Archive for September 2010

Spiraling upward

It seems obvious, if only from the laws of physics, that electric vehicles will have to sacrifice a bit of their range if asked to climb a mountain. What isn’t obvious, at least to me, is how much of that range will be given up.

A comment left by the owner of an electrified Toyota RAV4 at AutoblogGreen (1:25 am, 5 September) quantifies the matter:

These numbers originally came from RAV4-EV FAQ list, although I haven’t tested my RAV4 on big enough hills to verify. They also seem to work eerily well for a Tesla Roadster, despite some significant differences between the cars.

Going up a hill costs you roughly 6.5 miles of range per 1000 feet of elevation.

But, coming down again, you regain 4.5 of those miles through regen. So the net cost once you’ve come down is 2 miles per 1,000 feet of elevation.

Nevertheless, Chevy’s Volt has a “mountain mode” that kicks the range-extension engine on early if you’re expecting to traverse the Continental Divide or something.

And furthermore, it’s not like your average gasmobile is going to be able to make the Pikes Peak run for free.

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Giving it all away

Try this on for size:

“the foregoing sentence shall be interpreted and applied in a manner most favorable to the Concessionaire”

The Concessionaire? ACS. The nature of the concession? Operation of Indianapolis parking meters. The result of the concession? Wholesale screwing of the people of Indianapolis.

The general belief has been that it can’t be as bad as the ACS/Chicago deal. In fact, it’s worse.

We have no idea what the world will be like in 10 years, much less 50. This isn’t something like a water system where all it is really useful for is delivering water and it is pretty reasonable to assume we’ll still want plenty of safe, clean water tomorrow. This is general purpose real estate. This is one of the most precious assets of any city — its public space — a policy area that is experiencing rapid innovation. In fact, Indy is on the forefront of that with the Cultural Trail — but perhaps no longer. No matter what the contract might say, this is a de facto ground lease on the streets of downtown and Broad Ripple.

You’ll have to read the whole thing. It includes links to the contract and all sorts of scary analysis.

Update, 12 September: The plan has been delayed just a bit.

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Blogdom tagonistes

The truth about tags:

“Tags” are just an attempt to pimp pre-classification schemes to search engines to draw in traffic. In my opinion 99% of SEO (search-engine optimization) advice is snake oil, and the rest is outright fraud. And don’t even get me started on things like GPR (Google Page Rank).

I dunno. I think it might be entertaining to get him started on things like GPR (Google Page Rank).

I tagged no posts here until 2009, on the reasonable basis that it was unnecessary. When I did start tagging, I made a point of not including the tags in the page templates, since (1) they’re not very interesting, even compared to my dubious categories, and (2) the reason I started using them in the first place was to find stuff I’ve written, inasmuch as neither categories nor post titles can be counted on to help much with that task.

It is possible to be amusing with taglike devices: consider, for instance, Tam’s “Horton hears a Hoosier” label. Not everyone, however, can be Tam.

And SEO, of course, is the 21st-century version of phrenology, but you already knew that.

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Watch that space

It is an article of faith among some folks that central Oklahoma City in general (Bricktown in particular) is somehow lacking in parking. I strongly suspect that these are the same folks who will drive three laps around Walmart in the hopes of finding a parking space within a few yards of the entrance. (Good luck with that.)

While I don’t find the situation here at all problematic, I must point out that several cities are wrestling with the question of how much parking is really necessary. From Tulsa, Michael Bates said last year: “It’s quickly apparent that our high minimum parking requirements act as a barrier to new commercial development.” I mentioned that here along with a report from Austin.

Should there be minimum parking requirements at all? Sonic Charmer is persuaded that the answer is “No, there should not,” but “Who cares?” (Actually, he was a little more emphatic than that.) SC’s objections to the concept apparently are purely philosophical, unlike the ones one might attribute to urban hipster types:

Here is your classic upper-middle-class concern in a nutshell. Let me just encapsulate what motivates the Matthew Yglesiaseses of the world to care about parking requirements: “When I get Persian in downtown DC with my friends, which I do like every weekend, I want it to be 3% cheaper. If that Persian restaurant didn’t have to provide parking spaces, it could be. Or if we drive to, like, Bethesda for Pad Thai, I want less other cars on the road cuz that makes it take 7 minutes longer for us. If there weren’t free parking, more people in Bethesda would walk downtown, making it easier on people like me.”

Which doesn’t really sound all that much like Yglesias himself, but this gives me a chance to recycle an old Oklahoma Daily complaint, circa 2006, which I quoted here (and a good thing, since it’s now 404ed):

I periodically hear a lone Oklahoman in the company of outsiders dogging the Sooner State. The sellout Oklahoman will get exasperated and say, “You all are so fortunate to live in civilization. I live in Oklahoma.” (At which point they roll their eyes.) “I would kill to live in a place with culture and literati.”

What’s really being said is this: “I am an insecure person. In order to appear sophisticated and astute, I will draw a distinction between myself and all the people I assume you look down upon. By removing and elevating myself, you can realize that I, too, am intelligent, and accept me. Please, please accept me.”

On the other hand, we don’t have to drive very far for Thai. Or pay a lot to park.

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Oh, it’s in the shop

TTAC’s Edward Niedermeyer writes the check for an old BMW M Coupe, and tosses off this slightly-scary observation:

[T]hough buying an 11 year-old BMW with nearly 90k miles and no warranty is a bit like playing Russian Roulette, the S52 engine has a far better reliability record than its more powerful, but more-stressed S54 cousin. Besides, you aren’t really an enthusiast until you’ve spent [your] car’s purchase price on maintenance, right?

Hmmm. I spent way over $4249 (original Monroney sticker) on that ’75 Celica I had, but I had seventeen years to do it.

Come to think of it, I’ve spent upwards of $4249 on this Infiniti in a mere four years, but its sticker price is a long way off.

Maybe I should save up for a Boxster with three miles of factory warranty left, or something crazy like that.

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Sounds recursive to me

It would certainly make me loopy:

Step 3. Futz with network settings on VFTP Command Central. Curse some. Try again. Curse some more. Reboot VFTP Command Central. Curse.

Been there, sworn that. Of course, it’s always worse on [fill in name of platform that always gives you grief].

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The legs are the last to go

Florence Henderson in Dancing with the StarsI’ve been saying so for years, but you don’t have to take my word for it. Consider the case of Florence Henderson, now seventy-six. On her talk show for Retirement Living TV, she’s usually sporting some mom-like trousers, but Dancing with the Stars this fall is going to require some sort of dress — and oh, what a dress! [Insert gratuitous Mike Brady reference here.] It’s not exactly a mini, the insistence of People magazine notwithstanding, but … dayum. And she’s gonna dance! I hope I’m still able to stand up when I turn seventy-six (which is a mere 19 years away, if you’re keeping score). Maybe I need to start hitting the Wesson Oil, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

Yeah, yeah, I know: Photoshop. But if they use it on everyone, which of course they do, it’s all pretty much a wash, isn’t it?

Disclosure: Barry Williams is about my age. See also Basic Instinct: the Brady Bunch Interpretation.

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Let’s hope they get the code correct

Otherwise, who knows what might happen?

Enter your email to recieve your Text Code

(Seen at Go Fug Yourself. It wasn’t their fault.)

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More items from my Wish List

And no, you can’t buy them for me. At least, I don’t think you can.

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The almost-sixty-minute man

Now if you remember the song, you’ll recall that ol’ Dan was actually subdividing his activity into four discrete segments of 15 minutes apiece.

And he might have been a bit on the chubby side:

Fat men last longer in bed, while lean gym jocks are prone to premature ejaculation, a new study has found.

The scientific research, from Erciyes University in Turkey, found that men with excess body fat develop more female sex hormones that influence their sexual performance.

Men with high fat levels were found to have higher levels of the female sex hormone oestradiol, which disrupts the chemical balance in their body, making them last longer during sex.

Note to spammers: Screw the little blue pills. Send me donuts.

(Via Instapundit, and let’s leave it at that.)

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Quote of the week

From each according to his needs, to each according to his, um, MasterCard limit. The evaporation of the middle class, by Amba:

[I]t is cruel — in a social-Darwinian way — to make survival itself contingent on success. Success is something different from the willingness to work hard; it’s an amalgam of many ingredients, fused by an ineffable alchemy. If you’re lazy you’ll most likely miss the gold ring, but missing the gold ring doesn’t mean you’re lazy. Even if everyone tried their best to be a successful entrepreneur or inventor, entertainment star, or bestselling author, relatively few would succeed. Yet we are moving toward this sort of jackpot economy where not even years of education or experience — only some kind of freak fame or empire-building — can lift us above a hand-to-mouth existence. For a while, in the industrial era, there was this thing called a “job” that was a pretty decent fit for a man’s needs, whether or not it fully tapped his abilities (gendered language intended). Now, we’re left with our orphaned abilities flapping uselessly in the breeze as we struggle desperately to stay ahead of our needs.

Possibly related, this:

Emotional well-being also rises with … income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of ∼$75,000. Low income exacerbates the emotional pain associated with such misfortunes as divorce, ill health, and being alone. We conclude that high income buys life satisfaction but not happiness, and that low income is associated both with low life evaluation and low emotional well-being.

Also possibly related, this:

“Rich” is a relative term (except for my relatives, none of whom are rich). I hope only for positive cash flow.

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp — and it would, too, were it not for the scoundrels who earn their keep by pushing everything away, and the blackguards who earn theirs by the manipulation of avarice.

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Bless you, Energy Taliban

Some of you may have seen this yesterday:

I am about ready to rip this allegedly-programmable thermostat off the wall. No amount of dubious “energy savings” is worth this grief.

No way I could fit an explanation into 140 further characters, given the number of expletives I wanted to use at the time, so you get a marginally-calmer followup here.

This is, incidentally, not the thermostat I use at home, which is a simple, proper, fairly indestructible Honeywell eyeball. Somehow, a couple of years ago, the one in my office managed to frag itself — or the HVAC guy managed to convince the powers that be that it managed to frag itself — and it was replaced with a fiendishly-complicated device about which I said this:

Note to self: Do not buy a programmable thermostat that has the programs already set up and running in firmware. (And if they’re all like that, simplify this to “Don’t buy one.”)

When the office A/C failed yesterday — I run the server farm, which has its own dedicated unit — it was suggested that maybe the long stretches of continuous operation might be wearing it out, and maybe we should think about getting that industrial-strength thermostat to do what they paid that absurd amount of money to have it do. (I’ve been running it in bypass mode all this time.)

So I pulled out the instructions one more time. The path of least resistance would of course be using the factory defaults, but the factory defaults are inconsistent with the office mission. (Eighty-five degrees at high noon? You’re buying me a six-figure tower, Buster.) Unfortunately, you can’t just change the ones you don’t like: you have to change all twelve. (You must have twelve cycles per week. It’s required. By whom, I have no idea, but I suspect Al Gore.) And no, you can’t just key in a time and a temperature: that would be too easy.

After a period of fumbling, I laid down as much law as I dared, which was enough to include “I want this effing thing off the wall. I want something that will turn it up to 76 late at night and back it down to 70 right before I arrive in the morning. Is that too much to ask?”

I have been assured that no, it isn’t too much, and anyway, the current HVAC guy will be out again next week to see if he can figure out who’s drinking all the refrigerant.

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A unit of force

I first saw Thandie Newton in John Duigan’s Flirting, a wonderful bit of Australian social commentary masquerading as a teenage-romance movie. Newton was, you should pardon the expression, the black sheep of a school for girls: she was a bit on the willful side, and they were not happy to find out she’d ventured across the lake to meet up with a lad from the boys’ school on the other side. I found this story fascinating for several reasons, not least of which was the fact that the boy in question (Noah Taylor, who’d played the same character in Duigan’s The Year My Voice Broke) was easily a match for me in dweebishness, and yet he landed a girl several locations above his station. And Duigan, unlike American vendors of adolescent fantasy, didn’t go out of his way to make you think “How lovely she is!”

Eventually, of course, someone would:

Thandie Newton

This shot dates from around the time of Crash, when Newton was being talked up as a potential Vesper Lynd for Casino Royale. (The role eventually went to Eva Green.)

Addendum: This is more recent, but perhaps more disturbing.

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390

This week, Andrew Ian Dodge is “CoTVing to St Louis” for the 390th edition of Carnival of the Vanities.

Developer Paul McKee has proposed a multi-billion-dollar project on that city’s Northside; a circuit judge, however, has thrown out McKee’s request for $390 million in tax increment financing.

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Kilobytes of Rahm

One of these days I’m going to have to come up with a “Why We Love E. M. Zanotti” category. This time, she cracks wise on a Next Mayor of Chicago poll in which Rahm Emanuel is the front-runner. Pointing to a Chicago Tribune reference to Emanuel’s days as a ballet dancer, she declares:

If you have a picture of him in tights, I’ll trade you a dozen cupcakes for it. It’s a good deal. I make f***ing awesome cupcakes.

Judging by the subsequent update to her post, I’m guessing she spent part of last night baking.

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I blame Rodgers and Hammerstein

Well, Hammerstein anyway, since he was the lyricist. “Once you have found her, never let her go…”

So here’s the hypothetical for the moment:

The next time you meet a graceful, shapely, six-figure-siren who has a white shoe pedigree and lights up a room with her sparkly, charming wit, instead of running in the other direction to your man-cave of insecurities (or more likely, to your unemployed hook-up buddy in Astoria), take a deep breath and realize that this untouchable legal goddess probably has IBS, cries herself to sleep at least once a week and wonders how much of this year’s bonus she should use to freeze her eggs. In other words, go get her champ! Trust me, you have nothing to lose.

I don’t have a hook-up buddy, but I have enough insecurities, at least in matters of the heart and related organs, to fill the Albert Hall.

I mean, really, is it so impossible to believe that a cute, successful woman would be interested in a cute, not-as-successful man?

Not being cute, I don’t have any frame of reference. So when I see such a stranger across a crowded room, I shrug. (As a rule, I don’t burst into tears until I get home.)

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Unwestern uncivilization

You’ve seen ’em, I’ve seen ’em, and Julie has seen more than enough of ’em:

Few things are as excruciating as reading and suffering through an interview of an artist or writer or performer of some sort who has unwittingly come to believe he or she has something valuable to say about broad, abstract things, filling intellectual magazines printed on heavy paper stock with a matte finish and an over-abundance of solitary photos of urban blight. There are moments when I think such written interviews, or even interviews on public radio, are little more than tear sheets for grant applications.

Of course, “urban blight” is something to which they must point when they feel like denouncing Man’s Inhumanity to Man, though actual cases of inhumanity — for instance, crashing a hijacked aircraft into a skyscraper — tend to go unnoticed in such screeds.

But the grantsmanship angle, I think, is worth noting, since pretty much every one of those sacred-though-secular causes highlighted in those publications depends on prying money out of either foundations or government treasuries. (It’s also de rigueur to scoff at the profit motive, despite the fact that neither foundations nor government treasuries would have much in the way of disbursable funds were it not for people actually making some money.)

Still, I suppose these folks have to do something with their time, and this sort of activity presumably keeps them off the streets and/or patios.

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The deed for speed

A few days ago, I brought up a scheme, proposed by a candidate for Governor of Nevada, to sell speeding permits; I didn’t sound too impressed with the idea as presented. By comparison, Ric Locke thinks it’s wholly inadequate, and suggests a limited-issue “Unlimited” license:

The driver and vehicle would be licensed to maintain a safe and reasonable speed according to road and traffic conditions. Yes, that means he or she could let the Countach out to its maximum on a lonely Western Interstate — but it also means dropping the heaviest hammer possible on a licensee who blows by traffic at 55 in the first misty rain for the last few months, because no combination of vehicle and driver can overcome the greasy combination of accumulated road oils and moisture, and DUI by a “U”-license holder should be a capital offense.

I need hardly point out that such licenses would be available only to superior drivers, trained by the best, operating superior vehicles, immaculately maintained.

Which will also be what keeps this idea from getting any traction, since it’s an American tradition that anyone over the age of consent (local laws may vary) is supposed to be able to get a driver’s license provided he promises to learn how to parallel-park some day. This situation is presumably exacerbated by circumstances described in a letter to Car and Driver this month: “Look at public schools: Uptight anti-car left-wingers teaching driver’s ed.” I suspect this is somewhat overgeneralized, but since I never took driver’s ed, I have no anecdotes to contribute in lieu of data.

Still, the idea ought to work, based on its most obvious antecedent:

[H]olders of concealed-carry licenses are overwhelmingly not involved in gun crime, because they know what they’re doing with the machine, including when and where using it is or is not appropriate. The same would be true of “Unlimited” driving licenses; they would overwhelmingly not be involved in accidents, high speed or otherwise, except where other drivers are either stupid or malicious.

There are times, alas, when I look at our Wobegon roads and conclude that all of our drivers — myself included, on occasion — are below average.

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Where fanbois come from

Okay, it’s a fangirl this time, but the fundamental things apply:

Too loyal to the good ole days when each Tweet was followed by “via web” as opposed to “via some kind of new-fangled Steve Jobs application,” I never planned to posses any of these modern gadgets. Until my sister got a laptop, which came with a free iPod Touch, which went to me. I was immediately converted, and felt pride in the way I could slide the “unlock” button with such ease; the way my “To Do” lists suddenly looked so much more efficient. The pseudo-notebook paper on a screen gave them validity, while real life notebook paper was for people who were amateurs at, well, life. Suddenly, I didn’t just have to buy deodorant. I had to buy deodorant.

Based on these criteria, I have no future as a fanboi, since my tweets are generally via WordTwit or TweetDeck, neither of which is particularly platform-specific — TweetDeck runs on Adobe Air, which is odious only because it’s Adobe — and besides, I’m back to buying deodorant in bulk from the Avon Lady.

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And the day comes around again

Occasionally I fumble my way through the archives, just to see what I was thinking, and this is what I was thinking on the first anniversary of 9/11:

So far, things have been very quiet. The calm before the storm? Maybe, maybe not. But we’ve made it through storms before, and we’ll make it through this one.

In the meantime, this would be a fine time to turn away from the screen for a moment and turn toward someone you love.

And then say so.

Things haven’t been quite so quiet this year, but otherwise, I wouldn’t change a word of it.

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More mad cyclists

After my mild rant about a guy on a bike in Oklahoma City, Felix Salmon has a slightly-less-mild rant about bikers in New York, based on the premise that J. Random Cyclist tends to think of himself as a faster pedestrian:

Bikes can and should behave much more like cars than pedestrians. They should ride on the road, not the sidewalk. They should stop at lights, and pedestrians should be able to trust them to do so. They should use lights at night. And — of course, duh — they should ride in the right direction on one-way streets. None of this is a question of being polite; it’s the law. But in stark contrast to motorists, nearly all of whom follow nearly all the rules, most cyclists seem to treat the rules of the road as strictly optional. They’re still in the human-powered mindset of pedestrians, who feel pretty much completely unconstrained by rules.

The result is decidedly suboptimal for all concerned, but mostly for the bicyclists themselves. New York needs to make a collective quantum leap, from treating bicyclists like pedestrians to treating bicyclists like motorists. And unless and until it does, bike relations will continue to be marked by hostility and mistrust.

If it seems like less of an issue here in the flyover zone, it’s because we’re still well short of a critical mass of bicycles, except in places like Austin, and Austin cyclists seem to be comparatively well-behaved, perhaps because it’s gotten up to a hundred and three outside and they no longer have the strength to do anything stupid. Then again, I admittedly usually arrive in summer; in other seasons, your mileage may vary.

(Via kottke.org.)

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Why there will always be newspapers

(Via Paul McNamara’s Buzzblog.)

Update: The video has been killed, and here’s why.

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Transaction not permitted

Bill Peschel, having once had a credit-card number heisted by persons unknown, suggests that cardholders be given the option to toggle off some common card uses:

For example, I’m reasonably certain that I would never, over the span of 10 minutes, transfer eight thousand dollars to any company, never mind a (presumable) company overseas. Call me unaware, but I can’t imagine anything short of a bizarre ransom demand by kidnappers that make me do that.

I have had at least one card, maybe two, compromised. (The “maybe” comes from a reported security leak at the Web host I used to use; I called the issuer and had that card canceled. No dubious charges ever turned up.)

Best of all from the credit card company’s point of view, they wouldn’t have to do much more than set up the rules. They already allow you access to your account. The card’s owner would be responsible for going into the account and flicking the switches off and on.

There is precedent for this. Issuers of some institutional, government or corporate purchasing cards check for the Merchant Category Code when an authorization is requested, and compare it to a list of approved MCCs. If there’s no match, the transaction may be declined, irrespective of available credit.

Alternatively, see if the kidnapper takes American Express. Amex is usually pretty good about coming down hard on fraudsters.

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The Turks have weighed the options

Voters in Turkey today have been considering a package of twenty-six constitutional changes proposed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the second such package in three years. The 2007 reforms, which passed two to one, mostly involved the office of President, which previously was filled by a vote of the Grand National Assembly every five years and now will be submitted for popular vote every four years.

The new proposals, however, are much more extensive. Some of them would bring Turkey in line with European Union practices, with an eye toward eventual membership in the EU. The original package contained 27 amendments, though one, which would have made it more difficult for a political party to be forcibly dissolved, did not make it to the ballot.

There seemed to be some concern that Erdoğan wanted to stack the country’s highest courts:

Mr Erdoğan’s plans to enlarge membership of two top judicial bodies — the Constitutional Court and the Higher Council that appoints judges and prosecutors — have aroused particular concern because the judiciary is seen by secular Turks as the most important bulwark against creeping “Islamisation”, now that the military has retreated from politics.

“These are just regulations brought in by the AKP [Erdoğan’s Justice and Devlopment Party] to advance their own ideology,” argues Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the new leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

“They want to seize control of the judiciary and end the separation of powers that Turkey learned from Western countries.”

With about 99 percent of the votes counted, the package is passing easily, 58 to 42 percent.

Turkey’s current constitution dates to 12 September 1980, when a military junta seized power in Ankara, deposed Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel, and dissolved the Assembly. General elections were held again in 1983.

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Out of uniformity

Word came down yesterday that Skinbook, the social network for nudists which, like everything else involving naked people, had been purged from the sanitary servers at Ning, was not going to be revived, either on someone else’s facilities or on its own, in the form of an email from founder Karl Maddocks, which contained a rather startling confession:

As much as we have attempted over the past couple of years to bring together the naturist community and give the naturist lifestyle a positive public image, the treatment of my team here at Skinbook has finally made it clear (to myself at least) why this lifestyle is both fragmented from within and ostracized from without.

A perfunctory reading of the fora most days would have explained this quite nicely: different people want different things. Duh. The only thing the users — reportedly upwards of 8000 when the curtain came down — had in common was a willingness to go without clothing. There wasn’t even any agreement on whether it was appropriate to admit this in public.

The Nudiarist sums up the unwinding:

Just go back to why Skinbook was created in the first place, and you will see why it was doomed to failure. Maddocks explained, “We couldn’t communicate on MySpace and Facebook about nudism since we were all kind of embarrassed. So we said, ‘Let’s start our own forum and call it Skinbook.’ The rest is history.” People who are embarrassed by their own lifestyles have no business trying to become leaders.

This may be true: God knows our political class is utterly incapable of embarrassment.

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Strange search-engine queries (241)

Once again, we sort through the server logs using the “Marginally Amusing” filter, and publish anything that’s caught. It’s a little like hunting for Asian carp, except we don’t need a czar.

my neighborhood is about:  Sixty-five years old, though it doesn’t look a day over 50.

naugahyde sentences:  Typically, the nauga is sentenced to be flayed until the hyde comes off in strips, which are then sewn onto recliners.

fits over peephole:  A really, really large eye.

you think therefore I am:  Um, I don’t think so.

explanation letter for general job disinterest or deliberate slowdown or decrease of efficiency:  “Dear Manager: Now do you understand why we didn’t want the TV in the break room tuned to C-Span?”

cheap canine dildo:  Oooh, a picky bitch.

am i losing my social skills:  We assumed you were under the banquet table because you’d lost a contact.

took 80 lorazepam and death didn’t happen:  This could be a sign of losing one’s social skills.

meeting date naked:  Unless you know each other to be naturists, this is generally a sign of losing one’s social skills.

vanishing clothes on women:  Did you check the floor on the opposite side of the bed?

you will wonder where the yellow went:  After a dye job, they resurfaced as Code Pink.

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The inevitable Health Plan

A physician offers some non-medical medical advice to Bride of Rove, and by extension, to us all:

[T]here are going to be people who will not be able to get a doctor. If they can get a doctor the doctors hands will be tied as to what care he or she can provide. My advice to you is … don’t get sick. For the next thirty years or however many you have left, do.not.get.sick.

Easier said than done, perhaps. My brother, out of the hospital after three weeks of befuddling the experts, has apparently been diagnosed with an autosomal recessive genetic disorder which I, being a relative and all, get to add to my already-dizzying list of risk factors.

Samuel Butler, of course, anticipated this years ago:

“Prisoner at the bar, you have been accused of the great crime of labouring under pulmonary consumption, and after an impartial trial before a jury of your countrymen, you have been found guilty. Against the justice of the verdict I can say nothing: the evidence against you was conclusive, and it only remains for me to pass such a sentence upon you, as shall satisfy the ends of the law. That sentence must be a very severe one. It pains me much to see one who is yet so young, and whose prospects in life were otherwise so excellent, brought to this distressing condition by a constitution which I can only regard as radically vicious; but yours is no case for compassion: this is not your first offence: you have led a career of crime, and have only profited by the leniency shown you upon past occasions, to offend yet more seriously against the laws and institutions of your country. You were convicted of aggravated bronchitis last year: and I find that though you are now only twenty-three years old, you have been imprisoned on no less than fourteen occasions for illnesses of a more or less hateful character; in fact, it is not too much to say that you have spent the greater part of your life in a jail.

“It is all very well for you to say that you came of unhealthy parents, and had a severe accident in your childhood which permanently undermined your constitution; excuses such as these are the ordinary refuge of the criminal; but they cannot for one moment be listened to by the ear of justice.”

TB, or not TB: that is apparently no longer the question.

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Toward a post-moral world

A question often posed to atheists: “In the absence of God, what is your basis for morality?” Joel Marks, having thought it over, has decided that he doesn’t need one:

I was struck by salient parallels between religion and morality, especially that both avail themselves of imperatives or commands, which are intended to apply universally. In the case of religion, and most obviously theism, these commands emanate from a Commander; “and this all people call God,” as Aquinas might have put it. The problem with theism is of course the shaky grounds for believing in God. But the problem with morality, I now maintain, is that it is in even worse shape than religion in this regard; for if there were a God, His issuing commands would make some kind of sense. But if there is no God, as of course atheists assert, then what sense could be made of there being commands of this sort? In sum, while theists take the obvious existence of moral commands to be a kind of proof of the existence of a Commander, i.e., God, I now take the non-existence of a Commander as a kind of proof that there are no Commands, i.e., morality.

Which is not to say that he can’t, or won’t, argue in favor of certain things and against others; but he has to rely on other factors to sell the deal:

[I]f I were conversing with another amoralist, how would I convince her of the rightness of my desires? Well, of course, I wouldn’t even try, since neither of us believes in right, or wrong. What I could do is take her through the same considerations that have moved me to my position and hope that her heartstrings were tuned in harmony with mine.

Dick Cleary at Viewpoint points out that Marks at least is being internally consistent:

[T]he atheists that Marks refers to as soft atheists live in an unsustainable tension. They want to hold on to moral judgment while also holding on to their atheism. As Marks has realized, it can’t be done. Unfortunately, of the two solutions available to him — reject atheism or reject morality — Marks has chosen the latter which, although consistent, strikes me as almost perverse.

As most of you know, I’m definitely — occasionally even defiantly — theist. On the other hand, I am not particularly disposed toward looking down my nose at atheists, who have presumably wrestled with the same questions as I have and yet have come to different conclusions.

This will get either no comments, or several dozen. (Consider that a matter of faith.)

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Pineapple Princess is pissed

And Tall Paul better watch his ass, too:

Annette with a gun

Bonus: Aaaand now: heeeeeeere’s Annette!

(Poster from Historic LOLs.)

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Architecture as date bait

We’ve already tackled this from one angle, the desirability (if any) of dating actual architects. Now famed human-relations expert Steve Sailer proposes that guys develop, or at least feign, an interest in the local buildings:

Architecture is aesthetic, yet manly. Not that many girls know much about architecture relative to their other aesthetic interests, but they are naggingly aware that they should know more. (Obviously, if you live in Chicago, you will have more to talk about than if you live in Palmdale, so your mileage may vary.) For example, the recent indie romantic-drama hit, 500 Days of Summer, uses architectural fandom, with LA’s rather spotty downtown carefully framed to look like downtown Chicago, as the basis for a rather nerdy young man’s appeal to Zooey Deschanel.

An interest in architecture also provides a high-minded excuse to talk about what every 20 or 30 something is actually fascinated by: real estate. What neighborhoods will go up in value, which ones down? Architecture appreciation provides an excuse to stroll around gentrifying but still slightly edgy neighborhoods on cheap dates.

In support of this premise, I note that one of the few social events to earn a permanent spot on my calendar is the local AIA’s annual Architecture Tour, and that Trini enjoys it greatly: between the two of us, we seem to ask the right questions and peer into the most interesting corners. Not that either of us think of it as a “cheap date,” necessarily.

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The girl with something extra

This is apparently the new spokesfigure for an electronics retailer in Russia:

Media Markt indicia

MediaMarkt, based in Germany, has a talent for coming up with stuff like this: their German Web storefront bears the slogan “Ich bin doch nicht blöd” — “I am not stupid.”

Not being all that dumb myself, I totally recall at least one character like this before. And Copyranter, who turned up several images from this campaign, offers this translation, for which I am unable to vouch: “You will find more than you expect.” I figure that corrections and/or emendations are just a matter of time.

Eccentrica Gallumbits, meanwhile, was not available for comment.

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Something different at steak

The Homeland store at May and Britton often has a guy in front of the meat department to hawk stuff, and Saturday he was pushing something called the Flat Iron Steak. A sample was proffered, and I pronounced it good; I asked for preparation directions, and he said that he usually just tossed it onto a George Foreman grill. Since George and I go way back, grillwise, that made the sale: I picked up this odd-looking little strip of something too thick to be jerky but seemingly too skinny to be a real steak.

And I tossed it onto the George Foreman grill, and it was good. Which led me to go look for why I hadn’t seen this particular cut before. This much we know:

The flat iron steak — also known as the top blade steak — is cut from deep within the shoulder muscle known as the chuck, traditionally used for roasts or ground beef.

“Although the cut is flavorful and relatively tender, the flat iron steak has a serious flaw in the middle of it. There is a tough piece of connective tissue running through the middle, but it can be removed to create an amazing cut of beef.”

Butchers tending to be a conservative lot, it was probably tricky to persuade them to cut this: it runs against the grain, so to speak. But Wikipedia hints that it’s big at the high-end steakeries:

Especially popular are flat irons from Wagyu beef, as a way for chefs to offer more affordable and profitable dishes featuring Wagyu or Kobe beef.

Not that I have any experience with that hyperpricey stuff, but the flat iron at the supermarket was $6.99 a pound, on a day when ribeyes and New York strips were selling for more than $10. And the same beef wouldn’t have brought more than $3.50 or $4 as a chuck roast, or $3 as ground chuck. No wonder they were happy to push it as a steak.

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It is, after all, after Labor Day

So instead of white, we find grey and black:

Grey and Black Suede Lace-Up Pump by Laura Amat

I have hope for this Laura Amat pump. The grey suede base is quite charming, the black-tie contraption perhaps a little less so, but the overall effect is Extremely Vague Retro, a decade other than your current one, though not necessarily one you’d recognize right off the bat. (1920s, maybe?) The color scheme, for me, makes up for the lack of chronological specificity, and besides, we’re going dancing, right?

The UK’s Large Size Designer Shoes storefront is featuring this pump for €149, a shade under $190. Available in 41-44, which is UK 8-11, which is US 10-13. If you know someone who has been screaming for years while squeezing into someone’s idea of a 9½, this might buy you a brief period of silence.

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And I shall continue to call him Brian

Whether that’s his name or not:

Tulsan Brian Bates is hoping the Admiral Twin Drive-in, which was destroyed in a recent fire, isn’t gone forever. “I hope it is rebuilt,” Bates writes. “I remember seeing my first PG movie there — Young Frankenstein — making myself nauseous by getting that free refill on the 32 oz. 7up, and I remember Mom saying something to Dad about the risque jokes going over my head. We’ve taken our kids to the Admiral Twin, too … The Admiral Twin was the last Tulsa theater from my childhood and youth still operating. The Continental, Will Rogers, Brook, Delman, Park Lane, Spectrum, Forum, Fox, Fontana, Annex 3/7, Southroads, Plaza 3, Village, Eleventh Street Drive In, 51 Drive In, Boman Twin, Williams Center, Woodland Hills — all closed, many of them demolished.”

Um, the Tulsan in question was Michael Bates. Brian Bates runs JohnTV.com in Oklahoma City. Whoever is running the op-ed page in the Oklahoman needs to get with the program.

(Why, yes, this is a repeat from July — and also from March.)

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Fark blurb of the week

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Such a card

I’ve seen spam claiming to offer presumably-loaded ATM cards before, but the one that showed up yesterday is different: it had the “actual” card number in the subject line.

The ostensible sender is “Senate House®,” which is marginally amusing in its own right, as is the dubious “atm.com” domain. Instructions:

Accredited ATM Card(231) awarded for contract payment of $6.8MILLION USD.with Card Number; 4278xxxxxxxxxxxx has been allocated in your favor, contact Mrs. Linda Hills (mrslindahill@luckymail.com)with the following
information’s;

And, of course, you’re supposed to supply all manner of biographical detail to the operation, which claims to be in, of all places, Lagos, capital of Nigeria. (Who would have known?) I’ve redacted the last twelve digits, lest someone get a wild hair and try this number on some unsuspecting storefront. I did, however, subject it to the Luhn test, which it passed. Still doesn’t make it a valid number, of course, and you’ll note that they didn’t bother to send the CVV code (which may or may not be required by a merchant) or the expiration date (which definitely will be).

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One Froggy afternoon

On the Wikipedia page for English author E. Nesbit, you’ll find a photograph of her gravesite, and a fellow crouching, stalker-like, beside the stone.

If F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre is to be believed — and I believed everything he ever told me, which was rather a lot, considering we never actually met — the croucher is MacIntyre himself.

Or, technically, was:

The F also stood for Froggy. That’s what fans in the rabid science-fiction world on the Internet called him: a witty and eloquent man prone to using obscure words and coining new ones, who published numerous books, articles and short stories to great acclaim and spun fantastic tales about his travels.

Both were vaporized June 25. In a dramatic farewell that could have come from Froggy’s pen, Mr. MacIntyre, according to fire officials, methodically set ablaze the contents of the apartment in Bensonhurst where he had lived for a quarter-century. First the flames consumed a lifetime of possessions; then they feasted on his weary flesh, ending his painful 59-year earthly existence. Born in Scotland, raised in Australia — or so he said, in his impeccable British regional accent — he now lies unclaimed in a Brooklyn morgue.

My first encounter with MacIntyre was by way of his 1995 proto-steampunk novel The Woman Between the Worlds, in which a woman identified as Vanessa Steele, though that could not be her real name, shows up at the office of a London tattoo artist. Or, rather, doesn’t show up: she can’t be seen in our, um, dimension, and she has a problem with that. I commented that it was “utterly unfilmable,” an opinion with which MacIntyre was happy to take exception.

We corresponded for a few years after that on various topics: American politics, the Grand Illusion stuff put on by magicians, and, yes, E. Nesbit. “I’d read E. Nesbit’s novels at a young impressionable age,” he said, “and found them enchanting.” But there was occasionally some subtle subtext:

In [The Story of the Amulet, 1906], the children make one time-trip into the future, but — in a high point (or, rather, a low point) of authorial wishful thinking — the future they visit is a Fabian socialist utopia, where HG Wells is the workers’ hero, and men no longer wear trousers.

Nesbit, of course, was a founder of the Fabian Society.

MacIntyre, in some ways, was what I might have aspired to be: he seemed to know everything. I was startled to find his byline on an IMDb article about 1960s cartoon rock duo the Beagles, whose “What More Can I Do?” is an enduring favorite of mine. Eventually we fell out of touch; I had no idea that he’d come to such a horrible end, and wouldn’t find out until Roberta X touched upon the subject a couple of months after his demise.

But he knew this Web site very well:

“I haven’t the faintest notion as to what Dustbury is; and even less notion as to what functional purpose Dustbury serves. The words ‘Dustbury’ and ‘psychopathia’ seem invariably conjoined.”

Now how can you argue with something like that?

Farewell, Froggy.

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Whenever love knocks

Songbird Clodagh Rodgers, who hailed from Northern Ireland, never scored a US hit, so her fame in the States is almost entirely due to this bit of silliness:

Pither: (voice over) What a strange turn this cycling tour has taken. Mr Gulliver appears to have lost his memory and far from being interested in safer food is now convinced that he is Clodagh Rogers, the young girl singer. I am taking him for medical attention.

Apparently being namechecked on Monty Python’s Flying Circus didn’t rate a mention on Ms Rodgers’ Wikipedia page. That said, I was always fond of her hit song “Jack in the Box,” which is one of those annoyingly-bouncy pop tunes that always seems to place well in the Eurovision song contest. (It came fourth in 1971.)

This, though, I did not know: “She also won the award for ‘The Best Legs’ in British showbusiness and insured her voice for one million pounds.”

Jack in the Box by Clodagh Rodgers on RCA Records

The voice isn’t bad, either.

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Take only as directed for heartache

Take what, you ask? Why, Tylenol®, of course:

According to a study published in Psychological Science, scientists have shown that acetaminophen may indeed relieve emotional hurt … particularly the pain associated with social rejection.

A research team lead by Dr. C.N. DeWall conducted two experiments to demonstrate this amazing effect. In the first, sixty-two adult participants took two 500-mg pills every day for three weeks, one in the morning and one at night. Thirty of the individuals took acetaminophen pills, and thirty-two took a placebo. Each night, the participants rated themselves on the Hurt Feelings Scale, wherein they reported how many times and to what extent they experienced social rejection throughout the day. From days nine to twenty-one of the experiment, the people taking acetaminophen reported significantly fewer instances of hurt feelings compared to the people taking the placebo.

Not incorporated into the experiment: whether getting the hell off Facebook would accomplish the same thing with less risk of liver damage.

(Via Asylum.)

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A working-class blogger is something to see

John Lennon would have been seventy this fall, and in a piece for Goldmine (not yet on their Web site) that speculates on what might have happened had he lived, Gillian G. Gaar proposes that Dr Winston O’Boogie might well be blogging today:

The rise of the Internet would have been perfect for someone like Lennon, who dabbled in writing, but invariably put his efforts aside when he grew bored. But blog entries don’t have to be long or in-depth.

Fortunately for me, anyway.

Lennon could have commented on the news of the day, posted links to stories that caught his eye, and rallied supporters to whatever cause he was currently involved with.

Seems plausible to me, though I can think of one feature that might scare off some folks: YokoCam.

Or maybe not:

[T]hey’d been documenting their own lives on camera for so long they could easily have set up a channel on YouTube showcasing excerpts from their impressive archives.

And to be fair to Yoko, as I try to be, John once described her as “the world’s most famous unknown artist: everybody knows her name, but nobody knows what she does.” I’m pretty sure that were there a LenOnoBlog (Gaar’s suggested title, and why not?), we’d know what she does.

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