Short and To The Point Got Scammed

Scammed I say!

This Week in Our Dumb World

The Airbnb Scam That Happened To Me

Yes, this is a fantastic article that details a common scam on AirBnB, and along the way, it successfully highlights all the ways that platforms are incentivized to screw their users in favor of “super users” regardless of the legality of their actions. So yes, read it if you want to understand why so many cities are turning against AirBnB (along with a similar issue with the way AirBnB tends to drive up rent by reducing supply).

BUT ALSO THIS TOTALLY HAPPENED TO ME (and Emily and Bill and Kylie).

We went to Long Beach for a wedding, and it was suggested that we get an AirBnB instead of getting hotel rooms because it would be cheaper for the four of us to split something like that. I looked around, and amidst mostly disappointing listings, there was an attractive lofted townhouse apartment that looked great and was close to the wedding venue. Great. Booked it.

Now, Bill and Kylie arrived first so they met the sketchy guy who handed them the key and explained to them that we wouldn’t have a key fob to get in and out of the building and we would just have to hang out in front of the building until someone let us in which would be fine because, as he said “it’s pretty busy”. So this is obviously bad news step one. Bad news step two is that we aren’t given the keys to a charming lofted townhouse, but are instead given the keys to a sad flophouse of a two-bedroom that had basically no furniture and no dishes. I believe it had 3 towels. Bill and Kylie are told an elaborate story about how they had to give us this one instead of the one we wanted, but not to worry because it’s “bigger”. I find all this out when Emily and I get to this place at like… 10:30 at night. It is too late to care. We we sleep in the (terrible) bed. Also, the bed was the only furniture in the bedroom. There was a bed and one lamp.

The next day, Bill and I take a walk to get coffee and breakfast, and I decide that I am going to message our “host” and complain. I’m annoyed (I don’t like Airbnb to begin with), but I’m not angry or anything at this point. I send a very polite message explaining that this was not the place we requested and, combined with the general shabbiness, was so disappointing that I would like a partial refund. The “host” absolutely flipped out and got so mad and asked us to leave. After some less than polite text messages (and threats on the hosts part), I agreed.

And so we all went and put four adults in a double queen hotel room and became better friends.

Now, this is when I contacted AirBnB to discuss this terrible situation. At first, the customer service representative was super helpful and deeply apologetic. Then they got more information, and they became a LOT less helpful. And it turns out they were full of accusations that had been passed on by the “host.” So now I have to spend a lot of time on the phone with them to reach even a partial resolution. Then I have to spend many many more phone calls with them and supervisors and other people to try and get even some of my money back (2 months later I got 75% back).

I left a bad review and got one in return.

Say what you want about hotels, but at least they usually are the hotel in the pictures.

Anyways, fuck Airbnb.

H/T Bill Murray, who was there when this all happened and sent me this.

Around a month before, a first Airbnb host had already canceled, leaving us with little time to figure out alternative housing. While scrambling to find something else, I stumbled upon a local Airbnb rental listed by a couple, Becky and Andrew. Sure, the house looked a little basic in the photos online, but it was nice enough, especially considering the time crunch—light-filled, spacious, and close to the Blue Line.

Now, we were facing our second potential disaster in 30 days, and I couldn’t help but feel slightly suspicious of the man on the phone, who had called me from a number with a Los Angeles area code. Hoping to talk in person, I asked him if he was in the area. He said that he was at work and didn’t really have time to chat. Then he added that I needed to decide immediately if I was willing to change my reservation.

As if he could hear me calculating in my head how much of a hassle it would be to find a hotel instead, he then added something else to his pitch. 

“It’s about three times bigger,” the man said. “That’s the good news.” 

The bad news, which went unstated, was that I had unknowingly stumbled into a nationwide web of deception that appeared to span eight cities and nearly 100 property listings—an undetected scam created by some person or organization that had figured out just how easy it is to exploit Airbnb’s poorly written rules in order to collect thousands of dollars through phony listings, fake reviews, and, when necessary, intimidation. Considering Airbnb’s lax enforcement of its own policies, who could blame the scammers for taking advantage of the new world of short-term rental platforms? They had every reason to believe they could do so with impunity.

The Men Who Are Killing Women’s Professional Sports

Women's sports are always treated differently in terms of coverage and marketing. When people talk about women's sports, it's almost always in terms of what they are not. It is in terms of the money that they don't make. The ratings they don't get.

Which is crazy because sports are the most valuable property in all of the broadcast media right now. They're literally the only thing that people watch live anymore. So why on earth would you treat these sports as broken instead of a property to be developed? Why on earth are people spending their time denigrating something that could, with work, make them huge money?

I think you know why.

Yes, U.S. Soccer’s support has been crucial for the NWSL. But let’s not pretend that that it wasn’t a mutually beneficial investment. Having a viable domestic league to keep elite U.S. players in the United States has been crucial to growing the domestic fanbase, developing USWNT players, and even growing the coaching pipeline — Andonovski has coached in the NWSL for all seven of its seasons, five as the head coach of Kansas City FC, and two as the head coach of the Seattle Reign. 

The USWNT has had its most success since the launch of the NWSL — it won the past two World Cups, as you might have heard, and before that, had not won a World Cup since 1999.

And yet, despite the obvious ways the league benefits U.S. Soccer, the governing body has often neglected to nurture the NWSL, and insisted on spreading the message that it is a league in peril.

It’s mystifying. And, while it’s not an apples to apples comparison, it reminds me so much of the way NBA commissioner Adam Silver (and David Stern before him) has often talked about the WNBA. During the rare moments when journalists have asked him about the WNBA, Silvery starts his answer by citing how much money the WNBA is losing, and how disappointed he is in its growth.

Last year, after Silver went onto ESPN and complained about the lack of attendance at WNBA games, two-time WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne snapped back.

“First of all, the negativity in those comments need to stop, because there’s enough trolls out there,” Delle Donne told me last year in an interview on the feminist sports podcast I co-host, Burn It All Down. 

“We need our leaders to be showing the brightness of the future of the WNBA.”

The Terrible Rentals Of London

Look, I think most all of us have lived in at least one terrible apartment, but I can say that my worst living situation had nothing on these horrifying and profoundly expensive apartments.

Also, London is officially apartment hell and I cannot imagine trying to live there.

(The picture link takes you to a specific apartment. The title link takes you to them aaaalllllllll)

H/T Sarah Dougherty

There are so, so, so, so many levels of disorder to this tiny one-bed flat that I can barely keep my head from spinning off and hovering into the air like a helicopter just by looking at it, but let’s start with the kitchen, which features stairs seemingly made in the year 1 BC that have been allowed to erode and flop under the weight of millions of footsteps ever since, a single kitchen cupboard the width of a pen – which I think you can store maybe three cans of beans inside of, and literally nothing else – and a wedge of staircase-adjacent concrete that looms over the windowed door to what I'm pretty sure is the bathroom:

Behind that (same room) (you are still in the kitchen) you've got a white sofa that faces a mirrored wall so you can just sit and stare at yourself as you wonder where you'd ever fit a TV, which is next to a fridge (?) and cupboard–combo that sits in front of your only window, meaning you can neither see out of the window nor draw the curtains either open or closed behind the window (you still need to navigate a single standing column if you are going to operate the curtains), and also – as a sidebar – the curtains do not even reach the top of the window, so you have a constant source of light-leak from a window you cannot even benefit from, remotely, at all.

Finding Comfort In The Community

I don’t know quite how to describe this essay. It’s a wander through community and self both inward and outward. It’s the way that cultural outreach matters. It’s a lot of things. Mostly it’s about the powerful feeling of being embraced and welcomed into a culture. It’s about how it feels when a culture broadcasts your self back to you and the sense of belonging that grants.

It’s good.

I only ever met one of my grandfathers. His name was Sip. (“Sip” was short for Sipriano. He was “Sipriano Serrano,” which is a name that I have always been impressed by.) He was my dad’s dad. He died when I was in elementary school. I don’t remember much about him. I don’t remember if he had a big voice or a small voice. I don’t remember if he glided when he walked or if all his movements were angular. I don’t remember if he was nice or mean or indifferent. I don’t remember what it felt like to hug him or whether I was scared of him whenever he’d focus in on me for a conversation. I don’t remember any of that. Mind you, I can guess at answers for each of those things based on context clues (small voice; angular motion; nice to me; an above-average hugger; awkward in conversation, though likely that would’ve been on account of him being old and my being an idiot). But those are just guesses; hazy ideas formed from hazier halves of the haziest quarter-memories.

But there are two things about him that I have at the front of my brain, and I know they will live there forever.

The first is what he smelled like.

It was a coalescence of OLD MEXICAN MAN MUSK and MOTOR OIL. He smelled that way because he worked as a mechanic. Or, more accurately than that: He smelled that way because he lived at his mechanic shop. And I don’t say that in the romantic sense, as in, “Oh, man. He really worked hard. He spent a lot of time at the shop. He basically lived there, haha.” I say that in the literal sense. He literally lived there. Because his tiny house was attached to his tiny shop. He would wake up and be at work. And he would go to sleep and be at work. And he would eat his dinner and be at work. And he would have a day off from work and be at work. It was all one compound: living room, bathroom, brake lathe, bed, engine hoist, kitchen, strut compressor, etc. It was all right there, jumbled together. And so since his professional life and personal life were mushed permanently into one, so too was his OLD MEXICAN MAN MUSK smell and the MOTOR OIL smell.

The second is the pan dulce.

White Coke

I have to tell you, I absolutely can’t believe that this isn’t about racist cola stuff (It’s about weird soviet cola stuff).

H/T Rob Hebert

Short and To The Point is dressed as a sexy newsletter

Or it could also be a sexy news aggregation costume.

This Week in Our Dumb World

The Ransomeware Superhero

  1. You get so used to reading about the bad actors online that it’s almost confusing to read about an honest to goodness hero.

  2. Seriously, this is a hero. Someone who just wants to help others and seeks no reward. He’s amazing.

  3. It’s also a reminder that there’s another way to internet. The best things don’t have to devolve into exploitation and profit maximization. We can just try to be better and help each other.

  4. The illustrations (as you can see from the header) are absolutely fantastic.

As hackers and their corporate enablers, including cyber insurance providers and data recovery firms whose business models are based on paying ransoms, profit directly or indirectly from cybercrime, one of ransomware’s greatest foes lives paycheck-to-paycheck. Under his internet alias, demonslay335, Gillespie tackles ransomware either in his downtime at Nerds on Call or at night in the two-story bungalow he shares with his wife, Morgan, and their dog, rabbit and eight cats. Surrounded by pets, he lies on his living room couch, decoding ransomware on his laptop and corresponding with victims desperate for his help.

Although the FBI honored him in 2017 with an award for his website, it doesn’t systematically recommend ID Ransomware — meaning that some victims may never learn of a resource that could help them avoid paying a ransom. Many of his friends, relatives and colleagues don’t know the extent of his war on ransomware. “They do not have a clue because of Michael’s modesty,” said his wife’s grandmother, Rita Blanch. “Honestly, I don’t think anyone in the family knows what he does for free. I barely know.” When he got the FBI award, she added, “I sent out a family text, and they’re like: ‘What? What? Our Michael?’”

McCann wasn’t aware of Gillespie’s accomplishments either. “It kind of gives me goosebumps,” the teacher said. “He’s sitting here doing all this for free. That’s incredible.”

The Sexy Halloween Industrial Complex

Sexy Halloween costumes are among our strangest modern American traditions. They’re not strange for existing (because a lot of our society looks like/encourages girls to look like this), but that we seem to rediscover this weirdness every year. Every year there is some profoundly offensive costume and accompanying outrage commentary on that costume (the article references the horrific Sexy Handmaid’s Tale). Also, that most of these costumes come from one company.

It’s interesting to hear some of the commentary from the company and the designers behind this weirdness, but two things and out to me about this article.

  1. It’s all so mundane. This is a really strange cultural phenomena. I know it’s partially because I’m old and I grew up before the grand sexualization of halloween, but this is still all so odd to me. So I acknowledge that, but everyone in this article is talking about it in really normal terms and it kind of leaves me looking around and asking if I’m the one taking crazy pills.

  2. This article contains an absolutely glorious sentence:

    “Halloween costumes are not very sexy in a warehouse. “

    Is absolutely magnificent.

Of course there is a sexy impeachment costume. Yandy, a lingerie and costume company where Quintana-Williams is the vice president of merchandising, can hook you up with pretty much any kind of sexy costume you want — sexy witch, sexy nurse, sexy pirate, sexy Buzz Lightyear, sexy Supreme Court justice, sexy clown from “It,” sexy pizza, sexy Minion. In recent years, the company has specialized in costumes with highly topical themes taken from politics and pop culture, so when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initiated an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, it took Yandy barely a week to turn around its Miss Impeachment outfit.

“Can you do a little bit of a surprised face? Like, I just won my pageant!” Quintana-Williams asked Fiacco.

“Like, I’m going to Disney World!” said photographer Brittany Gentile.

“Or jail!” Quintana-Williams added.

A perfect segue to Fiacco’s next costume: Sexy college admissions scandal. It consisted of an orange prison uniform, but with leggings and a crop top. “INMATE” was stenciled across the chest, under the crossed-out text reading “Mom of the Year.”

“Handcuffs or no handcuffs?” Quintana-Williams asked. “They’re plain, though — they’re not furry, right?”

The Yogababble Index For Startups

I cannot begin to express the joy I feel upon reading this. Speaking as someone who spends their professional life dealing with starts ups in a variety of roles, I cannot tell you how exhausting it is to read about yet another app is going to save the world and change life as we know it.

Now, one of the things that this article doesn’t mention is the immense pressure that gets put on start ups to justify these claims. I’ve been in enough pitch competitions (on both sides) to know that the an awful lot of investors want you to tell them about how your Juicero is going to rid the world of malnutrition.

(details omitted story) I once saw someone at a pitch competition suggest that their cannabis carrying fashion accessory company would eventually capture 5% of the global luxury goods market. Meaning that this company built around a single fashion accessory that carries cannabis would project to be the equivalent of Louis Vuitton. The timeline? 8-10 years.

They won that pitch competition.

It’s not that founders think you’re telling the truth, it’s that they also want to believe that business investing can and will save the world if they only find the right company. WeWork doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Some very intelligent (maybe) and very successful people looked at this and all of them agreed that this business would change the world.

Then they all cut huge checks to help make that happen.

So, be think generous thoughts of the founders as you read this. They may be conmen promising to sell people the Brooklyn bridge, but that’s also because someone posted an ad looking to purchase it.

The MDMA of capitalism is the corporate communications exec. According to LinkedIn, there are more corporate comms personnel working for Bezos at Amazon (969) than journalists working for Bezos at the Washington Post (798). When firms are still searching for a viable business model, the temptation to go full yogababble gets stronger, as the truth (numbers, business model, EBITDA) needs concealer. When I show up at MSNBC, they put some crazy foundation syrup in a plastic bottle attached to a hose, ask everyone to stand back, and spray my head as if the makeup artist were the last line of defense against reactor 4 at Chernobyl. 

So, we looked at the S-1 language of a bunch of tech firms and made a qualitative assessment of the level of bullsh*t. Then we looked at their performance one year post-IPO. We believe there is an inverse correlation that may be a forward-looking indicator for a firm’s share performance. 

It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers

Happy Autumn, everyone. Now get your goddamn gourds out.

For now, all I plan to do is to throw on a flannel shirt, some tattered overalls, and a floppy fucking hat and stand in the middle of a cornfield for a few days. The first crow that tries to land on me is going to get his avian ass bitch-slapped all the way back to summer.

Welcome to autumn, fuckheads!

Aimo Koivunen

It’s short so I’m just going paste the whole glorious story right here and right now. I have highlighted what I believe to be the most relevant passages.

Koivunen was assigned duty on a ski patrol 15 March 1944, along with several other men. Three days into their mission, 18 March, the group was attacked and surrounded by Soviet forces, from which they managed to escape. Koivunen became fatigued after skiing for a long distance of high-speed travel, but could not stop. He was also the sole carrier of army-issue Pervitin, or methamphetamine, a stimulant used to remain awake while on duty. Koivunen had trouble pulling out a single pill, so he poured the entire bottle of thirty capsules into his hand and took them all.

He had a short burst of energy, but then entered into a state of delirium, and lost consciousness. Koivunen remembered waking up the following morning separated from his patrol, and having no supplies. In the following days, he escaped Soviet forces once again, was injured by a land mine, and lay in a ditch for a week waiting for help. After traveling more than 400 km (250 miles) on skis, he was found and admitted to a nearby hospital, where his heart rate was measured at 200 beats per minute, double the average human heartbeat, and weighing only 43 kg (94 pounds). In the week he was gone, he subsisted only on pine buds and a single Siberian Jay that he caught and ate raw.

Short And To The Point is history's greatest monster (elephant)

Definitely Elephant

This Week in Our Dumb World

Angels In America In Texas

I finally saw Angels in America two years ago. Even twenty years later, it is powerful and affecting.

I cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to put it on in East Texas in the late 90s.

But this incredible story gives me some idea.

Splashed across the front page, “A Gay Fantasia” caught the eye of Donald Beebe, the pastor of Grace Baptist Church, in Kilgore. He phoned Caldwell and asked if he could see the script. Beebe then wrote a scathing letter to the local newspaper, the Kilgore News Herald, claiming that Angels in America was “filled with vulgar and explicit scenes including two men embracing and kissing.” He called on East Texans to reconsider their financial support for the college, which had just announced a major gifts campaign, and encouraged others to petition their civic leaders to somehow stop the play.

Writing on the same page of the News Herald, publisher Dave Kucifer noted that while he’d neither seen nor read Angels in America, he also opposed the play on the grounds that it “deals with an alternative lifestyle foreign to Kilgore and the East Texas area.” 

Word began to circulate around town. Churches passed along an excerpt from the play’s most graphic scene but failed to mention that Caldwell had already cut it. Faith Baptist Church updated the marquee in front of its chapel to read, “Say no way to the gay play at KC!” The rumors grew wilder by the day, with many folks hearing that nude college boys would be having sex onstage.

In Beebe’s opening salvo, he’d taken a personal swipe at the theater director: “One must wonder if Mr. Caldwell, himself, identifies with this character [closeted gay Mormon Joe Pitt].” The insinuation set off furious denunciations from a nationwide network of Shakespeare Festival friends and alumni in support of Caldwell, who had one adult son with his wife of several decades, Anna. Soon letters were pouring in to the area’s newspapers, by and large pitting local opposition—“You are indeed spitting in the face of the Lord by allowing this play to go on”—against outside support. As the uproar spilled beyond East Texas, journalists from across the state and nation descended on Kilgore.

The Business Of Scamming People On Facebook

Leaving aside the political challenges that are facing Facebook, it’s hard not to read articles like this (combined with articles like this) and appreciate why they struggle with managing content on their platform. It’s just so damn big.

I have such a tremendously positive experience with Facebook as a communications platform that I’m always rooting for them to figure this stuff out. I have a number of friends who work there and really enjoy the company. I want Facebook to be as good as it’s capable of being.

I don’t expect them to perfect such an unwieldy monster, but now is certainly the time to invest in steps to improve it. Because it’s just too easy for people to sell lies on Facebook right now.

Subscription traps, also called free trial scams, have long been a bane of the FTC: Over the past decade, the agency has gone after perpetrators who’ve stolen more than $1.3 billion.

Like emails from a Nigerian prince, the subscription trap is one of the most enduring — and wildly profitable — scams. Over time it has evolved in a way that exploits key aspects of the digital media ecosystem. It is a harmony of attention capture, seedy digital advertising, audience targeting and optimization, clickbait, user interface design, e-commerce, and insatiable greed. Like so many of our current digital ills, it targets vulnerable people on the biggest and most profitable digital platforms — such as Facebook — and authorities have proven largely ineffective at stopping it.

“This is clearly a massive worldwide problem,” said Steve Baker, who spent two decades investigating scams at the FTC and now runs the Baker Fraud Report, a website that reports on consumer fraud. Last December, he published a detailed report on subscription traps for the Better Business Bureau, which found that most people are charged roughly $100 by the time they’ve figured out what had happened.

“There are millions of victims of this, certainly,” he told BuzzFeed News.

The Ads Inc. employee said its victims often have one thing in common: age.

“There is one demo that this workflow is targeted towards, and that’s baby boomers,” they said. “You run this toward anyone else, and it’s a disaster. But you do this fake news shit with a trial offer scam and you send it to somebody that’s not that savvy [and it works].”

Hey, Remember Beanie Babies?

I am always a sucker for a good story of deeply irrational human behavior and oh look, a look back at the business of Beanie Baby collecting.

<Free registration on FT to read>

For any bubble to form there has to be a liquid market for the asset in question. It’s one thing for your friends to tell you how rich they got buying Bitcoin, it’s quite another for them to see it in the form of Lambos and, erm, bad knitwear.

This was a problem for the first Beanie Baby collectors, who were largely based in the Chicago suburbs. They all knew that their Peanut the Royal Blue Elephant was worth multiples of what they paid for it, but finding a string of willing buyers outside of Illinois was another matter.

Enter eBay, which was founded in 1995, just as the Beanie Baby craze was gathering steam. The auction site made a concerted effort to attract collectors, and Beanie Babies, of course, were the collectible du jour. It was a perfect match: the Chicago soccer moms had their liquidity, and Ebay a growing market. 

But, by the time of its initial public offering in 1998, this had become a bit of a problem for the company.

Another Year of NBA

Among the many unique things in sports is the absurd filtration process that leads up to the professional leagues. Going from high school to college to the pros there is a staggering winnowing process that leads from millions of kids down to a few hundred people. That winnowing also leads to a certain level of absurdity. The 9th man on your avenger NBA team is probably around the 250th best player in the league. That probably makes them the 250th best basketball player on the planet earth.

And being the 250th best basketball player on earth earns you a terrific salary and a shocking level of public disrespect. Imagine being the 250th best doctor in the world? People would fawn all over you. You would received profound respect from your peers and likely the public. Reaching that level requires an absurd and serendipitous combination of talent and hard work and opportunity and it’s somehow kind of funny to apply all the to Anthony Tolliver or Garrett Temple.

The internet is full of stories about the players who were great and the players who were terrible, but this was a really terrific read about what it takes to just keep playing.

Some players enter the NBA knowing full well that nothing’s promised to them. Anthony Tolliver, who went undrafted out of Creighton in 2007, swears he’s the only player in the league who’s never been the best player on his own team at any level. (I take it Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Missouri, had a squad in the early aughts.) Temple says that never being highly touted has been “a gift.”

“There was a year, when I was 12 or 13, I didn’t play—I wasn’t even in the rotation at AAU,” he told me. “And my dad was the coach.”

Osama bin Laden (Elephant)

I have to say, I’m deeply disappoint in the internet for not crafting more conspiracy theories that link Osama bin Laden (Human) with Osama bin Laden (Elephant)

Short and To The Point has always known that geese were assholes

It's true. They're the worst.

Since there’s so little news, you will be pleased to discover that there is absolutely nothing topical in this newsletter.

Except there’s an article about geese being assholes. There are lots of assholes in the news these days.

So there’s one topical thing.

This Week in Our Dumb World

The World Is Too Loud

The earliest noise complaint in history also concerns a bad night’s sleep. The 4,000-year-old Epic of Gilgamesh recounts how one of the gods, unable to sleep through humanity’s racket and presumably a little cranky, opts “to exterminate mankind.”

I had to put that up front because it’s an amazing summary of the history of noise complaints. The world’s oldest story begins with a noise complaint.

I’m not overly sensitive to background noise. I actually prefer to work in a relatively noisy environment because it gives me something to tune out as part of the process of focusing. So, I’m not consciously a person overly concerned with noise.

But have you ever stopped and actually tried to listen to the background noise in a city? Between traffic, airplanes, and general life there is a truly horrifying level of noise that we absorb as part of our day to day. Just because we have all learned not to listen doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist doing low level damage to us.

I have been two places where I have actually noticed the quiet.

The first was a trip to Venice when I was in my 20s. I was walking around and I was moderately spooked by some nameless void. Suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks at the realization that I couldn’t hear car traffic. Car traffic has become so deeply internalized in my brain that it was almost physically jarring when I noticed it’s absence.

The second is my favorite place in the world. It’s on a lake in New Hampshire and there isn’t another house for a hundred yards in any direction. It is quiet the way nothing is quiet. I have been going there my whole life and it has always been my favorite place. Now, this I largely down to the fact that its filled with childhood memories and provides me with an important connection to my past selves. But when I read things like this, I have to believe some of the perpetual sense of peace and calm is down to the fact that it’s quiet there the way no other place is quiet.

Nor must noises be heard in order to harm. Earplugs may dull the whine of motorcycles chugging outside your bedroom, but they’re useless against the engines’ low-frequency rumble, which vibrates the windows, floors, and your chest, and is the type of sound that’s largely ignored in most official noise calculations. (Harley-Davidson, which considers that thudding a point of pride, tried to trademark the sound of its V-twin motorcycle engine, which its lawyer translated as “potato potato potato” said very fast.) When regulatory officials evaluate environmental noise—to determine, say, whether to soundproof schools near airport runways—their calculations emphasize the mid-frequency sounds to which our ears are most sensitive and discount the low-frequency sounds (think wind turbines, washing machines, kids galloping upstairs) that have been shown to travel farther and trigger stronger stress responses. “If you actually measured sound using the right metric, you’ll see that you’re harming a lot more people than you think you are,” says Walker, the environmental-health researcher, who is working with communities near flight paths and freeways to rethink how noise is quantified.

Years ago, the staff of a medical-equipment company became spooked by recurring sightings of a gray, spectral figure haunting their lab. One night, an engineer working late alone felt a chill pass through the room and, out of the corner of his eye, saw a soundless figure hovering beside him. When he wheeled around, no one was there. The next day, while adjusting one of the machines in the lab, he began to feel the same creeping unease. The poltergeist? A vibrating extractor fan, he realized. He published a paper on his ghost-busting, which concluded that the machine was emitting low-frequency sound waves: pulses of energy too low in frequency to be heard by humans, yet powerful enough to affect our bodies—comparable, he found, to the inaudible vibrations in a supposedly haunted cellar and in the long, windy hallways that appear in scary stories. In addition to causing shivering, sweating, difficulty breathing, and blurry vision as a result of vibrating eyeballs, low-frequency sounds can also, apparently, produce ghosts.

How I Scalped Tickets

  1. I have scalped tickets to multiple sporting events and only had to deal with potential/actual physical violence on one occasion. It was very very stupid and also pretty fun. It’s not a very interesting story.

  2. On the other hand, this is the story of a group of mormon ticket scalpers who moved millions of dollars of tickets all around the world and it is every bit as good as it sounds. It’s absolutely spellbinding.

A sign beside the window read, “Limit 2 Tickets per Person.” But I figured Darryl had given me four thousand for a reason. In a shy Kentucky drawl, I asked, “Can I get two more? For my mom and brother?” 

She gave me a kind look and slid me two more tickets.

Redd materialized and grabbed them from me. “Holy shit, you got four together on mid-court,” he said, rubber-banding them to his own stack. 

Darryl appeared. “What are you doing with my tickets?” 

“The kid’s selling them to me. How much, son?” Redd asked.

Darryl didn’t back down. “So you’re telling me if a kid buys tickets with my money, I have to give you the tickets?” 

“He just gave me the tickets.” Redd said. “Besides, you owe me. Remember that four-pack I delivered at the Marriott? What about that, you sonofabitch?”

“Do I need to put you down?” he shot back. “Because I will destroyyou.” 

Redd peeled four tickets off his two-inch stack and tossed them at him, disgusted. It wasn’t an admission of wrongdoing. “I gotta pay my bills, asshole.” 

Darryl didn’t bat an eye. He turned to me and held out the tickets. “This what you bought?” 

I nodded. 

Without a word, Darryl stormed back into the crowd. I walked down the street to a hotel restaurant and sat at a table. I still had $1,800 in my pocket. 

In Sunday School, we were encouraged to imagine ourselves in different situations and ask: What would Jesus do? What would Jesus do if he saw someone stranded on the road? What if he saw someone crying alone? What if he were 14 years old and a guy as big and mean and exciting as Darryl slipped him $4,000 to buy half-court seats to sell illegally? 

The waitress came over and asked me what I wanted. I’d never been to a restaurant by myself before. I grinned and ordered a Coke.

Thong-clad hot dog girls once ruled Florida streets. Where did they go?

I often change the headline on these stories. Sometimes it’s because I think of something slightly more opaque and provocative and sometimes just for fun.

I did not consider changing this headline for even one second.

It’s a story that’s 100% Florida in ways that are equal parts fun and horrible. As all things Florida are.

And don’t tell anyone, but it’s also the story of people trying to survive on the margins of society.

Which is also a traditional Florida story.

Cindy Gray, of Purrfect 10 Wiener Wagon, told a Tampa Tribune reporter she had been slinging dogs on U.S. Highway 19 for months. Cindy left for a week to get her cart repaired. She returned to find Hala Salaman’s girls set up on her spot.

Hala claimed a vendor for her business, Hala’s Wild Wieners, had been there for several weeks. Both refused to leave. After three tense days, a fight broke out.

Cindy said she hit Hala in self defense. Hala accused Cindy of dragging her by the hair. Hala’s younger sister Sahar ended up in the fray, and the three tussled on the ground until Kathleen Cook, one of Hala’s employees, sprayed all three of the women with mace.

Officers came to break up the fight. But that was just the beginning of the brawl.

Justice would be served a month later.

“Hala the Hardbody” and “Sizzling Cindy” agreed to face off on July 5 outside of the Yucatan Liquor Stand on the corner of Westshore and Cypress. They would wrestle in mud. A $500 cash prize was on the line. And Valerie was squarely on the side of Team Cindy.

DJs from Q105 Radio would host the television broadcast on Q Morning Zoo. The event was known as “Wienermania I.” (There would not be a Wienermania II.)

How Geese Became Assholes


And unlike other wildlife one might enjoy seeing from a distance and in its proper context — a deer frolicking through a meadow, a squirrel scrambling up an oak tree with a tiny acorn in its puffed-out cheek — geese barge into spaces intended solely for humans. Do you know who loves a bland corporate office park, a sprawling golf course, or a cookie-cutter subdivision with a modest water feature even more than middle-class Americans do? Geese, motherfuckers.

“People have created housing developments with lots of mowed lawns and water retention ponds, and anytime you'd have mowed turf coming down to the water's edge somewhere, that's just ideal habitat for geese,” says Curtis. “We created that over and over again on school grounds, corporate parks, all sorts of public parks around the country. Golf courses all have just outstanding geese habitat.”

For an animal that eats grass and hides from predators in bodies of water, these environments are the goose’s HGTV Dream Home. We keep building them, so they keep coming. Can we even be mad?

The All-Joking, All-Drunken Synod of Fools and Jester

Goddamn, but if that isn’t the best name for a group ever. I don’t even care that it won’t fit on a t-shirt.

And yes, of course it was founded by a Russian Tsar.

Nothing this week.

Sorry not sorry

It’s a family vacation so you’ll just have to wait.

also, I forgot my laptop and there is zero chance I’m doing one of these on my phone. Photo resizing and format changes on mobile? For free? In this economy?

forget it.

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