze in the first place, so no foreign flavors are introduced.
This is why “cask-strength” Scotch confuses me. You’re going to have to water the stuff down a bit to make it palatable, and odds are you won’t have access to the same stuff from that one particular stream in the Scottish highlands or wherever.
What Maker’s is doing is adding more water when they move the stuff from cask to bottle — almost 7% more. You’ll want to add one less ice cube to your rocks glass, or a smaller splash of water, or use a little less sugar & bitters in your Old Fashioned. Because what Maker’s has effectively done here is to sell you 7% less booze in the same size bottle for the same amount of money.
To which I say: I’d take a Bulleit for Maker’s Mark.
S*** just got real between China and North Korea:
North Korean and Chinese officials are still haggling over what to do in response to China’s unprecedented vote to back UN condemnation of North Korean nuclear weapons development and what appears to be preparations for a third nuclear weapons test. China has made it clear, and very public, that such a test would result in less aid from China. That’s serious for North Korea, which is undergoing a famine and severe energy shortage. China is North Korea’s major aid donor and trading partner. Most North Korean exports are illegal items (weapons, drugs, counterfeit currency) that can only be moved to foreign customers because of Chinese cooperation. China wants North Korea to fix its economy with reforms (more free market activity, which saved China three decades ago). But the North Koreans only pay lip service to the economic reforms and instead move ahead in developing nuclear weapons and believing their own propaganda about what a swell country they are. The Chinese UN vote may also indicate that the Chinese will finally execute an option they have been working on for over a decade; backing a coup in North Korea by pro-Chinese officials. North Koreans are aware of these rumors and in the last year many senior officials were forcibly retired (or executed). While presented as an effort to get some younger leaders into action, it also appeared to be a purge of people with questionable loyalties (real or imagined.)
I’ve written many times going back many years that things won’t end well for North Korea. The country may live on for decades more before reunification, but the Kimocracy is doomed.
What intrigues me most is the set that looks like MSNBC circa 1998.
Sarah Hoyt, that is, with a must-read essay on our long national malaise:
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and – to quote Heinlein – keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark. Metaphorically, at least.
I’m not going to tell you how to prepare for physical survival. It would be stupid. There are far better informed people. I do wish womeone who can’t eat carbs – for reasons other than diet – would have a list, though, since our storage is whimsical, to put it mildly.
What I’m going to tell you is how to keep yourself from being a depressed pile of mush, in the meanwhile. Because – trust me, I’m by nature a depressive, and I KNOW – if you are a depressed pile of mush, you won’t think clearly in an emergency; you won’t react quickly in a life threatening situation; you won’t take advantage of something getting unexpectedly better; and you WON’T survive, no matter how many plans you’ve made.
Read the whole thing.
CAUTION: Elvis and New Wave do not mix. Except when Billy Idol does it.
Synthesizers? Check. Elvis delivery? Check. Dry-humping the stage floor? Check.
This one came out the summer after my Junior year of high school, but St. Louis radio stations just weren’t playing it often enough for my tastes. A quick walk to West End Wax and seven dollars later, and I had the album. Cassette, actually. Wore it out before I became a Senior.
In a comprehensive six-year study of the mammalian family tree, scientists have identified and reconstructed what they say is the most likely common ancestor of the many species on the most abundant and diverse branch of that tree — the branch of creatures that nourish their young in utero through a placenta. The work appears to support the view that in the global extinctions some 66 million years ago, all non-avian dinosaurs had to die for mammals to flourish.
Scientists had been searching for just such a common genealogical link and have found it in a lowly occupant of the fossil record, Protungulatum donnae, that until now has been so obscure that it lacks a colloquial nickname. But as researchers reported Thursday in the journal Science, the animal had several anatomical characteristics for live births that anticipated all placental mammals and led to some 5,400 living species, from shrews to elephants, bats to whales, cats to dogs and, not least, humans.
They have got to come up with a better name than “Protungulatum donnae.”
RELATED: Dinosaurs went extinct immediately following Mexico asteroid impact. It wasn’t the only factor in their demise, but new dating techniques have the timing down to “a gnat’s eyebrow.”
Wiggle aside, Hooters — there are new breastaurants in town:
Next month, the Tilted Kilt Pub & Eatery will open in Hallandale Beach with Tilted Kilt Girls sporting mini-kilts, midriff-baring white tops, and stockings.
And a group of Weston restaurateurs have signed an agreement to open 10 Twin Peaks.The main attraction at the restaurants themed as mountain-sports lodges are the “Lumber Jills,” serving in khaki shorts and red plaid tops. They bare their midriffs, too.
Owners of the specialty themed restaurants say the servers are entertainers. Breastaurants don’t hire their employees, they audition and cast them, said Joe Sloboda, a restaurateur behind the upcoming Twin Peaks South Florida franchise.
“We want to make sure people on our team will fit the role, with the right personality, the right skill-set,” he said. For example, the Tilted Kilt announced it will hold “casting calls,” this weekend from 12-5 p.m. for “all roles.’
I love this next bit, to which I’ve added a few extra bits in bold:
“Initially, customers are drawn in for the girls [who are all hot chicks],” Hanby said. “But what keeps them coming back is the great food [served by hot chicks], the selection of drinks [also served by hot chicks] and the unbeatable atmosphere [hot chicks].” he said.
Pretty girls serving OK food is nothing new. It might even be one of the oldest restaurant concepts. And it’s all innocent fun. When my wife wants hot wings, and I have to remind her that it’s a 12-hour drive to Culpepper’s (I used to walk there in ten minutes; sigh), she’s the one to suggest Hooter’s.
But how much room is there for the concept to grow? It’s a bit like Las Vegas. Having one Vegas (and it’s developmentally-disabled kid brother, Atlantic City) is great. But if every big city tried to do what Vegas does, they’d go broke — and possibly ruin it for Vegas, too. And there’s an upper limit on how many pretty young women have the looks, personality, and willingness to do the work.
I wish these new places luck — it’s a tough industry, even with scantily-clad servers. But we might be hitting saturation in this particular market.
A seven-inch gaming tablet for $250? It will comes down to the games — it always does — but this thing could be a killer. Read:
It’s smaller, the company says, but no less powerful — it’s keeping the Tegra 3 GPU the original build promised, not to mention 1GB of DDR3 RAM, 16GB of Flash memory, a 2-megapixel front facing camera and a 1,280 x 800 resolution display.
Wikipad’s President of sales, Fraser Townley, told us the gamepad design hasn’t changed much either. “We took the pinball wizard approach,” he said. “We made everybody in the room shut their eyes, and try the controllers. It’s not about the look, it’s about the feel. Once we got the feel right, then we could worry about the look. That’s how the ten inch was born, and that’s how the seven inch stayed the same.” The attachment boasts new buttons (now labeled a, b, x and y) with a chrome finish, but seems otherwise unchanged. Wikipad is mum on specific availability, but we’re told we can expect to hear more after Chinese New Year.
Could be the must-have Christmas gift for 2013.
Yes, our own Roger L. Simon is stepping down as CEO of PJMedia — but thankfully sticking around as “Roger the Writer” at the PJM home page and The Tatler.
Let me tell you briefly what kind of boss he was.
In PJ’s early days, we weren’t much more than a collection of bloggers with an ad network. As the company was preparing to launch, and I had no idea anything was going on, my phone rang one afternoon. I was immediately annoyed, because I don’t like to talk on the phone. But I picked it up anyway. The conversation went like this.
“Stephen? How are you? Great. Listen, it’s Roger Simon. Did you get the contract we emailed you last week?”
I’m already liking this guy, because he’s getting right to the point and not wasting my phone. Also, I knew him from his blog and a couple of his mystery novels. “I don’t know, Roger. I delete an awful lot of stuff. What is it?”
“We’re starting a blogger network, and we want you to be a part of it.”
“What do I do?”
“You keep doing exactly what you’re doing, and we put some ads on your page. Four times a year, we send you some money.”
“How much money?”
“That’s still more than I’m making now. Send the contract again and I’ll take a look.”
That’s how the whole thing started, with a quick phone call one summer day in 2005.
The next year was when my thyroid went nuts the first time, and I stopped blogging. I was so hyper and so angry and so depressed, I had absolutely nothing of interest to say. You might argue that I still don’t, but I was so depressed even I knew it. I never posted an “I’m sick” explanation, never called Roger, never said a word — just stopped blogging for six months. But I (ahem) did keep cashing the checks.
I’d broken the terms of my contract. PJMedia, Roger, had no reason to keep paying me. And 18 months later, when PJTV was born, he certainly took a risk bringing me on for an expanded role with the company. But he did.
Any boss who stands by you through that kind of thing is good people, a mensch. That’s the guy I’ve worked for and with these past seven years. And now that he’s laid aside the CEO mantle, I really wish he’d get to work on a new Moses Wine novel.
Hint, hint, Roger!
News your great-great-grandkids can use:
Earth-like worlds may be closer and more plentiful than anyone imagined.
Astronomers reported Wednesday that the nearest Earth-like planet may be just 13 light-years away — or some 77 trillion miles. That planet hasn’t been found yet, but should be there based on the team’s study of red dwarf stars.
Galactically speaking, that’s right next door.
Road trip, anyone?
About thirty years ago, my grandfather gave the keynote address at an Association of Steel Distributors conference. It was called, “Once Upon a Time There Was a Place Called ‘America’.” Moving speech, and I believe a very new congressman named Dick Armey was in attendance. The premise, as you may have already guessed, was that the circumstances that allowed for America’s birth were unique, unrepeatable. That if we piss it away, there’s no recreating the magic.
Yeah, new planets.
That’s one of the things that hooked me into Robert Heinlein’s Lazarus Long tales. Each new planet had to be colonized, and each new one settled by English-speakers had a little spark of America in it — while the Real America went just as crazy as the rest of dying Old Earth.
So please, keep finding more and closer planets. And faster — because I’m becoming increasingly certain that we’ve run out of time to avoid my grandfather’s warning.
As a guy who enjoys his Xbox sometimes, I’m hoping this report is wrong:
Microsoft’s next console will require an Internet connection in order to function, ruling out a second-hand game market for the platform. A new iteration of Xbox Live will be an integral part of Microsoft’s next console, while improved Kinect hardware will also ship alongside the unit.
Sources with first-hand experience of Microsoft’s next generation console have told us that although the next Xbox will be absolutely committed to online functionality, games will still be made available to purchase in physical form. Next Xbox games will be manufactured on 50GB-capacity Blu-ray discs, Microsoft having conceded defeat to Sony following its ill-fated backing of the HD-DVD format. It is believed that games purchased on disc will ship with activation codes, and will have no value beyond the initial user.
A lot of games are purchased by kids and young adults without a lot of money to spend. They finance new game purchases in part by selling their used games. If MS really does intend to kill off the secondary market, they seriously screwing some of their most devoted customers.
We accept that games we download digitally have no resale value for a couple simple reasons. First, they cost less. A lot less. Many are free, the majority are just a few dollars, and most of the top-end games top out at about $10. New Xbox games go for $50 or $60. But you can make up some of the difference by taking your used disc down to GameStop for cash or store credit.
Digital downloads are also easily ported between your devices. Buy a game on your iPad, and it can be automatically downloaded to your iPhone. Or vice versa. And it’s long been assumed that Apple will be bringing App Store functionality to Apple TV. One purchase, one manual download, up to three different kinds of devices. What’s not to love?
And on your Mac or Windows PC, digital downloads aren’t your only choice. You can guy something from the Apple’s or Microsoft’s app store, and accept the limitations imposed. Or you can buy it on disc and maintain more control. Will you give up some features for a lower price and the convenience of a digital download? Your dollars, your choice.
But if Microsoft takes away that choice — if they impose digital purchase constraints on expensive, physical media — then they might just alienate enough customers to lose money in the bargain. And that’s why I doubt this report is correct.
Then again, Steve Ballmer seems like the kind of guy who would cut open the golden goose with a rusty spoon, just to get one last egg that much faster.
Windows Phone 8 is now the number-three of American smartphones:
“Microsoft Windows Phone overtook BlackBerry OS to become the third largest smartphone platform in the influential United States market during Q4 2012,” reported Strategy Analytics. “It was the first time Microsoft has surpassed BlackBerry since 2006.”
Microsoft achieved this remarkable feat with less than 3% marketshare. So bragging about this is like bragging about owning the third-tallest building in Tulsa.
The United States Post Office has a problem: It’s a dinosaur. And I don’t mean one of those Jurassic Park-style T-Rexes that can run 30 miles an hour. I mean what we used to think of as dinosaurs — huge, lumbering beasts that had to live in deep swamps because their legs couldn’t support their own weight. USPS owns eleventy-billion trucks and employs eleventy-billion union workers, all to deliver a product nobody wants.
Seriously. Everybody loves getting a letter, but hardly anyone sends them anymore. We have email for that, and we use it a lot more than we ever used paper mail. So how does USPS keep all those employees busy? What do they deliver with all those trucks?
Junk mail. Tons and tons and increasing tons of it. They keep the prices low so the junk mailers will mail more and more junk. Because you’ve got to keep the workers unionized and the trucks running.
There’s a lesson here: Lower your prices and see demand increase. How about them apples?
In my living memory, I’ve seen the price of a first-class stamp — the kind you put on one of those letters nobody sends anymore — rise from eight cents all the way up to 46 cents, with the most recent hike coming just last month. That’s keeping almost perfectly with inflation, so it’s not like USPS has been ruthlessly jacking up prices. But in the face of decreased demand, they’ve held prices steady. You and I aren’t accorded the same smart marketing provided to bulk coupon distributors. Instead, the USPS seems ruthlessly determined to force us all into becoming the unwitting middle men in a vast landfill-filling conspiracy.
Obviously then, the next logical step is to cut back on services:
With a $16 billion dollar loss and, at one point last year, down to just four days of available cash, there’s no doubt that something has to be done at the United States Postal Service. That forecase came Wednesday, as the USPS announced it would end Saturday mail delivery beginning in August of 2013.
Hey, if maintaining prices didn’t help boost demand, maybe providing less service will do the trick. There’s just one teensy little problem in this otherwise brilliant scheme — the Post Office doesn’t have the legal authority to stop Saturday deliveries; they need permission from Congress.