Archive for June 2007

Support your local spammer

An old-style hangman, or a motivated citizen, can recommend the proper support.

But then, how do you know if he’s local? This GeoCommons map will tell you. At least, it will tell you where he was in 2004.

(Via Rocketboom.)

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That doo-doo that you do so well

And even more cosmetic crap:

While millions of women are snapping up age-defying skin creams, the latest miracle cure for a sagging face has just arrived — nightingale poo.

The bird droppings, applied in a 90-minute facial, are packed with an enzyme called guanine — an amino acid which heals the skin, experts claim.

The treatment has already been used by Japanese geishas to remove make-up and leave the skin silky smooth, while monks polish their shaved heads with the droppings.

Do me a favor: just don’t call it a “fecial.”

(Via Scribal Terror.)

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I think I’ll use the drive-thru

Some people can pull this off, but I can’t:

One of my joys in life is dining alone. I know that may seem strange to some people but it really is an activity I cherish. When our children were little and I was home with them during the week, my husband would take care of them on one or the other weekend morning so I could go to breakfast with a book or the daily newspaper. I’ve made note of (and usually vowed never to return to) restaurants where the host or hostess queries me with “just one?” sounding like code for “poor leper you, I guess no-one want to spend time with you.” And I’ve made note of (and deliberately returned to) those where the hostess or host smiles and simply asks “one?” as if 1 is a quantity just like any other.

This poor leper will hide in his kitchen and dine on finger foods.

I’m not quite sure why this is true. I have less of an issue dining alone when I’m on the road, perhaps because I sense that I have no choice in the matter — but then, I sense that I have no choice in the matter even if I’m just round the corner.

Still, it has to be something of a relief when the wait staff don’t immediately brand you as a pariah.

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Big Blue is watching

Last summer I grumbled about the new printer’s insistence on gen-you-wine IBM ribbons and how it checks a barcode on the actual ribbon spool. Eventually, of course, you get used to this sort of thing, and the fact that IBM is asking a 40-percent premium for its branded ribbons — well, they are producing about a 50-percent improvement in actual lifespan, so I’m not complaining.

Then again, I’m not Trini, who objects to this sort of thing on principle. “What would it do,” she wondered, “if it misread the code?” Brandishing a Sharpie with wicked precision, she drew a few extra lines on the spool, and then reloaded the ribbon. In a flash the little LCD screen scolded her: BARCODE DAMAGED : INSTALL NEW IBM RIBBON.

At this point, you have one option only: pull a replacement ribbon from stock, chalk up another twentysomething dollars on the ledger, and resume. Interestingly, the printer reprinted, of its own electronic volition, the page on which the ribbon failure had occurred. These machines are getting too damn smart in some ways, while remaining spectacularly dumb in others. Maybe if we keep this machine for 25 years — wouldn’t be the first such — we can run it for Congress: it should fit right in.

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Don’t you know, if you dance, you dance ’til a quarter to three, you’ll knock it off about 2:45.

Daddy G isn’t in attendance, but Kehaar is around somewhere, and where he is, there will be the Carnival of the Vanities #245. (He is around somewhere, right?)

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You’d think Stretcho wouldn’t worry

But so much for that idea:

Ioan Gruffudd and Chris Evans competed for the biggest codpiece on the set of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Gruffudd admits his character Reed Richards’ (Mr. Fantastic) package was too big in the last Fantastic Four movie, producers agreed it should be smaller in the upcoming sequel.

However, when the Welsh actor realized his co-star Evans was sporting a large trouser lump, he insisted his was boosted.

“It’s clobberin’ time,” said Benjamin J. Grimm; Susan Storm opted not to be seen at this time.

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The lost art of hardassery

My father would have been eighty years old today, and I’m pretty sure he would have liked to have made it that far, if only to cock a further snook at the physician who shrugged and said “We can keep him alive one more year” — back around 1999.

An ornery cuss, you might think, and you’d be right. And tasked with raising five children from the very core of boomerdom, he worked diligently at being a hardass.

Today the hardass is derided as some sort of atavistic throwback to the Cro-Magnon, superfluous in the age of Shiny Happy People — until something needs to be done in a hurry. (There are those who believe that nothing should be done in a hurry; their moral center is the United Nations, which by design is incapable of anything resembling speed.)

But let’s say you’re faced with something like this:

Say you had a problem with bugs in your kitchen. You had a big pile of spilled sugar in the middle of the kitchen floor, and it just kept attracting bugs. You complain to me that you’ve tried everything: roach motels, bait traps, hermetically sealing your house, but all to no avail since the sugar keeps attracting bugs.

I’m just going to stand there and blink in goggle-eyed amazement, wondering “Why don’t you try getting rid of the sugar in the middle of the floor?”

Because that would be a hardass response, and that sort of thing is simply not done. Besides, some entities not officially classified as bugs might come along and lay claim to a few crystals here and there, and it would be so wrong to deny them. (I speak as someone who scraped a few off the side back in the day; it pretty much killed my sweet tooth.)

The essence of hardassery is that stopping the unwanted behavior comes first; if you’re lucky, you might be shown the error of your ways later on, but right now you’re getting a dose of aversion therapy. (If you’re an errant child, said dose might be applied directly to your backside.) This is simply a recognition of the well-established principle that anyone able to feel pain is at least somewhat trainable. There’s a significant the-buck-stops-here component as well, anathema to those whose modus operandi relies on appeals of unfavorable judgments.

In an era distinguished by endless wails of “You’re not the boss of me!” the hardass reminds you, well, we’ll just see about that. And every time we lose one, we sink a little bit farther into the muck.

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The pained, it’s plain, look vainly at the mains

Woe betide the Brit whose new house actually has enough power outlets. Why, he’s not doing his part for the environment:

Builders are installing twice the number of plug sockets in new houses than 30 years ago, a move that brings into question the industry’s commitment to zero carbon homes.

The National House Building Council has recently recommended that all new three bedroom homes to be fitted with 38 plug sockets, up from 17 in 1977.

My 60-year-old three-bedroom home has a mere twelve, including the 220 line for the range. Seventeen would be a major improvement, 38 a dream come true. Then again, I live alone:

According to a survey by energy company E.ON, 68 per cent of people feel that 38 sockets are not enough and 92 per cent of homes claim to use an average of three multi-plug extension leads each day. Children are mostly to blame, with eight out of 10 having both a television and a DVD player in their own room.

I’d love to blame the children, but I have a television, a DVD player, a clock-radio, a radio without a clock, two lamps and an electric fan in my bedroom.

Still to be answered: how installing fewer outlets is supposed to discourage people from buying electrical gizmos. Are the Power Strip Police going to come and take away your extension cords?

(Via Fark.)

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OMG and it wasn’t even text

There was real live sun this afternoon, something there hasn’t been a lot of lately, so I spread a blanket on the grass and did a brief Vitamin D-gathering session, the chores actually having been completed for once.

About three minutes into my semi-slumber came a cry from the north: “Oh, my God!” Sounded like a twelve-year-old. I’ve heard it before, but I’ve not been inclined to check out its origin. Still, there’s something disconcerting about this sort of expostulation, even though it was fairly unlikely (though not completely impossible) that I had motivated it by my resemblance to an albino walrus.

So I had to listen to the entire conversation, which turned out to be older child threatening younger child with something along the lines of “Wait until Mom sees this mess!” Mom did eventually enter the thread, and she was not pleased. Or so it seemed; after a couple of sentences, the hitherto-unheard sound of a lawn mower next door drowned her out, and eventually I stretched, pulled a few weeds within easy reach, folded up my blanket (not especially neatly) and went back into the house to scrape up something for dinner.

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Incomplete package

I probably don’t watch enough DVDs to justify a subscription to Netflix, and given the dilatory nature of my viewings — well, this is the sort of thing I mean:

[T]he film did not play here in the hinterlands at all, and when the DVD was released in December, I ignored it for two months, contrived somehow to have it back-ordered for two months, and when it finally arrived this week, I stared at it for two days, almost afraid to pop the seal, lest all the connections I’ve made to the book all these years might be disrupted somehow by the visuals.

(Should you be curious, this is the film in question.)

But my idiosyncrasies aside, I can still understand Blythe’s perspective:

I love Netflix as much as the next two million people that use it, but there was a special something about actually going to Blockbuster last night and that something was a Diet Coke and Twizzlers. Netflix can’t deliver that to your door. Unless I’ve forgotten so sign up for some new service. Which reminds me of the doomed that I experienced my summer living in NY. Man, that was great. I could order a movie, Ben and Jerry’s, and Elle and it would arrive in maybe 36 minutes. Sweet.

Sweet indeed. Maybe someone will come up with good downloadable popcorn, as distinguished from that horrid toxic-waste-dump one pops into the microwave oven. (I can always pick up Twizzlers at the grocery, although my movie nosh of choice remains Raisinets.)

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How universal a remote?

From the instructions for the remote to my little LCD HDTV:

AV/Reverse — Repeated pressing of this button with [sic] switch between AV-C (Composite, yellow RCA) and AV-S (S-Video) inputs. Additionally, this button rewinds the CD, DVD or VCR when the component is activated with the remote control.

Of course, some of us prefer the luxury of a dedicated DVD rewinder.

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Speed per dollar

As Sleds O’ Fun go, it’s hard to beat a Ferrari — if you can afford one, and you probably can’t. I certainly can’t. And you’d be forgiven for saying “Well, they ought to be wonderful, for that much money.”

With thoughts like this in mind, Winding Road has come up with a new data point called the Speed per Dollar Index, and it is calculated thusly:

(Horsepower + Weight) ÷ 10,000 ÷ Price Point X 100,000 = SpD


There’s no doubt that the Bugatti Veyron 16/4 is a tremendous technical achievement, but as a value proposition, well, it fails miserably — a development that should come as a shock to exactly no one given its plutocratic price tag.

And the Veyron, which offers 1001 hp, weighs 4162 lb and costs $1.3 million, comes in with a Speed per Dollar index of 185 — about 1/11 that of the less-exalted Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8.

Winding Road concedes that this index doesn’t address handling, or the lack thereof, but all else being equal, cheap speed is better than expensive speed, or at least less pricey.

For the sake of amusement, here are the indices for my last two cars, as calculated by yours truly:

Sandy (2000 Mazda 626 LX): (130/2960) x 10000 / 20225 x 100000 = 2172 SpD
Gwendolyn (2000 Infiniti I30): (227/3342) x 10000 / 30519 x 100000 = 2226 SpD

Which is what I’d expect: the Mazda was short on power, but weighed less and cost a lot less, so its Speed per Dollar was almost the same as the Infiniti’s.

(Via Autoblog.)

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It doesn’t look like an iPod

Actually, it looks more like a cheap convenience-store lighter, or maybe a cuttlefish:

Sony Walkman MP3

It is, in fact, an MP3 player in Sony’s eternal (or at least endless) Walkman line, and one of these showed up Friday at slightly less expense than one might expect. ( is selling the 1GB version for a stiff $189.95; Woot was selling it — briefly — for $39.99 plus the invariant $5 shipping. Mine is a 4GB model.) It is, though, almost exactly the size of that lighter.

How much you can cram into four gigabytes is, of course, dependent on file size. As an experiment, I sent it a few actual .wav files, and they take up every bit as much room in flash memory as they do on hard disc. They do work, though. At the present time, I have 574 tracks loaded into about two-thirds of the available space. (I tend to encode stereo tracks at variable bit rates, which can slide all the way up to 320, and mono tracks at a fixed 96.)

Two things that came out better than expected:

  • Once you figure out where it is, the FM tuner is pretty decent, and it will find presets for you. (Of course, you have to delete the ones you don’t want.)
  • The player features an active noise-canceling feature: whatever background grunge it hears, it generates a negative signal to counterbalance it. I haven’t tried it with the lawn mower yet, but it’s pretty effective on the attic fan. (There’s a cost — about 25-percent higher battery consumption — but that still leaves you with about 40 hours on a charge.)

This being a Sony, cool(ish) design is valued more greatly than workable interfaces, and Sony’s SonicStage application, besides being Windows-specific, is quite a bit clunkier than, say, iTunes. Still, it transfers at close to full USB 2.0 speed, and there’s a “Don’t Disconnect” message on the OLED display when things are happening, which is handy if you’re not paying attention, which I’m usually not.

And the sound is quite good. Two different sizes of earbuds are provided; there’s an equalizer of sorts built in. I expect this will be my backup audio device on the next World Tour, feeding an FM transmitter to Gwendolyn’s Bose system. But first, I have to find 300 more songs. (Piece of cake.)

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When in doubt, buy ’em out

Jason Bontrager, commenting at Jane Galt’s place, suggested this solution, if solution it be, to the Social Security/Medicare headaches soon to be visited upon the American taxpayer:

SS: buyout. $500K to each senior currently receiving full benefits (aged 70 and above). $450K to each senior aged 69. $400K to each senior aged 68. And so on in decreasing increments of $50K. Expensive, but it’s a one-time expense and then it’s just a matter of paying off the debt incurred in financing the buyout. Anyone with 10 or more years until full eligibility gets nothing, but no longer has to pay into the system and their employer’s “matching contributions” go directly to the employees rather than the SSA. Everyone gets a de facto raise and employers’ bottom lines are affected not at all.

Medicare: Medical Negative Income Tax and Health Savings Accounts. For any income (from all sources) less than, say, $50K/yr, citizens get $X/year (analogous to the Earned Income Tax Credit. . . the less you make, the more you get, on some graduated scale) deposited directly into their HSA. Money in the HSA is available only for non-elective medical expenses and health insurance. Individuals may make their own, after-tax, contributions to the HSA as well. Heirs may cash out the HSA (and pay taxes on it) or roll it into their own HSAs and NOT pay taxes on it.

Details would have to be worked out of course, but this is a start. Make people the owners of their own healthcare expenses and let them keep more of their own money with which to prepare for their own retirements.

Not surprisingly, this package wasn’t universally hailed. I tend to suspect that I won’t ever draw anything from Social Security anyway, but I’m still a fair number of years away from retirement, unless the Gods of Powerball prove to be more generous than I anticipate. I will note, however, that were FICA withholding discontinued, I’d have roughly three times as much to stash into my 401(k). And if nothing else, this proposal would provide the acid test for the libertarian doctrine that the reason health care costs so damned much is simply that so much of it is paid for by government that the marketplace is severely crippled.

Yeah, I know: boring subject. Life is like that sometimes.

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Strange search-engine queries (70)

Once a week, we take a dip into the referrer logs — given some of the grungier material known to lurk therein, we wouldn’t dare skinny-dip on the premises — and we pop out a dozen or so of the weirder requests by Googlers and Askers and other petitioners.

how many people in Chesterfield eat pizza:  All but two: one’s lactose-intolerant and can’t deal with the cheese, and the other cleans pizza ovens for a living and wouldn’t get near the stuff.

sob ordinance southington ct:  It is time for you to stop all your sobbing, you SOB.

howard kaylan is under 6′ tall:  He’s a Turtle. What did you expect?

what is soap scum:  Very often on the shower curtain you will find this residue.

Stephen King writing tendencies:  This is true. He definitely has a tendency to write.

girls in bikinis knock on my door and ask for condoms:  Um, when did this become the Penthouse letters page?

Flight Attendants Have to Wear Pantyhose:  The female ones, maybe.

how to PERSUADE girlfriend Naked Photos:  Bad idea, especially if you’re going to break up, which you will when she finds out you’ve been taking pictures on the sly.

is AARP non-partisan:  They are when they think they can get a better deal by playing both sides against the middle.

8 inch penis club:  Too short to use as a club, I think.

does burnt popcorn whiten teeth:  Perhaps on the part that doesn’t break off.

drunken moose oklahoma city:  Geez, the panhandlers are getting brazen these days.

characteristics of the seven dwarfs:  Well, for one thing, they’re not overly tall.

formerly fat chaz:  Let’s not be jumping the gun here.

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Museum pieces, as it were

“California tumbles into the sea / That’ll be the day I go back to Annandale.” Steely Dan wasn’t talking about this, but they could have been. The scene is Bard College, Annandale, New York:

I picked my way through the galleries at the Hessel Museum. A “video installation” by Bruce Nauman in which a man and a woman endlessly repeat a litany of nonsense, tinctured here and there with scatological phrases. Been there. Photographs (in four or five different places) by Robert Mapplethorpe of his S&M pals. Very 1980s. Histrionic photographs by Cindy Sherman of herself looking victimized. Been there, too. Nam June Paik and his video installations. Done that. A big pile of red, white, and blue lollipops dumped in the corner by — well, it doesn’t much matter, does it? Any more than it matters who was responsible for the room featuring images of floating genitalia or the room with the video of ritualistic homosexual bondage. Ditto the catalogue: its assault on the English language is something you can find in scores, no, hundreds of art publications today: “For Valie Export, the female Body is covered with the stigmata of codes that shape and hamper it.” Well, bully for her. “As usual with Gober, the installation is a broken allegory that both elicits and resists our interpretation; that materially nothing is quite as it seems adds to our anxious curiosity.” As usual, indeed, though whether such pathetic verbiage adds to or smothers our curiosity is another matter altogether.

About as outré as I get — in several senses of the word — is Louise Nevelson, who boxed up the detritus of everyday life and repurposed it as sculpture. I think I understood some of what she was doing: certainly she provided context for her boxes, even for her non-boxes, and at no time (and I’ve been to two different Nevelson exhibitions, one of which was concurrent with actual study) did I feel that she had assembled a broken allegory that resisted my interpretation.

Still, if Nevelson, who has since passed from the scene, was close to the edge, where is the current state of the Art? Out trying to preempt criticism, I suspect:

[A]rt is increasingly the creature of its explication. It’s not quite what Tom Wolfe predicted in The Painted Word, where in the gallery-of-the-future a postcard-sized photograph of a painting would be used to illustrate a passage of criticism blown up to the size of its inflated sense of self-worth. The difference is that the new verbiage doesn’t even pretend to be art criticism. It occupies a curious no man’s land between criticism, political activism, and pseudo-philosophical speculation: less an intellectual than a linguistic phenomenon, speaking more to the failure or decay of ideas than to their elaboration. Increasingly, the “art” is indistinguishable from the verbal noise that accompanies it.

While this particular phenomenon may have escaped Becker and Fagen’s notice, it didn’t get past Orwell:

The artist is to be exempt from the moral laws that are binding on ordinary people. Just pronounce the magic word “Art,” and everything is O.K. Rotting corpses with snails crawling over them are O.K.; kicking little girls in the head is O.K.; even a film like [Buñuel’s] L’âge d’or [which shows among other things detailed shots of a woman defecating] is O.K.

There are times when I think that defecation is the whole point.

(Suggested by Mark Alger.)

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All the Jag could see

Volkswagen has been running this mock letter in a print ad for the Passat 2.0 Turbo:

Dear (circle one):
Other Owner.

I am truly sorry for what happened on the road today. I did not see you next to me at that light. If I had I would have eased off the gas a little when the light changed. I did not mean to cause you any embarrassment in front of your (circle one): Wife, Young Girlfriend, Secretary, Other. I realize you spent a great deal of money on your car and the last thing you need is some guy in a VW Passat to leave you behind like that. If I see you again on the road I will be sure to let up on the gas and let you pass me.

Your Name Here

Dear YNH: You owe me no apologies. However, you owe thirty grand still on a four-cylinder car, so maybe saving a little gas might not be a bad idea after all.

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Because the photographs never lie

Except, of course, when money is involved.

Me, I want one of those Bimmers with the removable truck bed.

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A truly FCCed policy

News Item: A federal appeals court on Monday found that a new Federal Communications Commission policy penalizing accidentally aired expletives was invalid, saying it was “arbitrary and capricious” and might not survive First Amendment scrutiny. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not, however, outlaw the policy outright. In a 2-1 ruling, it found in favor of a Fox Television-led challenge to the policy and returned the case to the FCC to let the agency try to provide a “reasoned analysis” for its new approach to indecency and profanity. It added it was doubtful the FCC could do so.

Top Ten talking points in the FCC’s “reasoned analysis” for its new approach to indecency and profanity:

  1. We hate getting letters from that twerp Wildmon
  2. Charles Rocket had a son, didn’t he?
  3. If the satellite-radio merger fails we may get Howard Stern back
  4. Suppose CBS wants to stick another camera up Katie Couric’s keister?
  5. Dr. Dobson has threatened to cut off the checks
  6. George Carlin is still alive
  7. It gives us something to do while we wait for Internet radio to die
  8. Rosie’s bound to find a new gig eventually
  9. We gotta find something on that pesky Jeff Jarvis
  10. Have you seen Janet Jackson lately? Whole new wardrobe

(Via that pesky Jeff Jarvis.)

Addendum: Text of the decision here. (Via Justin Levine.)

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This, I suppose, was inevitable

Mickey D's

Although les chats might say it differently in France.

(From Boing Boing via Hawthorn Mineart.)

Addendum: Over at Lynn’s place, Fillyjonk suggests: “I think it would be funnier to have a sign outside of a dietician’s office that says ‘NO YOU CAN NOT HAS CHEEZBURGER’.”

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I’d play “Quarter to Three” on it

You can get one heck of a house in Oklahoma City for three hundred thousand dollars.

Or this record player.

(Title sort of explained here. Via Lynn S.)

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Don’t I wish

As suggested by Joel at In Theory, I’ve been playing with AAA’s Fuel Cost Calculator, into which you plug Point A, Point B, and your automotive details, and get back how much precious fuelstuffs you’ll be burning and how much it will cost you to do so.

I am not quite as impressed as I might have been, because apparently the calculator assumes I’ll get pre-2008 EPA highway mileage, 28 mpg, which is believable, and that I’ll pay $3.049 a gallon, which isn’t, unless prices take a serious tumble in the next four weeks. (Regular is edging back below $3 here, but if I’m going to get anywhere near the expected mileage, I’m going to have to be using premium, and that’s a good twenty cents higher.)

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A slighter shade of pail

They has a bucket.

And by “they” I mean this guy and also this guy.

And another one, and another one, now that I’m thinking about it.

Not her, though.

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Is it just me?

I haven’t had a TrackBack go through to a TypePad-based site in over a month. Is somebody trying to tell me something? (In this same period, some Movable Type blogs, and almost all WordPress blogs, are still accepting my pingage.)

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Insert “dark portal” reference here

As opening sentences go, this is a grabber:

When he met me I was a Night Elf Druid and he was a Human Priest, standing outside the ruins of a temple to powerful gods.

Yes, boys and girls, it’s a World of Warcraft romance, and so far it’s working. There’s one minor issue, though:

When people ask us how we met, we don’t really know what to say. Usually we tell them vaguely that we met through mutual acquaintances, leaving out the part that our mutual friends are dwarves and elves. In order to be truthful I would have to read to them this story, and who knows what they would say?

Well, it beats telling them you were out punting gnomes.

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The Laugher curve

Ian Birnbaum is wondering where his comic mojo went:

For the longest time as a kid, I was known amongst my friends for being very, very funny. I was quick on the draw with an insult, comebacks would snap away like a whip, and I can joke or deadpan like a comedian. Comedy Central was my favorite channel, and Douglas Adams was my favorite author.

I’ve grown up a lot in ways I like. Responsibility, ambition. Spiritually, I feel closer to my center than I have in a long time, and being an adult is actually kind of fun.

But somewhere along the line, I lost the ability to write “funny”. Somewhere between a needless war, a dangerously powerful president, pathetic ass-covering politicians, the mainstream adulation of Paris Hilton as a celebrity to look up to, a war in Lebanon (again), terror warning level Orange, and China becoming an economic superpower — somewhere between “I care about you but this isn’t working” and “I need $100 by Tuesday or I can’t pay bills,” I forgot what it was like to feel a good belly-laugh. And the thought of being able to cause a good chuckle became foreign to the level of impossibility.

I think what Mr Birnbaum is discovering is that one’s sense of humor migrates a bit: its center wanders about as experiences pile up, and the edges get a mite ragged here and there. Especially there [gestures].

Mark Twain figured out a long time ago that the secret source of humor is not joy, but sorrow, and the worse things get, the greater the potential for yocks. I can’t imagine anyone of a jocular bent, even a comparatively gentle soul like, say, Garrison Keillor, scratching around for material today. And let’s face it: were it not for pathetic ass-covering politicians, Stephen Colbert would be doing the weather in Dubuque.

The ultimate extension of this premise, of course, is so-called gallows humor. We don’t execute a lot of people these days — at least, none of the ones I want — and their sentences are normally carried out behind very thick walls so it’s impossible to know for sure, but I have always believed that if you don’t actually go insane as your time approaches, the quality of your remarks is bound to go up sharply. And when the Nanny State finally achieves the dominance it desires and I’m sent before a firing squad for extreme disloyalty, seditious remarks and ownership of a George Foreman grill, I plan to ask the riflemen if those things have trigger locks. Because if I have to die, and I assume I do — and if I don’t, I’m wasting a crapload of money on insurance — I intend to die laughing.

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Or I could just ask directions

Infiniti I30/I35 nav system

There’s a mysterious lid atop Gwendolyn’s center stack, easily openable, covering nothing of significance. The manual says it’s a storage bin, and does not elaborate further, except to say that you shouldn’t operate it while actually driving. What it is, of course, is the housing for the factory navigation system, which wasn’t ready in time for the beginning of the 2000 model year, and I am loath to fish a nav unit out of a 2001 model and shove it into the little covered box. For one thing, it’s likely to cost me a ton of money, and I’m already spending a ton of money sprucing her up for the summer and fixing everything that looks fixable. For another, these old-style nav systems run off CDs (occasionally DVDs) that are obsolete about twenty minutes after you open the package. One of those new satellite-based systems, then? Maybe. Or maybe not:

It takes carmakers time to spec, design, test, manufacture, fit, ship and sell new devices — never mind clearing the whole schmeer with legal. Portable GPS manufacturers have fewer technical hurdles and a MUCH smaller bureaucracy. In fact, products from companies like Garmin, Michelin, Maxtech and TomTom (not to mention phone and PDA-based sat-navery) are making brand new in-car systems obsolete before they’re even launched.

So imagine how far behind they’d leave a seven-year-old contraption that hides under a hatch. I think I can do without. (The photo above was swiped from; it’s actually a shot of the nav system from a 2001 I30.)

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Hardware wants to be free, or something

If you’re planning to swipe stuff from the Home Depot, you might consider visiting the Midwest City store, which recently fired four staffers for catching thieves:

A former Home Depot employee said the company fired he [sic] and three other workers because they helped police catch several suspected shoplifters in May. Midwest City police said the men helped officers catch suspected shoplifters as they tried to run from a store with lawn equipment.

An internal memo from Home Depot outlines that associates cannot accuse, detain, chase or call the police on any customer for shoplifting. However, one of the fired employees said the company is selective in enforcing that policy.

One has to assume that this is due to fear of litigation: the company presumably doesn’t want to be sued by someone falsely accused. (Or, for that matter, by someone who isn’t falsely accused but figures he can impress twelve people who couldn’t figure out how to get out of jury duty.) The price of that fear: thieves having free run of the place, and employees catching flak for low loss-prevention scores that they’re not allowed to do anything about.

And it’s not like there was a whole lot of doubt in this particular case:

“We saw them with the merchandise. We saw them run out of the store. I never kept my eyes off of them. Then when we asked them for a receipt, and that’s when they dropped the merchandise and they kept running. One guy still had a chainsaw while he was running, and that’s when the cops tackled him.”

Down the street at Circuit City a few months back, a chap was reprimanded for having the temerity to pursue a couple of urchins who were trying to make off with a brace of Xbox 360s.

Is there a solution to this? I don’t know. I don’t think anyone’s quite ready for arming the entire store staff. On the other hand, a trail of dead shoplifters might have some small but measurable deterrent value.

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Woot unto others

This situation is less hypothetical than you might think:

Let’s say, hypothetically, that you and some co-workers (about 5 people, friends who you socialize with outside the office) are watching the Woot-Off. Let’s say you refresh your screen, and you discover the beloved Bog of Crop. Do you:

  1. Instantly alert your co-workers, so that you all have a maximum chance at the bags, or
  2. Quietly get your order in, then alert the others.

To my knowledge, there are four wooters at 42nd and Treadmill, and two of them weren’t actually monitoring the situation. The other two (in more or less adjacent offices) did in fact score Broken Ogre Combs, and they did so rather loudly, as I recall.

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Every pair a paradox

Note to the mythical Average Guy: You were wondering how it is that you get by with three pairs of shoes while your girlfriend has sixty-seven and says she needs more. It’s not necessarily a desire to dominate the closet in some domestic version of Risk; nor is it the elevation of the mundane to the status of an icon. (Well, it could be, if everything she has came from Payless except for those CFM pumps she saw on Zappos and bought with your credit card.)

What is closer to the mark, I believe, is that while you wear those old Chuck Taylors as close to 24/7 as possible, she goes through several different pairs, styles even, in a single day. Rachel corroborates:

I love taking off my shoes as much as I love shoes. I do it unconsciously: At home, at work, or at the movies. My feet, apparently, have a need to be free. You know how some people are always looking for their keys? Or their glasses? I’m always looking for my shoes. The first thing I do when I get home is take off my shoes and put on a pair of slippers or flip flops. (If my shoes are particularly binding, I might take them off in the car. I tend to have at least one or two pairs of shoes in my car at any given time.) Later, I’ll unconsciously slip out of my flip flops, get up to perform some stupid task, notice that my feet are unshod and go into my closet for another pair. This can go on for hours until at the end of the night I look around and see that I’ve left a trail of shoes around the house, some of them kicked off in mid-stride as though the person wearing them had suddenly been vaporized while heading to the kitchen.

She doesn’t say whether she drives barefoot — which, incidentally, is not actually illegal unless one is barefoot up to one’s chin, as it were — but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

This is, I might add, a major reason why you need not fear the succubus: at some point she’ll change shoes, and there’s your opportunity to escape.

Addendum: This obsession, if obsession it be, does not affect Syaffolee.

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That’s some stick shift

This is one of the kinder things Jay Shoemaker said about a BMW 5-series sedan in The Truth About Cars:

Martians have stolen the 535i’s transmission lever and left behind a replica of their sex organs. Too bad the tactile sensations produced by this flimsy plastic lever lack any hint of sensuality (extra-terrestrial or otherwise).

I’d hate to have to figure out how to turn off the traction control.

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An increase in reel terms

The old-fashioned nonpower reel mower is making a comeback, reports Brian Sargent:

Sales of reel hand-powered lawn mowers have steadily risen during the past few years, Teri McClain said in an Associated Press story. McClain is inside sales administrator at the 112-year-old American Lawn Mower Co. in Shelbyville, Ind., which she said is the only manufacturer of reel mowers in the United States.

Exact statistics aren’t available, but McClain estimates 350,000 manual mowers are sold in the United States each year — most made by her company. That is just a fraction of the 6 million gas-powered walk-behind mowers that hit the market last year. Still, that number is about 100,000 more than were sold just five years ago and seven times as many as the estimated 50,000 a year sold in the 1980s, McClain said.

Me, I’m holding out for a hybrid. Then again, my own mower is nominally self-propelled — there’s a belt to drive the front wheels — but I hardly ever use the propulsion feature: I just push. Maybe when this thing dies a horrible death…

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Time to whippet out

Some worthless lump of pond scum (may he die in a chemical fire) has hijacked an forum to spam the world with drug offers, and the most annoying of them, from the standpoint of link lust, is the one that begins “can greyhounds take amoxicillin”.

Since this has already been spread around a bit, I’m taking the liberty of linking to an actual abstract on the subject, with the hope that future Googlers will find it instead of his spam pages.

The abstract (which is available here) is called “Effect of feeding on plasma antibiotic concentrations in greyhounds given ampicillin and amoxycillin by mouth,” by Watson, A.D., and Egerton, J.R. Regular users of PubMed may already have seen this abstract.

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Clearly the clearest clearcutting

You have to hope that these guys have done the math:

The Humane Society International is horrified by threats made by farmers in three [Australian] states to fell trees every day as a protest against climate change programs.

On Tuesday this week, World Environment Day, farmers from New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria threatened to cut down one tree on July 1, two on July 2 and so on, to protest what they call a government conspiracy.

Does this mean that on the third, they’ll cut down three trees, in simple arithmetical progression — or that they will double the cutting, thereby doing four? If the latter, they’ll cut down eight trees on the 4th, 16 on the 5th, and they’ll have wiped out every tree in the Southern Hemisphere before Boxing Day.

(Via Tim Blair.)

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Language mavens can’t believe their I’s

Not three of them in a row, anyway:

It sounds like a made-up malady like the dreaded “bonitis” from Futurama, but apparently some Wii gamers are truly suffering from a condition known as Wiiitis. The condition, which seems to be caused by overuse of Nintendo Wii, was recently described in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Julio Bonis had seen a “couch potato” patient with a sore shoulder who had recently played a great deal of Wii Tennis and described that the “variant in this patient can be labeled more specifically as Wiiitis.”

Unlike the dreaded bonitis, Wiiitis is apparently non-lethal:

“The treatment consisted of ibuprofen for one week, as well as complete abstinence from playing Wii video games,” the doctor wrote.

There hasn’t been a game-system-related disease since a number of seizures were reported by avid players of Grand Mal Auto a few years back.

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Now we’ll need amplifiers

Remember that $300,000 turntable?

Here’s a pair of million-dollar speakers to go with it.

Of course, if you want 5.1 surround — but never mind, let’s not go there.

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Your basic comedy of errors

Once upon a time I had a 1975 Toyota Celica named Dymphna, and she needed a new starter. The shop looked up the part number, and was horrified to find that there were two different starters applicable to that model year: Toyota had made a running change during that year, and the Dymmer was a June car, so she’d get the newer version. Which would be no big deal, except that the change was so late in the year that the supply of version 1.1 starters was never all that big, and in her 190,000 miles with me she chewed up three of them. I have long suspected that the fourth unit was her original starter, rebuilt.

A curious little contretemps of this sort befell Gwendolyn this week. I was having some A/C work done, and in the process of mounting the compressor the tech inadvertently bent the low-pressure hose. No big deal, they said, we’ll put in a new one, no charge, but we’ll have to order it from the parts depot, and in the meantime, you just keep driving that G35 we lent you. Of course, I’m fond enough of the G to make this a nonissue. The new hose came in, and it didn’t fit the compressor: eventually they decided that the compressor itself was damaged. They called around to local Nissan stores and located another compressor: still mismatched. Finally Nissan/Infiniti HQ in Tennessee airlifted some parts that fit.

After I got home, I pulled up the online service material at Alldata, and the part number for the low-pressure hose is the same as the one on my invoice (no charge, as promised), but there’s an intimidating notation at its side: “To 9/00.” Apparently Nissan screwed around with this model all year: my car is late enough to have the side airbags, which weren’t available at first, and the later instrument panel (with only one dimmer control instead of two), but too early to have the nav system.

Oh, well. Even supermodels sometimes wind up in the wrong size — briefly.

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Quote of the week (first of two)

Yes, we have a tie again, but then it’s been a couple of weeks since we had a QOTW at all.

This first one is a long one, but Will has a long title: 7th Degree Bi-Cosmic Hermeticist and First Deputy in Charge of Doctrinal Enforcement.

[I]t is the nature of the Spirit to hide in plain sight. That is, the Spirit avoids what men would find seductively intriguing. The Spirit avoids the “corridors of power.”

Which I’ve always suspected. Not that I’m exactly enlightened or anything.

Let’s face it, the Spirit has a puckish sense of humor. If in 1960 someone had told you that a music was soon coming that would capture the world’s imagination and even fundamentally change the world’s culture, would you guess that music would be coming out of Liverpool, England?

Astronomers say that if you want to see a star clearly with the naked eye, it’s best to look a little to the side of the star. Then the star comes into clear focus. I’m not sure if this applies here, but I do think it interesting.

Here’s one of my own coinage: You’re more likely to find a quarter on the sidewalk by not looking for it as you are by actually looking. I think this also probably applies to finding love. In either case, anxiety will be kept to a minimum.

Now he tells me.

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Quote of the week (second of two)

This is second mostly because I typed the other one in first. Here’s Blythe:

Everyone worth dating is already dating someone and has since at least 2005, maybe even 2004. I don’t say this to be mean, it’s just fact (hey, I’m in this group too). Back in 2005, I had a boyfriend and didn’t know I needed to be looking for a new one. Also, marriage is the new black. I thought the idea was to wait till you’ve found yourself and shit. How come everyone’s scrambling to tie the knot now? Medicine keeps getting better and better. We’re going to live for a long time.

Now she tells me.

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Hopes dashed in an instant

Trini was in love, sort of. The ranking hoonette at the shop, she really would like to get rid of her nasty old truck and get something actually fun to drive: at the top of her list is the Spec-V variant of the SE-R version of Nissan’s compact Sentra sedan.

Yesterday she stumbled upon the next best thing: it wasn’t a Spec-V, but it was an SE-R, it was here in town, it was only three years old, it hadn’t been driven to death, and the payments would have fit into her budget. Such a deal, I said, and she went off to make some phone calls.

The thrill was gone by the time she returned. The payments, not a problem: but her insurance would nearly double. (The premium, in fact, would be nearly $100 more than the car payment each month.) So much for budget-fitting. I’ve never seen a woman I wasn’t actually dating so disillusioned so quickly.

Maybe I can talk her into a nice used G20: same engine, not so highly tuned, possibly less suspicious to insurance guys.

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