Dead man, struck down in 19th century feud, gets last word

Railroad cut 2015 028

A standard precept of law is that one can’t libel the dead. It stands to reason then that one can’t sue the dead for libel, either.

In pastoral Restland Cemetery in Bamberg, SC, lie the remains of Charles F. Jones. A gravestone erected by his parents reads, “Son / Charles Franklin Jones / Murdered by T. Heber Wannamaker and W.W. Wannamaker / June 22, 1897”

The facts, at least as described in late 19th century newspapers, provide a different account.

According to a New York Times’ report filed June 23, 1897, Thomas Heber Wannamaker, a South Carolina businessman, killed Jones in self-defense.

The incident came about as a result of bad blood that developed following a murder trial two years earlier.

In that case, Dan C. Murphy was convicted of gunning down Robert Copes, the treasurer of Orangeburg, SC. During the trial, Wannamaker was called to testify to the character of Jones, who had served as a special detective in the case, with Wannamaker delivering an unflattering appraisal.

From that point forward, Jones expressed a determination to seek revenge on Wannamaker whenever the opportunity presented itself, according to the Times.

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Professional baseball team peddles tickets for 4 cents apiece

blue rocks

Opening Day for the Wilmington (Del.) Blue Rocks is still two months away, but Mother Nature didn’t do the Class A minor league baseball team any favors this week.

As a promotional offer, tickets for Blue Rocks’ first home game were aligned with the temperature. Whatever the thermostat read when the box office opened at 8 a.m. Monday, that’s what fans would pay for a ticket for the club’s April 16 home opener.

With the recent cold snap that’s moved through much of the Eastern United States recently, the temperature in Wilmington Monday morning was 4 degrees.

As a result, fans could snap up groups of eight tickets, which normally range for $48 to $88 total, for 32 cents in all, a discount of more than 99 percent, according to ESPN.

“It’s really cold here, and we want to get the fans thinking about us,” said Stefani Rash, director of tickets for the Carolina League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.

Fans could also order tickets by phone and through the Internet, although they were charged a $5 handling fee.

The Blue Rocks sold about 3,600 Opening Day seats, and more than 200 fans took advantage of the chance to buy eight tickets for a grand total of 32 cents.

This is the second year that the Blue Rocks have held the promotion. Last year the price was 20 cents a ticket, ESPN reported.

Although the team leaves money on the table in the short term, the promotion ensues that fans experience the ballpark on the first day it’s open, Rash said.

If the temperature had dropped to zero or below, the club would have given out tickets for free, according to Rash.

(Top: Wilmington Blue Rocks in action during a game in which a ticket promotion was apparently not being utilized.)

An unintended consequence of minimum-wage laws

Borderlands Exterior

Borderlands Books is a privately owned San Francisco bookstore that has been in operation for nearly 20 years.

Concentrating on science fiction, fantasy, mystery and horror works, Borderlands has overcome a number of challenges since opening in 1997: a 100 percent bump in rent in 2000; the trend toward online sales; the increasing popularity of ebooks; and the impact of the Great Recession.

Still, according to store officials, Borderlands managed to overcome each of the trials. In fact, last year was the best the store had enjoyed.

“At the beginning of 2014, the future of the business looked, if not rosy, at least stable and very positive,” Borderlands officials wrote on the store’s website. “We were not in debt, sales were meeting expenses and even allowing a small profit, and, perhaps most importantly, the staff and procedures at both the bookstore and the cafe were well established and working smoothly.”

Despite that, Borderlands recently announced it would be closing, by March 31 at the latest.

The reason? Last November San Francisco voters, out of touch with the realities of running a business, overwhelmingly passed a measure that will increase the minimum wage within the city to $15 an hour by 2018.

Borderlands Books as it exists cannot remain financially viable in light of increased minimum wages, according to the store website.

Unlike some businesses, bookstores are hindered in their ability to adjust for rising costs.

There’s a limit to how much a bookstore can increase book prices because publishers set prices. In addition, companies such as Amazon.com have siphoned off consumers from brick-and-mortar bookstores and made it more difficult to get them to pay retail.

In other words, adjusting prices upward to cover increased wage costs isn’t an option for Borderlands.

The change in the minimum wage will see Borderlands’ payroll jump nearly 40 percent. That will result in total operating expenses being bumped up by 18 percent. For Borderlands to offset that expense, it would need to increase sales by a minimum of 20 percent, which it doesn’t see as realistic.

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Imploding buildings are nothing more than male catnip

One of the great mysteries of genetics is where exactly on the Y chromosome does the unfettered enjoyment of all things explosive reside.

Whether it’s imploding buildings, the sinking of obsolete ships or something as simple as blasting an anvil into the air, most males will admit to an innate delight at seeing things blown up. (Of course, whether individuals take added delight in seeing living creatures harmed in said explosions is a good way to ferret out sociopaths from the average guy.)

That said, watching imploding buildings and exploding ships on YouTube would seem to be to males what videos of kittens and cute toddlers are to many women.

Don’t tell me there isn’t a McArthur Fellowship waiting for the individual who can determine where on the human genome the difference resides.

The above implosion took place Wednesday at Sparrows Point Terminal in Baltimore.

The former Bethlehem Steel L-furnace, which stood 32 stories tall, weighed more than 11 million pounds and was the largest furnace in the western hemisphere, was brought down to make way for new businesses and Port of Baltimore-related development.

The demolition was handled by Baltimore-based Controlled Demolition Inc. The edifice actually consisted of two structures: the 320-foot-tall blast furnace and the free-standing exoskeleton around it that provided various levels of access.

Controlled Demolition used 94 explosive charges at 12 separate points, according to WBAL-TV.

The Controlled Demolition’s video shows the implosion from no fewer than six different angles, including a spectacular slow-motion view that begins at the 1:37 mark.

Time well spent, indeed.

(HT: Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid)

Evidence that the technologically lame will be forever among us

dogbert

For a society that prides itself on technological savvy, a segment of the Western world seems utterly unable to comprehend one of the simplest concepts concerning Internet security.

SplashData, a California-based provider of password management applications, reports that the most common Internet password held by users in North America and Western Europe in 2014 – once again – was “123456”. Next up was the even less imaginative “password”.

Since SplashData started its study in 2011, “123456” and “password” have been the top two passwords each and every year. This, despite the fact that millions of accounts are hacked annually, technology employed by hackers is constantly improving and countless warnings not to use insipid passwords are issued regularly.

At this point, anyone who goes with “123456” or “password” is all but asking for their information to be stolen. Especially if one goes with “password”. Talk about the height of laziness. You might as well just give your boss your resignation slip, put on a pair of old sweats and call it a career because you aren’t even trying anymore.

Other common passwords included “12345” – for those unable to type in a full six digits – and the ever-so slightly longer “1234567”, “12345678” and “1234567890”. Given that hackers employ computer programs that can run through common passwords in a matter of seconds, using sequential numbers such as the above is barely a step above packaging up your data and mailing it to the bad guys.

Other number-based passwords include “111111” (no need to even move your finger while you type!), “123123”, “696969” and the crafty “abc123” (unimaginative and lazy).

For the technologically indolent who are number-adverse there’s “qwerty”, “letmein” and “access”. Yes, nothing screams “computer whiz” like the password “letmein”. I believe both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs used that for years, although Jobs preferred “letmein1”.

Finally, a couple of other notably bad passwords: “superman” and “batman”.

The above passwords might be understandable if they were taken from a group of 5th graders, but SplashData based its list on more than 3.3 million passwords that were leaked last year. That means a significant number of adults actually thought the “batman” and “abc123” were credible passwords.

No one deserves to be hacked, but some folks sure seem determined to extend an attractive invitation.

Media outlet speculates on what long-lost gun would think, say

winchester rifle

State workers in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park recently came across a Winchester Model 1873 rifle propped against a tree in the desert. It’s unclear how long the rifle had been resting in the desolate location, but from its condition and the fact that it was produced in 1882, it would seem it’s been a long time.

Here’s how CNN began its story about the find:

“If this rifle could talk.”

If that rifle could talk it would probably say something along the lines of “I’m really, really bored” or “Where the hell have you been?”

CNN opted to give the gun a more colloquial tone in its musings:

“In a gravelly voice, it may recite a yarn of weary settlers swaying on horses’ backs in the parched, rocky Nevada wilderness. It may talk about riding in a saddle holster across neighboring Utah more than a decade before it became a state of the union.”

Left out is the possibility that the Winchester’s owner went off to use the bathroom and forgot where he put his gun, or that he got himself so gooned up on cheap firewater that he couldn’t find his horse, never mind his rifle.

Of course, if the rifle could talk, it would be a pretty amazing rifle because none of the rifles, shotguns or handguns I’ve seen or handled has so much as uttered a single word. It would be worth a pretty penny, I’d imagine, whether it was 130-plus years old or not.

CNN goes on to speculate further:

“Who knows how many years the rifle stood there, after someone left behind the model called ‘the gun that won the West.’ Did they have to depart in a hurry – running from danger? Or did they not see it, as it stood neatly camouflaged against the arid trunk of the juniper tree?”

Ah, unfounded speculation, the secret garden of the reporter with space to fill, a deadline to meet and few actual facts.

What is known is that the gun was manufactured and shipped in 1882. The Great Basin National Park staff was able to determine that from the weapon’s model name and serial number, which are still legible.

A couple of facts CNN didn’t have to imagine: The rifle will be conserved in the condition it was found, and it will become part of the display commemorating the park’s 30th birthday in 2016.

No word on whether the Winchester will have a speaking role.

(Top: Winchester Model 1873 rifle found propped against tree in Great Basin National Park. Photo Courtesy: Great Basin National Park.)

A typical summer day in United Kingdom air space

This mesmerizing video shows air traffic during a 24-hour period in the United Kingdom during a typical summer day.

Created by NATS, the UK’s leading provider of air traffic control services, the data visualization shows air traffic coming into, going out of and flying across the UK on a typical summer day.

It was created using real data from 7,000 flights from a day this past June as recorded by radar and air traffic-management systems.

Activity is shown at 800 times faster than real time, according to NATS.

The time runs from midnight to midnight and shows the arrival of early morning traffic coming across the Atlantic in the early hours, the build up through the day and then tapers off into the night before the pattern repeats.

The noticeable difference in flight speeds is likely due to varying speeds of commercial and military aircraft.

(Viewing this in full-screen mode is particularly cool.)

(HT: Carpe Diem)