Archive for October 2009

Full-ish disclosure

Just seen at Deep Glamour:

Deep Glamour is an Amazon affiliate. Virginia Postrel receives a percentage of the purchase price on anything you buy through one of our Amazon links, including purchases you make while on Amazon that we did not link directly to.

The Federal Trade Commission demands that we tell you this — they think you’re idiots and are violating the First Amendment with their regulation of what bloggers publish — but it’s also a friendly reminder to Support DeepGlamour by starting all your Amazon shopping here.

Now that’s the way to do it: snicker at the absurdity of it all while simultaneously packing no fewer than four Amazon affiliate links into a mere two paragraphs. Color me deeply impressed.

(There’s more, but I figured I’d stop once I got all the Amazon links in.)

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Don’t leave the home page without it

QA Hates You turned this up on an e-commerce site:

Masked American Express number

“Does that make you feel better about the site’s security?” asks The Director.

Only in the sense that they’ve obscured 16 digits out of a possible 15, that being the standard length of an American Express card number. (Not too similarly: the Lotus Notes client I use at work echoes the password with repetitions of the letter X, but it’s not always one X per password character; a 9-character password might cough up anywhere between 12 and 17 of them.)

Aside: Does anyone else ever use the term “e-commerce” anymore?

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Registry hacked

Megan McArdle and her fiancé are duly registered at [FavoriteYuppieStore], but she finds the process a trifle offputting:

Had we been shopping on our own account, we would have found it easy to decide whether we wanted something, or not.

But I actually found it incredibly inhibiting. There were plenty of nice things we needed, primarily glassware and serving bowls. If I’d been spending my own money, I might well have bought them. But instead I found myself wondering if this was really nice enough to justify having other people buy it for me. More often than not, I put it back. But whether or not I ended up scanning an item, I was surprised to find that, once I was no longer spending my own money, I didn’t really know whether I wanted it or not.

A little reluctance is probably good for the soul. “I can’t ask someone to buy something like this for me.” Then again, it’s possible to carry this concept entirely too far. (Don’t even ask.)

I’m all for making things easier on our friends — but there’s something deeply weird about making it easier for people to buy you gifts. It’s one thing if you have a china or a silver pattern — and we probably will register for china, at least. But I’m really not sure about the rest of it. There are some desires that just shouldn’t be advertised.

Let’s hear it for gift cards.

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We got your inauspiciousness right here

I know, I know: it’s only a preseason game. But it was against Memphis, fercryingoutloud. And the Grizzlies, who stayed close through three quarters, exploded in the fourth, nailing three treys in a row and claiming a 99-91 victory over the Thunder.

The difference here: rebounding (Memphis 40-30), free throws (the Griz got 47 chances at the stripe, hitting 36), and Sam Young, who rolled up 18 points in that final frame. Not bad for a second-round draft pick.

Next: off to New Orleans for a Saturday-afternoon game.

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A case of them

The current newsletter from CD Baby recommends, among other recordings, Music Songs by Garfunkel & Oates, which is succinctly described as “Folk: Like Joni.” Yeah, if Joni were still in Laurel Canyon and had a serious case of the giggles. Better comparison, from a contributed review: “The Veronicas if the Veronicas were original — and on crystal meth.”

I, of course, recommend G&O highly, and I’m not saying so because CD Baby sent me a copy, because they didn’t: by gum, I paid for it. (Take that, Federal Treif Commission.)

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A mere Caprice

Not that I’m anxious to be pursued by a chase vehicle with Corvette-level power, particularly, but I think that dressing one of the late, lamented Pontiac G8’s Australian sisters as a Chevrolet, disinterring the Caprice name, and selling it to police departments is a swell idea. Quite apart from the fact that Ford’s Crown Victoria, the cop-market leader, seems to date back to when Victoria herself was young, the General needs to be in the RWD-sedan market in some way that isn’t a Cadillac. As Tam notes:

You know, the one thing Detroit, and especially GM, did better than anybody else was build big, plush, rugged, body-on-frame sedans. And instead of playing to their strengths, they pissed away whatever competitive advantage they had by playing the other guy’s game, and playing it badly. Rather than squandering all their corporate blood and treasure on a whole host of poorly-conceived, ill-built, me-too-mobiles like the Citation and Cimarron and Skylark, they should have just licensed the Corolla and Camry as badge-engineered entry-level Chevys and let Buick be Buick.

Besides, sooner or later you’ll see Caprices in civilian gear, and not necessarily retired from active duty either: how likely is it that the fleet manager at your Chevy store is going to turn down an order for the police package, hold the light bar?

There are those who prefer the upcoming Carbon police vehicle, which is an impressive-looking beast in its own right, but the big Chevy is part and parcel of American history, and making them in Oz, I submit, detracts not a whit. (Their beloved Vickie, Ford fans may or may not admit, comes from Ontario these days.) Then again, some people think I’m just about a half-whit.

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Phish phail

Dear “Webmail Helpdesk Team”: If you’re going to attempt to sucker people out of the following information …

CONFIRM YOUR EMAIL IDENTITY BELOW
1. Full Email Address:________ 2. Password:________ 3. Country:_______ 4. Age:________ 5. Date of birth:______ 6. First name/Last name:____ 7. Security Question/Answer:______

… the take will likely be better if you actually provide them a bogus link for them to click on.

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Reducing liquids on board

No, this isn’t some sort of misguided TSA scheme. This is a misguided Japanese scheme:

One Japanese carrier, All Nippon Airways, is asking its passengers to take a trip to the bathroom before climbing aboard to reduce weight, and therefore fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

Talk about looking out for Number One. Here’s the premise:

The average human bladder holds up to a litre of fluid, which weighs roughly one kilogram. All Nippon’s most popular aircraft, a Boeing 777, holds 247 people. So, in theory, if 247 passengers all go to the washroom before boarding, they could lighten the plane by up to 247 kilograms — the weight of three average men.

This is, of course, a theoretical maximum, and not likely to be realized on a regular basis:

[M]ost people, definitely those who are experienced travelers, will take care of business before getting on a plane. They don’t have to be told.

Absolutely.

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351

It’s “CoTV time again”, says Andrew Ian Dodge to announce the 351st edition of Carnival of the Vanities.

“Again,” of course, implies at the very least more than one. For instance, in the late Sixties Ford had two very different V-8 engines, both with a displacement of 351 cubic inches. They were distinguished by plumbing and hardware differences and by their point of origin: one from Cleveland, the other from Windsor.

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With an 80 percent chance of heaviness

Off the National Weather Service wire this afternoon:

AT 425 PM CDT … RADAR INDICATED VERY HEAVY RAIN MOVING OVER THE OKLAHOMA CITY METRO AND SURROUNDING AREAS. THE RAIN WILL BE VERY HEAVY.

That’s the problem with heavy rain: it’s so heavy.

Along with this:

EXCESSIVE RUNOFF FROM HEAVY RAINFALL WILL CAUSE ELEVATED LEVELS ON SMALL CREEKS AND STREAMS … AND PONDING OF WATER IN URBAN AREAS … HIGHWAYS … STREETS AND UNDERPASSES AS WELL AS OTHER POOR DRAINAGE AREAS AND LOW LYING SPOTS.

On days like this I wonder if we have any good drainage areas.

The drive home was entertaining, in a zombies-have-asked-you-to-lunch sort of way.

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Cafe standards

Her Radishness encounters them at JFK:

After standing in line for five hours, I was able to drag my carcass into a chain restaurant for a burger and a beer.

It took me 15 minutes to figure out what all those three-digit integers on the beer list meant.

They put the freaking calorie counts on the BEER LIST.

And, having seen them, she did the only proper thing. She ignored them:

Obviously, this had no impact on my order. I would drink store brand beer from a can before I would order MGD64 (nasty AND weak), and diet soda is not beer. As it was, I had to settle for a Sam Adams, as the airport franchise did not have the bountiful taps of the standalone franchise I visit most frequently.

You can do worse than a Sam Adams, and I admit I often have. But that’s not the issue, really:

[T]his just means the anhedoniacs who demand everyone live as joylessly as they do are going to push government to restrict menus.

It’s just a matter of time, though I suspect it’s not anhedonia at work, but pure secularism: after all, beer, as Ben Franklin didn’t exactly say, is proof that God loves us, and such things must be expunged from the public sphere lest we develop unsocial habits like gratitude to the Almighty.

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Disclosure eyes

What to do about those new FTC rules for bloggers? Jacqueline offers a suggestion:

Maybe as a society we should just change our assumptions? Perhaps our default assumption should be that all endorsements are paid endorsements unless the reviewer states that they were NOT compensated. Then instead of prosecuting people for committing lies of omission (forgetting or not knowing that they have to explicitly disclose when they’ve been compensated for a review) we only prosecute people for lies of commission (claiming that you were not paid when you really were).

Everyone knows that lying is wrong and almost everyone understands that you can get into trouble for lying about something related to money, but not everyone knows (or should be expected to know) the laws requiring disclosure about paid endorsements in publications or broadcasts. Most people don’t even realize that their personal blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc. is covered by the many of the same rules covering newspapers and TV channels. Now that technology has put the power to publish/broadcast into the hands of ordinary people, perhaps we should consider revising our expectations of publishers/broadcasters to be more in line with what ordinary people can reasonably be expected to understand and comply with.

Our expectations of publishers/broadcasters are fairly low, but this is due at least partially to the fact that those laws requiring disclosure actually exist: after you’ve seen one “compensated endorsement” after another, it’s reasonable to assume that everyone (excluding ourselves, of course) is on the take. But that being the case, the task of shifting the default assumption is actually greatly simplified, since we pretty much already believe it.

Still, we can’t expect the laws to be written this way: with any given regulation, all else being equal, government prefers to criminalize the largest number of persons possiblepour encourager les autres, one assumes.

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State of the Ward

Last month I put up a perfectly lovely photo of Diane Lane, and drew this comment:

She and Sela Ward are the two most beautiful women in the biz. Hands down.

Fortunately for all concerned, last Sunday Parade did a feature on Sela Ward, from which I have swiped two photos by John Russo, on the basis that one just wasn’t enough.

Sela Ward in Parade magazine

I suppose we are now accepting nominations for Number Three.

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Quote of the week

Much has been made in blogdom of that “Artificial Virginity Kit” being sold, and I was going to skip over the whole thing and pretend I never saw it.

Then Stacy McCain arrived with a fair measure of perspective:

Is not honesty a virtue equal or superior to chastity? And what virtue shall we praise more than mercy? For even if society condemns fornication — as well it should — it would be a most cruel thing to seek a woman’s hand in marriage under such terms as to require her to engage in a horrid deceit, lest she suffer death for being honest.

If this is genuinely the state of society in some places, then there is only one proper and honorable course of conduct for any woman who, for whatever reason, may have fear of this particular custom: Let her reject the proposed marriage. Her would-be husband, if he genuinely wants her, ought to be willing to accept her as she is, however she is.

Perhaps easier said than done in some societies, as noted by several of McCain’s commenters. But I continue to believe that if he isn’t willing to accept her, he doesn’t deserve her, and I don’t care what kind of doctrinal gloss is applied.

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Nobody does more for Apple than Microsoft

The largest single group of Windows users today? XP users. Their upgrade path to the latest and greatest? Nonexistent:

They’ll have to wipe out their hard disks after backing up their files elsewhere, then install Windows 7, then restore their personal files, then re-install all their programs from the original CDs or downloaded installer files. Then, they have to install all the patches and upgrades to those programs from over the years.

Microsoft includes an Easy Transfer wizard to help with this, but it moves only personal files, not programs. This painful XP upgrade process is one of the worst things about Windows 7 and will likely drive many XP owners to either stick with what they’ve got or wait and buy a new one.

Steve Jobs, meanwhile, is laughing himself all the way to the grave.

(Via James Joyner, who is in no rush to upgrade.)

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The path of least assistance

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has opened a Twitter account, which, says the AP, “plans to post traffic and construction updates,” which is theoretically handy if you’re traveling. Of course, if you get your updates sent to your cell phone, you might be the subject of one of those updates at some point, but that’s another matter entirely.

Then I took a look at their timeline, and they get major malus (opposite of “bonus”) points for using HootSuite and ow.ly, which means any links they dish up are going to be framed. Worse, the traffic updates I checked were identified as, and indeed turned out to be, identical to the Traffax stuff they send out via fax, in the worst way: they’re PDFs of the original faxes, and if there’s one thing worse than a PDF file on a mobile, it’s a PDF file in a frame on a mobile.

But what am I thinking? This is ODOT. This is what they do. I just wonder how many computers they tore up during the development process.

(Suggested by Shawn Wright.)

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She and I

This doesn’t mean you, unless of course it does.

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Hearken unto us

There’s the Bataan Death March, and then there’s parking at the Harkins:

If I am going to let’s say, an eight o’clock movie, I need to arrive to the theater at six so that maybe I’ll have the chance to get a parking spot that’s within two miles of the front door. Look, I’m not parking in that damn lot that’s back behind Bass Pro. I’m just not. It’s the principle of the matter. What’s that? They have a shuttle I can ride? See, I drove a car so that I wouldn’t have to be shoved up against some slightly overweight guy that covered his entire body in Axe Body Spray, even if it’s just for three minutes. No thanks on the bus ride. And I’m not parking in the lot where you use your ticket to get out for free. I’m too dumb to remember to save my ticket and I’d have to pay the five anyway. So don’t even suggest that.

Actually, that latter lot, where you use your ticket to get out for free, is where I always park, and I never forget to get my ticket validated, because I am at heart a cheap essobee who is unwilling to kiss a five-spot goodbye.

I wonder what he’d say if the ceiling fell in on him.

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Canon fodder

A few days back, Fillyjonk was talking about the Harvard Classics:

Last night I was talking on Twitter about the Harvard Five-Foot Shelf. This was an “Everyman’s Library” like project — the editor of it actually said in his introduction that he planned the collection so that a person not able to go to college (for a Humanities degree; I think when this was developed in the early 1900s, that was what one mainly went to college for) could get the “best part” by reading the Five Foot Shelf.

Half a century later, there was a similarly-sized collection called Great Books of the Western World, first issued in 1952. Unlike the Harvard collection, it remains in print, albeit somewhat changed from the original.

Way back when, these were aspirational acquisitions for the American home, writes Susan Jacoby:

The Great Books — along with all those Time-Life series — were often “purchased on the installment plan by parents who had never owned a book but were willing to sacrifice to provide their children with information about the world that had been absent from their own upbringing,” Jacoby writes. They represented an old American belief — now endangered — that “anyone willing to invest time and energy in self-education might better himself.”

What has been lost, according to Jacoby, is a culture of intellectual effort. We are increasingly ignorant, but we do not know enough to be properly ashamed. If we are determined to get on in life, we believe it will not have anything to do with our ability to reference Machiavelli or Adam Smith at the office Christmas party. The rejection of the Great Books signifies a declining belief in the value of anything without a direct practical application, combined with the triumph of a passive entertainment — as anyone who teaches college students can probably affirm.

Certainly I’m not about to name-check Montesquieu at work. But the rejection of canon is also, I suggest, partly due to some people’s revulsion at the idea that after however many centuries the works of dead white European males still comprise most of it.

This, however, sounds more like me:

I do find that the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know, and I admit a certain distress that I probably don’t have as much time to rectify What I Don’t Know than I would like to have.

It’s not an attitude you have to be a Science Genius Girl to appreciate, either.

(With thanks to Joanne Jacobs.)

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A Fair chance of survival

The Tulsa State Fair is continuing at this writing, and, public-spirited as always, the Irritated Tulsan has a list of safety tips, including this one I should immediately commit to memory and/or take to heart:

After you eat a deep-fried item, use the stick to poke a hole in your side. This will allow the oil to drain.

In fact, now I’m wondering if some of us couldn’t benefit by having a valve installed at an appropriate location.

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Going up

The list of building permits in the Saturday Oklahoman is ordered by estimated cost, so inevitably this was the first item:

Devon World Headquarters LLC, 101 N. Harvey Ave., parking, add-on, $45,000,000.

This refers, of course, not to the big drill bit in the sky itself, but the neighboring parking garage. The Tower itself, slightly scaled down from the original plans — we’re now looking at 50 stories, 850 feet, 1.8 million square feet of space — will be completed in, they say, late 2012, at a cost somewhere in the vicinity of $750 million.

Still, the sheer size of this project dwarfs everything else in town. The second item on the building-permits list is a $500k house near Council and Memorial.

I’m still wondering if there’s a street address assigned to the Tower. Wikipedia says 280 West Sheridan, but that can’t be right: that would put it on top of the north end of the Myriad Botanical Gardens. 289 or 301 or 333, I’d believe.

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Bees find their sting

The Hornets dropped their first two preseason games, and with the possibility of a third looming, coach Byron Scott decided that the hometown crowd would rather see a win than a rehearsal for the Big Show, and brought back Chris Paul, who promptly took control of the situation. It didn’t hurt that the Thunder, who had been shooting indifferently, started shooting horribly at about that point, and the Traveling Oklahomans dropped their second preseason game, managing a feeble 10 points in the first seven minutes of the last quarter and nothing thereafter. New Orleans 88, Oklahoma City 79.

Potential worry: Last time out, the Thunder were up four after three quarters and lost. Today, the Thunder were up four after three quarters and lost. This is, I submit, not a good sign.

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Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are babes

In this Danish Modern resetting of Hamlet, it makes a certain amount of sense:

I suppose this was to allow for more female roles in the play (some of the “lords” were also female). But it added an interesting extra layer of comic relief — they were dressed as very trashy women, in a sort of 1980s Madonna mode (Rosencrantz — or maybe it was Guildenstern — had high ratted blonde hair, tight jeans with a sparkly top, and high heels, and the other wore a short tight skirt and low blouse). And they flirted shamelessly with Hamlet while trying to get information from him.

Which, after all, was their assignment from the King. The getting of information, I mean.

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The automobile as beat box

Not anymore, if a Florida state representative gets his way:

State Representative D. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) last month introduced House Bill 137 which modifies an existing loud stereo statute to double the cost of fines and make the offense a moving violation.

Current Florida law makes it unlawful to drive with a stereo “plainly audible” from twenty-five feet away or that is “louder than necessary for the convenient hearing by persons inside the vehicle” when driving past a church, school or hospital. Law enforcement officers are exempt as are politicians who use loud soundmaking devices for “political purposes.” The typical fine is $78 with no points.

HB 137 would impose three license points and boost the fine to $180 for a third offense.

Of course, even $180 is trivial next to the insurance-premium jacking you’re going to get with three points. Not that the $16,000 Hays has received from insurance companies in the past five years has anything to do with this.

I expect this bill to be fought purely on racial-profiling grounds, inasmuch as no one is going to be busted for playing Ravel’s Pavane pour une infante défunte at high volume.

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In at least three dimensions

Someone once asked me for an off-the-cuff description of Michelle Obama, figure-wise, and I said something to the effect of “She’s a big, healthy girl.” At the time, of course, I had no numbers to quote.

Now maybe I do. Newsbird has made an attempt to size up the First Lady, and reports as follows:

Shoulder width 18″

Waist 35″

Widest part of hips 46″

Her bust measurements are maybe 37″ to 39″. Her waist size has to be more than 29″.

She is size L at the top due to her broad shoulders even while her waist and bust measurements are small. That is why her cardigans are too small — she most likely buys them according to her bust size.

At the bottom she is at least misses size 18 or XL.

A classic pear shape, really: not particularly busty, a defined but not exaggerated waist, and a center of gravity about where you’d expect it to be. And it explains much about her fashion choices:

I guess Michelle thinks that wearing sleeveless tops which are as small as possible she will look slender because her upper torso is small compared to her shoulders and hips. And she is right. But she also looks good in smooth simple dresses with 4/5 sleeves as she wore at the DNC.

But when she wears a suit like she did for Congress last month, she looks matronly and heavy because her wide shoulders require a large size jacket or top. This was the worst type of suit for her figure.

[Links added by me.]

Generally, this fits with what I’ve been saying: sometimes Mrs O comes up with something really excellent, and sometimes I wonder what she was thinking. Then again, I’m no fashion consultant, and I suspect that the ones she has, she overrules from time to time. I mean, it’s not like you can make her wear what you want.

(Via Cripes Suzette.)

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And they’re back

Under license from the founder, the eminent Mike H., JenX67 is conducting the 2009 Okie Blog Awards. Nominations will be taken starting the first of January. I don’t see a “Least Improved” category, so I should escape this year without being nominated. (Jen is taking suggestions for new categories, but I doubt she’d buy that one.)

In case you’ve been living in one of the 56 other states all these years, this is the idea behind the OBAs:

The purpose of the awards is to recognize the hard work and talent of Oklahoma bloggers, as well as to raise awareness about the growing significance of blogs as important sources of news, information and entertainment, etc.

Disclosure: This very site won Best Overall Blog in 1912, beating out Birds on My Clothesline, The Lost Ogres and The McCarville Report.

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There’s a zombie on your log

I may have gotten plenty of mileage out of weird search strings, but I don’t think I’ve ever had any cemetery traffic:

Okay, I’m totally skeeved out to see a 30-second web hit from a cemetery PLOT in Los Angeles.

Which, from the proffered coordinates, turns out to be Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery, in the West Adams section of L.A., southwest of downtown, about three miles from MacArthur Park.

Questions to be asked:

  • Is this visitor actually dead?
  • If so, does this visitor have a blog?
  • If so, why is it on LiveJournal?

Actually, this isn’t as weird as it seems; a look through the spam trap shows zombie comments just about every day.

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Always choose pre-shrunk fabrics

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You got change for a nine?

Obama nine-dollar bill

The guys from HillBuzz report:

[W]hile scoping out the Southport, Clarke, and Belmont shops for the travel guides of Lincoln Park/Lakeview, we went into dozens of tee shirt, poster, novelty, and comic book shops all around town today.

The great majority of them had Dr. Utopia’s smiling face on a nine dollar bill taped to the registers.

These are those joke currencies that sometimes have the Statue of Liberty on a Million Dollar Bill. In the 80s, we saw Reagan on joke million dollar bills … and in the 90s, we often saw Hillary Clinton on joke Millions … in novelty shops (where they were probably meant to terrify Republicans) or in weird futuristic movies like Pluto Nash.

But we’ve never seen fake “nine dollar bills” before and have absolutely no idea if there’s a significance to that.

This is not, of course, counterfeiting: there is no real $9 bill, so making a fake one does not violate the counterfeiting statutes.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this. Nine, as I noted at HillBuzz, is three squared, but it’s not like we’re seeing, say, Rahm Emanuel on a three-spot.

Maybe this telegraphs Obama’s future intentions: the day before he leaves the White House, he nominates himself for the Supreme Court.

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Strange search-engine queries (193)

Skeptics are now claiming that the strangest search-engine queries are not appearing now, as alleged by several groups of “experts,” but several years ago. Who knew? Besides me, I mean.

Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility story:  Um, this is not about me, okay?

the name of all the cities that have columbus:  Apparently Columbus’ remains traveled nearly as many miles as he did.

don’t wait to be led:  In fact, jump on the bandwagon right now before anyone notices.

what rhymes with politician:  “Mortician,” most obviously.

keith olbermann/ anderson cooper fanfiction:  “You’re the worst person in the world, you know that?” “Shut up and hold me.”

mark darcy is an emotional withholder and daniel is just a straightforward man-whore:  “I thought you said I was the worst person in the world.”

historical bogus trends:  The longer the period being examined, the greater the tendency toward bogosity.

magnetic vortex wormhole generator full body teleportation system gravitational wave vortex:  Is Acme still in business? Wile E. Coyote IV is hungry.

sun doesn’t go down:  The horizon’s moving up.

14th nervous breakdown:  An early Stones single. Followed by “Paint It, Taupe.”

there is no such thing as a bear sheriff yogurt commercial:  Are you absolutely, positively sure about that?

penis shaped fish:  “Cap’n, there are holes in the net!”

i bet you’re looking at this in your google referrer info and wondering just how bored someone would have to be to search this:  Or, for that matter, to cut and paste it.

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Spokes models

SciAm has a piece in the October issue which argues that US cities are not particularly bicycle-friendly, and that even in the most so, male cyclists far outnumber females. The reasoning:

Women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities for several reasons. First, studies across disciplines as disparate as criminology and child ­rearing have shown that women are more averse to risk than men. In the cycling arena, that risk aversion translates into increased demand for safe bike infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding. Women also do most of the child care and household shopping, which means these bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference.

Bike Pittsburgh has been running the numbers for the 60 largest US cities, and only 20 have even 1 percent of commuters on bicycles. Portland, at 6 percent, has the most. But even in Portland, there are half again as many men as women on wheels.

Near the bottom of the top 60 is Oklahoma City, ranked 56th, with a whole 0.2 percent of commuters on bicycles: 0.3 percent of men, 0.1 percent of women. Dallas finished dead last, as anyone who has ever driven there can probably understand; Tulsa finished 43rd overall, though it’s tied for 22nd for women. (Among women only, OKC rises to a tie for 37th.) It might be useful for our Trails people to see what Tulsa is doing to promote cycling. And SciAm notes:

In the U.S., most cycling facilities consist of on-street bike lanes, which require riding in vehicle-clogged traffic, notes John Pucher, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University and longtime bike scholar. And when cities do install traffic-protected off-street bike paths, they are almost always along rivers and parks rather than along routes leading “to the supermarket, the school, the day care center,” Pucher says.

Assuming, of course, they’ll even let you ride to school.

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I won’t shop, don’t ask me

This is not so much due to distaste for the process as it is the fear of becoming Shopping Man:

Shopping Man doesn’t really think it’s “shopping” unless he returns with a month’s worth of steak, onions, garlic and generic black socks that *you* will lose in the dryer within the next 3 days anyway.

Hardly his greatest offense, either:

Shopping Man has interesting ideas of how you should look that are not based on any kind of reality. Why should it be up to him if you look like a nun, a slut, or a slutty nun knocking off the local 7-11 whilst blowing bubbles with bazooka gum? I don’t think so.

Then again, Henny Youngman once complained: “Someone stole all my credit cards, but I won’t be reporting it. The thief spends less than my wife did.” Nobody’s going to accuse Henny of being Shopping Man.

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Nor did you mess around with him

I’ve always felt that the remarkable thing about the late Jim Croce was the fact that he was equally at home with sensitive singer-songwriter stuff and tall tales of urban badasses; not even Lloyd Price made that kind of jump on a regular basis, but Croce did it practically from track to track. Still, my favorite item in the Croce songbook is one of the sensitive songs, “Operator,” which came up Saturday on the box and inspired me to sing along. As always, I lost it on the second “But that’s not the way it feels.”

By coincidence, Dr. Funk was talking about this very song on Sunday, and here’s what he had to say:

[M]y 11-year old daughter asked me about something she didn’t quite understand. She asked why somebody was talking to an operator when he could’ve just dialed 411. And then she asked about what the line “you can keep the dime” meant. There are few things that make somebody feel older than trying to explain something to somebody who doesn’t have the same frame of reference … like the UHF/VHF dials on a TV set, or a TV that didn’t come with a remote control, or the spindle adapter that allowed a 45 RPM record to play on an LP player, or even a rotary dial on a telephone. At least she understood that he was at a pay phone.

The thing I love about this song is the story it tells. A man is hoping to contact his former lover after she left him for a friend of his and moved to L.A. Despite asserting he’s overcome his pain and moved on with his life, it’s obvious he still hasn’t come to grips with what happened. At the end of the song, he hangs up the phone without having the courage to make the call. It’s a bit of reality that didn’t always find its way into Top 40 radio in 1972 (even if it did appear around the same time as Dr. Hook’s “Sylvia’s Mother,” another song that played out over a telephone conversation).

Farther back in time, there’s Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee,” an even jauntier song with what seems to be an even sadder story. Perhaps to claim his right to this kind of tale, in “Operator” Croce comes up with an almost-Berryesque description of that other guy: “my best old ex-friend Ray.”

And there’s this:

Considering that “Operator” has been a radio fixture for much longer than Croce’s own lifespan, it might surprise fans to know the song wasn’t a Top 10 hit. His second chart single, it only reached #17.

Also somewhat Berryesque: “Memphis” was actually a B-side (of “Back in the U.S.A.,” on Chess 1729).

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Greasing formula

Richard “Wretchard” Fernandez, on the difficulty of keeping up appearances:

[Eric] Bana explained he did not dye his hair out of fear of becoming hostage to the dread Black Helmet, which is “the thing that men get when they decide to cover their grays,” Bana said. Nothing could be worse than wearing an unchanging slab of black hair as one grew older. The price of keeping one’s hair youthful isn’t the price of a bottle of dye, it is the cumulative effort of keeping the rest of the face in sync with the Black Helmet as the visage beneath it ages. That effort increases with time until it finally becomes prohibitive. Keeping reality from showing through the façade of fakery is a full time job.

Me in 1978Anyone who has seen me since 1978, when this picture was taken, will recognize that this was the high point in terms of both hair color and hair volume: the color has steadily eroded, and the volume has steadily diminished, in the thirty-one years that followed, although the declines are markedly slower than before, as they’d pretty much have to be, there being so little left of both.

I am not, I hasten to add, considering a dye job, on which subject Donald Pittenger notes:

[I]f everyone who had ever begun graying dyed their hair, then in theory their appearance would eventually be perceived as normal. So many 50- 60- and 70-something women dye their hair nowadays that I’m almost beginning to think their appearance is normal. Or maybe that applies to women I’m acquainted with who get well-crafted dye-jobs; dull, jet-black or henna-purple hair seems fundamentally unnatural because no one with normal hair looks that way.

When I was twentysomething, though, “fundamentally unnatural” wasn’t all that heinous: obviously that ‘do of mine was puffed up like a marshmallow or something. And there was that time Trini decided she wanted blue highlights. Blue hair, I submit, looks better when you’re 23 than it does when you’re 73.

And it occurs to me that if it took 30 years to lose that particular look, it’s not going to come back in 30 minutes, or even 30 months, no matter how big a check I write to whatever specialists might be required.

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An unfortunate scrape

This weekend post, like many from this blog and others, has wound up on a scraper site, unattributed and poorly formatted, not to mention incomplete.

Ordinarily I would ignore this sort of petty lifting, but inasmuch as they actually posted a DMCA takedown procedure, albeit in PDF format, I decided to give the premises a look-see.

For future reference, this scraper, and probably several others, is represented for DMCA purposes by a fellow named Mike Johnson in Shelby Township, Michigan at support@affiliatetrafficmachine.com. (Note: Do not bother Mr Johnson unless you’ve been similarly scraped by a site which names him as DMCA representative.)

Although I really put this up to give you a look at some of the motivation out there, courtesy of one Jeff Johnson. Some months back I went to the trouble of sticking an actual copyright notice in my feed, so here and there you may see my name in vain.

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The first 36 minutes are easy

This Fourth-Quarter Drought™ business is starting to get scary. After the third, it was Oklahoma City 90, Phoenix 73; twelve minutes later, it was tied at 99. The Suns struck first in the overtime, but the Thunder put together an 8-point burst and prevailed, 110-105. If you do the math, OKC scored more points in those last five minutes than they did in the preceding twelve.

Still, it’s a win, and a home win at that, even if it’s in the preseason, and Kid Delicious knocked down 30 points, something we’re probably going to see a lot of once things get up to speed.

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Old technology

Sony CDP-101

It hit me yesterday that the Compact Disc has been around for nearly half my lifetime: Sony’s CDP-101, the first consumer CD player in the States, shipped in October 1982, while John Cougar, not yet having reclaimed his actual surname, topped the charts with “Jack & Diane,” which was not available on CD at the time. (The first discs pressed were Strauss’ Alpine Symphony with Karajan conducting, and Abba’s The Visitors; the first disc to show up in the US market was Billy Joel’s 52nd Street.)

Mostly I put this up for Trini, who is younger than the format, and who still prefers it to the inchoate downloadable bits some of us are known to fiddle with: you can’t accidentally delete a CD, although I did manage to freeze one once.

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It’s got the juice

While we wait for the ostensibly-affordable Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, Tesla is already selling an electric-powered Roadster, and while the price ($109,000) will make your nose bleed, the operating costs apparently won’t. Automobile’s West Coast editor Jason Cammisa got to play with a Tesla for 500 miles, and, per his story in the November issue, it appears he did pretty much what you’d expect with a car that does zero to sixty in something like four seconds: he drove the living whee out of it. (Of course, one drives the living whee out of slow cars as well, but perhaps for a different reason.)

The final tab: 499 miles, 185 kWh. Keep in mind, he was sticking fairly close to Tesla’s dealership in Menlo Park, California, and that meant he was paying PG&E rates, which, once you get a certain percentage beyond the designated baseline, soar into the stratosphere. Still:

The Tesla cost me $45.98 to run for 499 miles, about the same as a car that uses premium unleaded at the rate of about 33 mpg.

Which, for a car that does zero to sixty in something like four seconds, is well-nigh miraculous. California gas prices are a smidgen, maybe several smidgens, higher than they are here, but Gwendolyn’s typical 21 mpg around town at the current $2.50 price for 91 octane would run the tab to around $60 for that distance, and without all the “flat-out sprints, the drag racing, the donuts, the top-speed runs, and dicing through traffic like there’s a jet pack strapped to the trunk.”

That trunk, however, was the undoing:

I make the cardinal mistake of entering the supermarket hungry and buy just about everything in sight. I walk out with $175 worth of groceries spilling out of my shopping cart, and when I open the Tesla’s trunk lid, a guy in a Toyota Camry starts laughing at me. The Tesla’s tiny trunk is full before I’ve even made a dent in the pile of shopping bags, so the rest of the chattel winds up on the passenger seat, and I drive home with Cottonelle on my lap.

Tesla’s upcoming Model S sedan will presumably address that issue adequately.

Still, I suspect that if there’s ever a dealership out here on the prairie, they’ll sell quite a few of these beasties: at OG&E’s, um, current rates, 185 kWh would run $20 or so.

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Really geeky shoes

You’ve already heard about the Reef Dram sandals, but those are mild compared to some of these.

(With thanks to Gradual Dazzle.)

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Have some Phuyuck ’74

Sonic Charmer takes a look at The Man with the Golden Gun, and he’s less than enthralled with the man who has to take him down:

James Bond, if you think about it, is a pretty terrible and inept secret agent: he never really fools the bad guy for one second, and he almost always gets caught at some point. Heck, Goldfinger is considered by most (albeit not by me) the best Bond film of all and Bond spends a good chunk of the movie imprisoned by the bad guy, sitting around doing nothing. Here, the ol’ He Gets Caught But For Some Reason The Bad Guy Doesn’t Just Kill Him trick is used mostly to shove Bond into a kung fu’sploitation movie. (Another classic Bond schtick: shoving him into whatever other movie trend is all the rage at the moment; the previous movie Live And Let Die had already done blaxploitation…) There’s an amusing bit where Bond, in a foreshadowing of the Indiana Jones maneuver, kicks the honorable karate dude in the face as he’s bowing to start the match. At the end he’s rescued by two karate girls in schoolgirl outfits, in a scene that must have made a huge impression on eleven-year-old Quentin Tarantino.

That I don’t doubt.

But that’s not the major objection raised:

I think few realize just how many James Bond movies have at their heart fundamentally lefty, “progressive” premises, because most at least do a better job of hiding them beneath the glittery women and action-packed travelogues.

James Bond, in the books, is supposed to be a British spy, and his archenemy is Smersh — the Soviet agency whose name is an acronym for “death to spies”. The movies changed this to SPECTRE, some sort of unaligned, non-governmental-organization of terror, and invented Blofeld (a Belgian, like Dr. Evil?) to be his nemesis. So almost from their start, James Bond movies made a sort of “progressive” attempt to tone down the cold war and coach their audience into a “détente” mode of thinking.

Also notice how virtually half of James Bond plots involve made-up, cartoony supervillains trying to get the major powers to fight wars against each other — and thus Bond, for all his licence-to-kill violence, is essentially cast in the “make love, not war” role of inevitably trying to stop international misunderstandings and war.

Then again, SMERSH really existed. Ian Fleming had no trouble mentioning it, but the Bond films managed to avoid it. (In From Russia with Love, Bond believes he’s fighting SMERSH, and only later finds out he’s dealing with SPECTRE.)

There is an entanglement with the Russians in For Your Eyes Only, but it ends with a stalemate. “That’s détente, comrade. You don’t have it; I don’t have it.”

I do, however, like the phrase “non-governmental organization of terror.” Some of those NGOs are pretty damn scary these days.

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