The old Palmetto Soak

The US Geological Survey takes some questions about the “1000-year” flood in South Carolina — well, technically, no, it wasn’t any such thing — and even deals with the one most beloved by illiterate news media:

Is this flood due to climate change?

USGS research has shown no linkage between flooding (either increases or decreases) and the increase in greenhouse gases. Essentially, from USGS long-term streamgage data for sites across the country with no regulation or other changes to the watershed that could influence the streamflow, the data shows no systematic increases in flooding through time.

A much bigger impact on flooding, though, is land use change. Without proper mitigation, urbanization of watersheds increases flooding. Moreover, encroachment into the floodplain by homes and businesses leads to greater economic losses and potential loss of life, with more encroachment leading to greater losses.

And as a species, we’re not exactly well known for proper mitigation.

(Via Fark.)


Because you gotta have heart

This strikes me as almost certainly a Good Thing:

The National Basketball Players Association is working on a program that would fund cardiac screening and supplemental health insurance for its retired players, an initiative expedited by the recent sudden deaths of legends Darryl Dawkins and Moses Malone.

The joint effort between union executive director Michele Roberts and NBA commissioner Adam Silver — at a time when there still may be potentially acrimonious labor negotiations looming for their sides — is intended to ease the health concerns of its retired players.

And there are plenty of concerns:

The good-faith actions of current players were welcome news to retired veterans who have been rattled by the spate of cardiac-related deaths. Although there is no concrete data linking basketball players who are large in stature to early death from cardiac distress, the prevailing opinion among many former NBA stars is there has to be a correlation.

“It’s too close to home,” former star center Bob Lanier said. “It’s the topic nobody wants to address. How many people have we seen in our lifetime who are big and really tall and are 70-something years old? Not many. That’s because people [my size] don’t live that long.

“I know things are evolving. People are taking better care of themselves. They exercise, they watch their nutrition, they try to limit the stress in their lives. I do all of those things. But we’re still losing guys younger than we should.”

Lanier is 67; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is 68. I’d hate to lose either of these guys any time soon.


Henpecking order

From bitter experience, Sheri49 explains the operations of her local Homeowners’ Association:

There is one Exalted Ruler. His word is final. His court consists of a Vice-Exalted Ruler, a Secretary who must meet stringent illiteracy requirements, a Treasurer who is actually sort of intelligent but whose job entails deferring to the Exalted Ruler’s stupidity, and lastly, a “Member-At-Large” (MAL). Currently there is no MAL at Hideola Estates. No one wants to be the caboose on the Moron Train. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Hey, what if they meet and vote on something and there’s like, 2 of them for it, and two of them against it … two yays and two neighs?” (Yays and neighs are how we write here in Hideola Estates, as you will learn below.) Good point. In that event, the group would defer to the time-honored flipping of the coin method to resolve the tie. There is nothing wrong with leaving owners’ fates and their valuable homes to the whim of a coin toss. If no coin can be found to flip, then someone makes a motion to do whatever will cause Sheri49 the most harm and that is the final word on the matter.

You should not at all be surprised to hear that a fiefdom of this sort would have an individual dedicated to the exaltation of vice. (Yes, I stole this from the Beverly Hillbillies. Sue me.)

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Weird sounds above your head

This is indeed a “strange collection”:

In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, I worked for Kmart behind the service desk and the store played specific pre-recorded cassettes issued by corporate. This was background music, or perhaps you could call it elevator music. Anyways, I saved these tapes from the trash during this period and this video shows you my extensive, odd collection.

The one tape I listened to, dated October 1989, contained music far too perky for the old “beautiful music” FM-radio format but too soporific for “adult contemporary,” plus plenty of invocations of the holy name of Martha Stewart and the occasional all-purpose public-service announcement.

The sound is definitely lacking in high end, though I couldn’t tell you whether this was intentional or a by-product of being played to death for a month:

[T]hey ran for 14 hours a day, 7 days a week on auto-reverse. If you do the math assuming that each tape is 30 minutes per side, that’s over 800 passes over a tape head each month.

And not all stores, it appears, got the same quality audio equipment.

In 1993, Kmart switched to satellite delivery, creating the possibility for more variety and reducing the possibility of some guy taking the stuff home for archival purposes.

(Via Chart Attack.)

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Strange search-engine queries (506)

Granted: Christopher Columbus was something of an asshole. Still, we have this holiday, not so much to honor said asshole, but because the sort of people who always get lots of holidays couldn’t bear to go from all the way from Labor Day to Thanksgiving without a break. I have to work today, so I remain utterly indifferent to such matters.

what happens if you bite your tongue and hold your breath:  You’re being a good Republican, according to your party’s officials.

Mammoth cafe phone number catalytic converters:  Dial 1-800-AGHAST.

suicide prevention week 6-12 september we all need prayer right now. if i don’t see your name:  You may presume that you’ve been written out of the will.

although she tends not to make her presence felt when she’s in the chamber:  We told you not to vote for The Ghost of Eleanor Roosevelt, but you didn’t listen, did you?

windows 10 spinning circle:  This is for all you people who complained about the hourglass in Windows 95.

woman wanted a 64 inch backside:  Unrequited love for Sir Mix-A-Lot, perhaps.

run up an alley and holler fish:  And chips, or they won’t listen.

god burns down equestria for insurance money:  This has to be one of Prince Bluebood’s schemes.

rectal exam meme:  All your polyps are belong to us.

put your ass on the line:  How else can we conduct this rectal exam?

they all looked so damn happy:  They weren’t scheduled for rectal exams.

pharmville:  Finally, a Facebook game where you get to sell drugs.

if he only wants your breasts legs and thighs send him to kfc lyrics:  Still trying to find a rhyme for “extra crispy.”


Beyond vision

By any reasonable reckoning, Invisible Sister, the Disney Channel original movie that debuted last Friday, should not have worked at all: they licensed the title of a book and didn’t use any of it; the setup is pure adolescent angst; the “science” is hokey at best; and you wouldn’t believe how many dei can be plucked from a single machina.

Still, I had to watch it, the Invisible Girl having occupied a place in the wackier section of my brain ever since I failed to see one at the age of seven. And I wasn’t that hopeful: younger sister Cleo, desperate to come up with a new science project after being told half a dozen classmates were already doing the same thing, is forced into a rush job, on a night when older sister Molly is partying hearty with her friends — while the parental units are away. How contrived is this? Short version: Cleo’s experiment, complete with test tubes full of mysterious substances, fails spectacularly, and quite inadvertently, Molly comes into contact with some quantity of a random mixture.

Molly and Cleo, kinda sorta

The next morning, of course, is Pure Chaos, and Molly, who has classes to attend (her grades are only so-so), social obligations to fulfill, and a lacrosse match in the afternoon, prevails upon Cleo to do something unheard of anywhere outside YA novels: “Be me. Just for today.” It’s Halloween, she’ll be in costume; nobody will ever know. Cleo, your standard-issue Girl Genius, doesn’t believe a word of this, but Molly is nothing if not persuasive.

What sells this, I think, is not so much the plot, which gets thinner and less plausible the farther it goes, or the special effects, which are good enough without being spectacular, but the fact that the sisters’ mutual resentment is utterly believable to anyone who’s ever had a sibling, and stars Paris Berelc and Rowan Blanchard play it for all it’s worth. (Cleo, I think, got the worst of it, simply by having to sit in on her sister’s life.) And by the time they’d had it out with one another once and for all — late at night in a New Orleans cemetery, of all places — they’d won me over. And minor details that would normally have provoked snark — if this is supposed to be New Orleans, it’s the whitest New Orleans that’s ever existed — ceased to matter at that point.

This being a Disney film, everyone lives happily ever after, except for whoever has to clean up the set afterwards. And really, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Yes, it’s tweenage material, polished to a high commercial gloss; but I’ve never been too proud to read YA stories, and I’m not going to start now.

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More news for parrots

Apparently the birds don’t trust us anymore, at least in some parts of New York state:

I blame all the ne’er-do-wells who stand there cooing at the cage: “Can you talk? Can you talk?” Just once, I want to hear the bird snap back: “Yes, I can talk. Can you fly?”

“Rotterdam,” incidentally, represents a first-of-November curse: “My sister stole all my Halloween candy, and I hope it’ll Rotterdam teeth out.”

(Via Steve Lackmeyer.)

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Ending the period of mourning

The sad story — okay, it’s not that sad — begins this way:

My mom’s iPad recently cratered. It wasn’t a huge deal, since it was a hand-me-down of my 1st generation model, and I replaced it with another hand-me-down of my 2nd gen tablet.

At least this keeps the supply lines clear. But what to do with the corpse?

I was able to coax it to life just long enough to wipe it clean and destroy the SIM chip, and I planned to drop it off in the dead electronics box at Best Buy for recycling. But then I had a brilliant thought: “what do guys do when their stuff breaks beyond repair?” The answer is pretty obvious. They shoot it!

And so he shot it. Gory details — okay, they’re not that gory — at the link.

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Meanwhile on the Front Range

Fort Collins, the fourth-largest city in Colorado (population 150,000 or so), is contemplating the possibility that the presence of topless women in public will not be the end of the world as we know it:

Following a request from a group of citizens, city officials said they are considering updating the existing public nudity ordinance, which currently does not allow women to be topless in public.

On Oct. 20, the city council will consider two updates to the ordinance: Maintain the current policy that does not allow for women to be topless in public except for breastfeeding mothers, or allow women to be topless in public.

The ordinance still would prohibit any nudity from the waist down by anyone 10 years old and older. Exceptions include medical emergencies, performance venues and changing areas.

Shirtless guys, of course, will continue to go unmonitored by the law no matter what.

(Via Felicity Jones.)

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Employee number one

Al Abrams, who died last week at 74, was just a kid, and a white kid at that, when Berry Gordy Jr. hired him for the nascent Motown machine, and the circumstances are so, so Motownish:

A big fan of the R&B records of the day, Abrams pestered Gordy for a job promoting his music before Motown was even formed. Gordy said he would hire him if he could get a record on Zelman, a vanity label that pressed records for anyone who would pay them $100, played on the radio. Abrams took the challenge, taking the record to a remote by station WCHB and pestering the DJ until he relented and played it on his show. Gordy heard the record being played and made good on his word, hiring Abrams.

And WCHB, despite being a 1-kw daytimer in those days, had clout: it was the major black-owned radio outlet in metro Detroit. So Gordy wasn’t about to try to blow the kid off.

Abrams also apparently invented the slogan “The Sound of Young America,” and manufactured a bogus Dylan quote about Smokey Robinson being “America’s greatest living poet.” Even if Dylan didn’t say it, though, Abrams may well have believed it:

During a Motown tour through the Southern United States, [Nancy Abrams] said, Smokey Robinson of the Miracles came to visit Mr. Abrams at a hotel where blacks were not allowed to stay.

The hotel manager was tipped off, came to Mr. Abrams’s door and asked if a black person was in his room, Nancy Abrams recalled. He replied that it wasn’t “a black person,” it was Smokey Robinson, and both men were kicked out.

“Al went back with Smokey and stayed in the black boardinghouse,” she said. “After that, he never stayed in a hotel again.”

Abrams moved on in the late Sixties, working briefly with Motown expats Holland-Dozier-Holland, and setting up his own PR firm. He was diagnosed with cancer in September; by then, unfortunately, it was too late.


Quote of the week

Daniel Greenfield, on why utopias don’t exist and can’t exist:

Governments are not religions and no political movement can place its pet philosopher in place of God. No man can demand more of other men. Only God can demand the impossible because He can also grant the impossible. No political system can forgive. It can only amass more guilt and sin, more hatred and self-hatred, more madness and destruction. Human beings cannot exceed themselves.

A healthy idealism aspires to a more human state of living. It does not demand absolutes. An idealism that demands absolutes is a trap. It is easy to tell the difference between the two.

Human ideals feel better about themselves as they improve. Inhuman ones feel worse because the ideal is never meant to be reached. An irreligious absolute offers no redemption. Instead the failure to do the impossible becomes the means of breaking people of their human qualities and making them into monsters.

We can only achieve human terms of existence for nations and peoples by accepting our flaws. Perfection is as impossible for a people as it is for a person. And within our flaws, we create an existence that is not based on the collective impossibilities of an ideal, but on the realizable goodness of our human flaws. Instead of seeking to create a perfect state, we individually become better people. Instead of the tyranny of idealism creating monsters, we give ourselves the freedom to be human beings.

Instead of building suicidal ideal states, we create societies in which we have the freedom to be good while refusing to lapse into a self-hatred borne of frustrated idealism which prevents us from seeing the goodness of our fellow men and the evil of our enemies.

The Founders were acutely aware of this kind of nonsense, which is why they blessed us with what is today derisively called “gridlock,” a means for punching necessary holes in idealistic bubbles.

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Lazarus edition

The announcement came out in 2014: the last model year for Volkswagen’s Eos convertible would be 2015, and VW of America duly readied a loaded Final Edition model to give the model a proper sendoff. I do hope none of the buyers see the new 2016 Eos:

Volkswagen extended production of the Eos from May to November of this year. As part of that, parent Volkswagen shopped the Eos around to all its regional children looking for hand raisers to take a limited run of 2016s.

VWoA accepted, probably because the mothership was willing to give them $4000 off the price of, um, last year’s. (The Canadian branch, however, turned it down.)


Beyond that early hype

At least some of Yuja Wang’s early fame derived from sartorial as well as musical choices. By now, the flap over what she might be wearing has given way to more serious concerns: what she might be playing. Which is not to say that she shuns the limelight or anything:

Yuja Wang on the cover of Tatler 10-15

This cover photo fascinates me, perhaps because of her enigmatic facial expression: I can’t tell if she’s truly relaxed, or if she’s feigning it just to get the photoshoot over with. (Then again, my ability to read women’s faces and/or body language is decidedly below average.) I’ve always suspected that, for her anyway, periods of relaxation and periods of ferocity tend to be interspersed at irregular intervals:

Yuja Wang kicks back in a Calgary park

Yuja Wang versus the piano

Yuja Wang’s most recent recording, being chased out the door even as we speak, is a pairing of the two piano concertos by Maurice Ravel, the jazzy G Major and the slightly more sombre D Major, written for the left hand only. Deutsche Grammophon is promoting it thusly:

I shall have this recording shortly.

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When things go insufficiently wrong

“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” — Niels Bohr

The scene: the New Balance factory store in Edmond, just before Labor Day. As you may remember, I wound up needing a pair of 928s in the unheard-of size of 14 EEEEEE, which is a lot of damn E’s. Not surprisingly, not in stock. She turned to the terminal, asked for a ship date, and then said:

“Officially, it says here the fifth of October. I think it will be more like the end of October.”

The voice of bitter experience. I shrugged, said that would be fine, here’s my number, so call me maybe when they come in.

They arrived at the store on the seventh, which means they probably shipped on the, um, fifth. I chose not to bring this up, inasmuch as the clerk in question had the day off yesterday when I picked them up.


The deader zone

My office at 42nd and Treadmill, festooned as it is with forty-odd years’ worth of wiring, some of which might not actually connect anything anymore, is utterly immune to T-Mobile’s cell signal, despite being within two and a half miles of an Interstate. The only GSM carrier that gets through is AT&T, and I surmise it’s because there’s a tower only a couple of blocks away that probably belongs to them and them alone. Meanwhile, I lament:

I’d be happy to get a consistent bar and a half from my desk at work, and speed be damned.

Now I’m assuming I’m reading the display correctly: there’s this antenna-shaped thing at the far end, and then one to four bars off to the right to indicate signal strength. Once in a very blue moon I get an actual bar, and I can remember an incident in which I had two bars, simply because it was the only time it ever happened. As a rule, I keep the phone off at work, not so much because I need to look busy, but because when it’s searching for its home network, it uses about three times as much battery. So when I was preparing to leave the shop yesterday, I fished the phone out of my bag and turned it on.

And stared in disbelief. Usually there’s a “Searching…” message on the phone until such time as it actually connects, and a three-bar display which I assume is actually AT&T’s network on the same frequency band. This time, no message, and there was one bar — to the left of the antenna-shaped thing.

Ladies and germs, for the first time in my life, I have had Minus One Bar. If it’s possible to have worse coverage than that, it probably requires leaving the troposphere. Still, as always, by the time I made it out to the parking lot, I was up to the usual two-bar minimum.


The traveling salesman

He said he was trying to put his life back together. I had my doubts. And it turns out, I had good reason to.

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