Unmagical realism

For those of you who might have thought that academia is overrun with sexual non-binary types and other individuals hard to characterize, well, that might be true in the Ivies, but it doesn’t work out here on the Plains.

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Flexibility is mandated

If this product actually exists, we’re going to have Rockette-level high kicks on every Main Street in the nation:

Perhaps these are repurposed High Tide Heels.

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Quitting time

If I ever again have to leave a job, I hope I have the presence of mind to do it this way:

I actually did give a letter of notice. I wrote it that morning, backdated of course, and shoved it under the rat’s nest of papers on BossMan’s desk. Archaeologists, later on in the millenia, find it and say “What does that mean, die in a crotchfire?” To which another archaeologist will sneer, “Let me Google that for you.”

“Crotchfire,” incidentally, is one of very few words that will reliably trigger involuntary leg-crossing.

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Your piece of the pie

As of yesterday, there were 46,250 comments on the site — that is, comments within the current WordPress database, which goes back to the first week of September 2006. (There were about 17,000 more in the first Movable Type database, from August 2002 to that point, all converted to static files.)

Now this figure seems amazing to some, and by “some” I mean “people who hang out in Twitter chats to bewail their lack of response.” Forty-six thousand sounds like a lot of comments, but that’s a slow month over at Ace’s.

Still, I’m happy with the participation level here. And inasmuch as I have a gizmo that counts these for me, I’m tossing this question to you guys: how many of those 46,000 do you think you wrote? Be sure to show your work.

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Backstage at Security Theater

The Transportation Security Authority has guidelines it uses to determine if someone is more suspicious-looking than someone else. Quelle surprise:

The checklist is part of TSA’s controversial program to identify potential terrorists based on behaviors that it thinks indicate stress or deception — known as the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT. The program employs specially trained officers, known as Behavior Detection Officers, to watch and interact with passengers going through screening.

Cute names for government operations almost always indicate something controversial is afoot.

The checklist ranges from the mind-numbingly obvious, like “appears to be in disguise,” which is worth three points, to the downright dubious, like a bobbing Adam’s apple. Many indicators, like “trembling” and “arriving late for flight,” appear to confirm allegations that the program picks out signs and emotions that are common to many people who fly.

Stripped of point values, here are some of the behaviors that may trigger Double Secret Screening:

Things TSA is looking for

A sample SPOT form is here for your inspection.

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Questionable titling

And if anyone knows about questionable titles, c’est moi, n’est-ce pas?

Motor Trend’s Big Test in the May ’15 issue covers five luxury compact crossovers, and it’s titled “Diversity Report”: “Mucking around autodom’s hippest segment with the most colorful crew in town.”

Excuse me while I pull out my “Yeah, right” specs. All five of these not-quite cars have 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines, and by “2.0-liter” we mean — well, the smallest mill of the bunch is 1969cc. The others? One each at 1997 and 1998, and two at 1999, though the latter are basically the same engine (from Ford) with different fitments and tunings.

Perhaps more to the point, how can you call this bunch “diverse” if four of them are white? The Bimmer is perhaps explainable — an X3 in any color other than white or black costs $550 extra — but surely Land Rover, Volvo and Lexus could have come up with something else. The one, um, vehicle of color is the Lincoln, which is a spiffy blue, and it appears that Ford has seen fit to tone down the whale-baleen grille.

Oh, a sixth automaker was invited: Audi, which had no Q5 with that size engine. Instead, they sent a Q5 with a 3.0-liter turbodiesel six. It was faster than all the fours, the humonogous torque standing in for the extra horsepower the diesel doesn’t have. However, it was mutely conformist in one regard: it, too, was white.

Disclosure: I drive a white car, from none of these manufacturers.

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Creativity awakened the wrong way

Sir Ken Robinson, a couple of years ago, boiled down to a single paragraph:

Robinson has suggested that to engage and succeed, education has to develop on three fronts. First, that it should foster diversity by offering a broad curriculum and encourage individualisation of the learning process; secondly, it should foster curiosity through creative teaching, which depends on high quality teacher training and development; and finally, it should focus on awakening creativity through alternative didactic processes that put less emphasis on standardised testing, thereby giving the responsibility for defining the course of education to individual schools and teachers. He believes that much of the present education system in the United States fosters conformity, compliance and standardisation rather than creative approaches to learning. Robinson emphasises that we can only succeed if we recognise that education is an organic system, not a mechanical one. Successful school administration is a matter of fostering a helpful climate rather than “command and control.”

And presumably it would help if the youngsters got enough sleep. Sir Ken Robinson, last night:

The powers that be were profusely apologetic.

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Weed killer on the rocks

Whatever the opposite of “well played” is, that’s what this incident was:

Dr. Patrick Moore tells the host that glyphosate, an active ingredient in Roundup that was recently linked to cancer by the World Health Organization, is not linked to Argentina’s increasing cancer rate.

“You can drink a whole quart of it and it won’t hurt you,” says Moore.

At which point, the host actually offers Dr. Moore a glass of glyphosate. He declines, of course.

The standard for stunts of this sort, you should know, was set back in the early 1980s by, um, me:

All of a sudden this workaday chemical became a Major Hazard, and there was enough water-fountain chatter about it for me to justify a prank. This would require a confederate who was in on the gag: no problem there. The mystery fluid is furnished in brown bottles, the same shade used for hydrogen peroxide. (Whether it’s for the same reason or not, I couldn’t tell you.) We bought the stuff in case lots. We sabotaged one case: took one bottle, drained it, replaced the contents with tap water, marked the edge in some inconspicuous way, and resealed the case.

When the discussion came:

[S]omeone asked about whether this … stuff was really, you know, safe. The confederate chimed in with the opinion that it was highly dangerous and that we should switch to, for instance, some sort of correction tape. I scoffed. (Even then I was a good scoffer.) “You think this stuff is dangerous?” I fetched the rigged case, seized the faked-up bottle, and chugged its six-ounce contents. People stared at me as though I were Bruce Banner about to undergo Hulkification.

Now that’s how it’s done. Monsanto says it wasn’t paying Dr. Moore to speak on behalf of Roundup; whoever was, however, clearly didn’t get his money’s worth.

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Policy wonks may be excused

In fact, they may be escorted to the border and left there:

[W]hat’s a non-politico to do during election season? Here’s an idea: Escape to Oklahoma, the best state to get away from the political circus.

Oklahomans consistently rank near the bottom on a variety of measures of political obsession — or engagement, depending on your perspective. Only two states saw a smaller share of eligible voters cast ballots in 2012, and just seven states had a smaller share of residents registered to vote, according to census data. People in Oklahoma were 10th most likely to say they never vote in local elections, 11th most likely to say they infrequently discuss politics with family and friends, and 14th most likely to say they don’t express their political or community opinions online, according to data collected by the census in 2013.

A major benefit of this disengagement:

You won’t just be avoiding conversations about the presidential election in Oklahoma, you’ll also be shielded from campaign ads. During the seven months leading up to the 2012 election, the major parties spent just $1,300 on ads in the state, according to FairVote, a nonprofit that promotes fair elections.

There are people who truly believe that there is no higher calling than politics. In this state, there is no higher calling than making banana splits at Braum’s, and we don’t give a flying feather about the machinations of those retards at 23rd and Lincoln or of the criminals in the District of Columbia: worthless, the lot of them. And you think we’re going to get out the vote for such pinheads? Life is too short to encourage people who can’t even make proper banana splits.

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It never gets that warm

ComfortMeter by LaCrosseYou’ve seen this contraption before; it sits by the bedroom door “so I can feel some sort of justification when I start kvetching about how frakking uncomfortable it’s gotten all of a sudden.” In that photo, it is reading 74.3° F. In the six years since then, it has never once read 74.4°.

In fact, it routinely skips various possible temperatures. It will show 74.5, but not 74.6; if a warming trend is afoot, it will update at 74.7. After noting that it seems to skip three or four out of every ten conceivable readings, it dawned on me what the issue might be: the manufacturer has to sell this device in lots of countries, most of which measure their temperatures in Celsius, thank you very much, and this would require the little electronic brain to update in tenths of a degree Celsius — and 0.1 Celsius degree is 0.18 Fahrenheit degree. This explains it well enough: 74.3° F is 23.5° C, 74.5 is a hair over 23.6, 74.7 is somewhat thicker hair over 23.7. And it will display 74.8, which rounds to 23.8.

I’m not sure which is less useful: the fact that it took me so long to notice that, or that it took even longer to explain it. And while I’m thinking that maybe the Canadians might be pleased, forty years ago they had few kind words for Celsius.

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And yet it used to move

You want symbolism? We got symbolism:

Galileo Galilei’s middle finger has been meticulously preserved and can be viewed today at the Museo Galileo in Florence, for eight euros. The digit was plucked from his dead body by a souvenir-hunter named Anton Francesco Gori in 1737 when Gori detached the finger while moving the body from a storage closet to a nearby chapel. For a great man who was tried by the Inquisition, found “vehemently suspect of heresy,” forced to recant, and who spent the rest of his life under house arrest, isn’t it fitting that Galileo is still flipping the bird to the Catholic Church for condemning him for his theory of heliocentrism?

Even then, everybody knew that the bird is the word.

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Marginal improvements

Any human endeavor which requires spending money eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns, and health care is no different:

Health care reached the point of diminishing returns about fifty years ago. 100 years ago America spent 3% of GDP on health care and people lived to about 60. Today we spend about 15% on health care and people live to about 80. A good portion of that increase in life expectancy is due to better food and less violence. It is axiomatic that as things like health care improve, the cost of further improvement escalates. The marginal return on investment declines.

Getting people to about 100 would cost — what, 75% of GDP? Inevitably there will be some starry-eyed character who cries “But you can’t put a price on people’s lives!” Sure you can. In fact, it’s the only thing you can do, inasmuch as the money tree in the back yard is not producing.

I figure everything that threatens me on a regular basis — blood-sugar anomalies, hypertension, osteoarthritis, Al Gore — will be gone shortly after I am. However, I don’t even want to imagine the price tag for any one of those developments.

Then again, we do know how to do health care right. We just don’t:

America has the greatest health care system on earth. It is super cheap, with lots of options and a high degree of customer satisfaction. It is called veterinary medicine. American pets get better health care than 95% of the world population for pennies. The reason is there are few barriers to suppliers so there are many options along the price curve. There’s also incentives to innovate. My Vet has world class lab equipment because it helps attract business.

On the other hand, few pets live to 100 or 80 or even 60.

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Mayo presumably to be held

Because standing in the parking lot and taking a deep breath just isn’t enough:

For hamburger aficionados who can’t get enough of it, Burger King has an answer: a grilled burger-scented fragrance.

Burger King said Friday that the limited “Whopper” grilled beef burger-scented cologne will be sold only one day on April 1, and only in Japan.

And no, the date is not the joke. The King is serious enough about this to ask 5000 yen (forty bucks) for the bottle — with purchase of an actual Whopper.

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Strange search-engine queries (478)

This is that March-going-out-like-a-lamb period, and the flock here has been pretty placid, but some parts of the country are experiencing Killer Sheep, which may explain that new supermarket up the road which looked like it was designed by a cocker spaniel. In the meantime, we have search strings.

warner brothers “the greatest hits album” spirit in the sky pata pata:  Miriam Makeba has passed on, so I’m guessing this is Norman Greenbaum on patrol.

lesley gore on Ellen:  It’s a rerun; LG is no longer with us. And incidentally, she was never on Warner Bros.

heir to the massengill fortune:  Wait for probate. Should happen on a Summer’s Eve.

el ford gearbox problems:  Shouldn’t that be Los Ford Gearbox Problems?

mazda 626 gear box replacement costs:  A tonne of money. Perhaps you can borrow a box from one of los Fords.

why does odo light stay on my 2003 mazda tribute:  Wait until he finds out that it’s not Odo, or indeed any shapeshifter at all.

“abuse of police authority” “Washington State” -domestic: So: imported, then?

jedediah bila upskirt:  For those of you who were wondering if there was any reason in the world to watch Fox News.

sextube meta search.app:windowslive:  For those too jaded to get their jollies from Fox News.

ivy retardation:  This is the phenomenon that makes people come out of Cornell dumber than their peers at the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople.

aol transition to apple id:  You have through today. Get with it.

Imaginary haters:  Approximately 30 percent of Twitter traffic at any given moment.

“To you I’m sure Twilight Sparkle is just a cartoon character you think is really hot”:  Well, not just.

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Solar flareout

So here we are at a back-to-back. From the very beginning, it did not look good: the Suns were up eleven after the first quarter, and the Thunder cut that lead only to eight at halftime. Then things started to move. From that 62-54 deficit, OKC, with Russell Westbrook running at about 105% of top speed, tied it up at 71. Phoenix eventually righted themselves, and the Suns led 79-76 after three. The Thunder scored the first four points of the fourth to take the lead; there were a couple of bucket exchanges, and suddenly OKC went on a 13-0 run to go up a dozen — while Westbrook was resting. With 3:30 left and the Thunder up 11, the Suns decided that fouling Steven Adams was the thing to do. Adams duly missed two foul shots, Phoenix started moving again, and Scott Brooks replaced Adams with Enes Kanter. That was it for the Suns, with the Thunder finally winning one on the road, 109-97, taking the season series 3-1 and probably (though not mathematically) eliminating the Suns from the playoffs.

For reasons known but to Scott Brooks, only eight Thunder players saw action; seven scored, and six scored in double figures. It was the end of Kanter’s double-double streak: he had 11 points and nine rebounds. Next door, Adams, despite 1-4 foul shooting, came up with 13 points and 16 boards. Anthony Morrow and D. J. Augustin were hitting left and right in that final frame, with D. J. scoring 19 (4-5 from beyond the arc) and AMO 11 (3-5). Westbrook engaged in the usual Westbrookery: 33-9-7 despite missing his first five shots. And there’s an object lesson here for Dion Waiters (18 points), who was 7-14 inside the circle, 1-6 from without.

The Morris twins started for Phoenix; Markieff had 20 by halftime, but finished with only 24. Marcus had 15, as did Eric Bledsoe. Brandon Knight, back from an ankle sprain, had the worst possible night: 1-10 for three points, and then he sprained the other ankle. In his absence, T. J. Warren rolled up 18 points for the Sun reserves.

And that ends March. April opens with a visit from Dallas on Wednesday, followed by a trip to Memphis on Friday, after which there are only six games left, four at home, three of them consecutive. It doesn’t get any easier.

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A time-killer in its own way

What does this tell you about Thunder-Jazz?

Yep. At some point during the third quarter, I turned down the sound and started the long annual trudge through the financials. It doesn’t take that long — I finished the Federal before the end of the game, and the state return is pretty simple — but the local roundballers should not consider this an endorsement, if you know what I mean.

One new line on the back of the 1040 is labeled “Health care: individual responsibility (see instructions)”. From said instructions:

Beginning in 2014, individuals must have health care coverage, qualify for a health coverage exemption, or make a shared responsibility payment with their tax return. If you had qualifying health care coverage (called minimum essential coverage) for every month of 2014 for yourself, your spouse (if filing jointly), and anyone you could or did claim as a dependent, check the box on this line and leave the entry space blank. Otherwise, do not check the box on this line. See the instructions for Form 8965.

You know, it would have been easier for all of us if they’d just called the damn thing a tax. After all, it’s grouped under Other Taxes on the return.

There’s a line — line 69, as it happens — for those who might be getting a credit for coverage purchased through the Marketplace, but this requires yet another form and another set of instructions. Last year, this line did not exist, but there was a blank space, baby, called Reserved.

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