Archive for January 2012

Fine future fours

Sometimes it’s the little throwaway paragraphs that tell you the most. TTAC pounced on this one:

Renault-Nissan announced today in Detroit that its Decherd, Tenn., plant will build Mercedes-Benz 4-cylinder engines for Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz starting in 2014.

I’m not quite sure which is the more startling news: that Daimler is outsourcing engine production to the States — yes, they build Benzes in America, but we’re talking mostly the M-Class, which hardly seems suited to a four-banger — or that Infiniti, which hasn’t had a four in a car since the demise of the G20 a decade ago, has decided that they need one.

Deep speculation: Mercedes, for CAFE reasons, may want to bring the B-Class to the States for the first time. The current B-Class is offered with an optional CVT; your current go-to guys for CVT-related technology are Nissan and Audi, and Daimler would rather suck smart cars through a straw than buy anything from the VW Group. So when this new four comes out of Decherd, the engines bound for Benzland will be fitted with the appropriate hardware for a CVT, which might even be one of Nissan Jatco’s.

As for Infiniti, they presumably don’t need a four in the G: they’ve already conjured up an entry-level G25 with a small V6. The question then becomes “What would BMW do?” The Bavarians have already shown the way: they’ve brought out a 1-series just below the 3, and are reported to be working on a small FWD car. Besides the Mini, I mean. Since the Nissan Bluebird/Sylphy is about due for a rework … but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here.

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The long-suffering mail

Why the Postal Service is in deep doo-doo. (And no, it’s not the fault of the Internet — not by a long shot.)

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Nice sweep

So far, every NBA team faced with a back-to-back-to-back has won the third game, and the Thunder weren’t at all inclined to break the string, handily dispatching the visiting Spurs, 108-96, giving OKC the distinction of being the first team this season to go 3-0 through the triple-dip.

The word at the beginning was “apprehension”: last night, Eric Maynor went down and didn’t come back. Today we found out why: torn ACL, which will require surgery, and Maynor will miss the rest of the season. We needn’t have worried. Rookie Reggie Jackson, moved up in the rotation, responded with 11 points and four assists in his first extended stint, one of six Thundermen in double figures. Both Kevin Durant (21 points/10 rebounds) and Nick Collison (12 points/10 rebounds) posted double-doubles, something we haven’t seen a lot of this season.

The San Antonio starters were reasonably effective, with Gary Neal pocketing 18 points and Richard Jefferson dangerous from beyond the arc, but in the third quarter, they were overwhelmed 37-21, and only Neal played any significant time in the fourth. Reserve forward Kawhi Leonard was the only player on either side to log more than 30 minutes of playing time; he had the only Spur double-double (13 points/10 rebounds) for the night. And there was an early fracas between DeJuan Blair and Kendrick Perkins that resulted in double technicals. (We really need a pool to guess when Perk goes over the technical limit of 13 — shortened for this abbreviated season — and gets suspended for a game.)

I suppose it’s considered a travel day tomorrow. Tuesday the Thunder are at Memphis, where the frontcourt isn’t what it used to be — Darrell Arthur is out for the season and Zach Randolph may miss a couple of months — and then Wednesday to New Orleans, where in the post-Chris Paul era nothing is what it used to be.

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Strange search-engine queries (310)

Once again it’s time to open up the logs and see if anything amusing has landed therein. Hey, it beats the hell out of golf, especially this time of day, when you can barely see the green, let alone the actual cup.

“got to meet zooey deschanel”:  Be warned: she’s probably not your type.

all girls have an inner slut:  With the possible exception of Zooey Deschanel.

shoe size bell curve:  Common sizes in the middle: at the left and right, they’re out of stock.

why isn’t darker than black on itunes?  The anime, or the Cage album?

80’s movie quote things have been going downhill for me ever since you borrowed my pants:  Sounds more like an anime than a Cage album.

job title general flunkie:  You probably shouldn’t get your hopes up this soon.

why do girls wear more than one bra:  They’re, um, putting up a front.

dinosaur trimmer:  You gonna tell T. rex he needs a trim? Because I’m not.

oatmealburgers:  I see Wilford Brimley’s back at the grill again.

I have nothing to have learned:  Might I suggest English?

old backwater:  Um, you’re soaking in it.

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Idol hands

Brian J. throws out a tricky question:

Justin Bieber: Is he more like Andy Gibb or Shaun Cassidy?

It’s tricky because there are so many available points of comparison. A few possibilities:

  • Still alive: Gibb, no; Cassidy, yes; Bieber, yes.
  • Owes much of his career to sibling(s): Gibb: yes; Cassidy, no; Bieber: no.
  • Owes much of his career to screaming teenage girls: Gibb: yes; Cassidy, yes; Bieber, yes.
  • Issues with voice changing: Gibb, no; Cassidy, no; Bieber, yes.
  • Godawful cover version: Gibb, “All I Have to Do Is Dream” (duet with Victoria Principal); Cassidy, “Da Doo Ron Ron”; Bieber, none yet, unless you want to count his Christmas album.
  • likelihood of flourishing post-musical career: Gibb, no (died); Cassidy, yes (established TV writer/producer); Bieber, too early to tell.

And I suppose I should mention this:

  • How many singles did I buy? Gibb, two; Cassidy, none; Bieber, one.

Admittedly, the Bieber song I bought, “Pray,” is his least successful: it didn’t even chart in his native Canada.

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A fountain troubled

Roxeanne de Luca contemplates her marital status, and reminds us that there are no guarantees in life:

[O]ne cannot always choose whether or not to find a great husband and to have a minivan full of children. We are not guaranteed such rewards, even if we choose the path that would likely lead us to such rewards. What we can do, however, is to be the type of woman whom a good man would want to marry, and would be proud to have as the mother of his children. If you do not end up with a huge, loving family (or a small, loving family, if two kids are about all you can handle), it shouldn’t be because you are a raging shrew whom men will sleep with but would never marry.

Perhaps fortunately for me, the vast majority of the unmarried women I know are not in fact raging shrews. Still, if you fancy yourself the very model of a modern-day Petruchio, be assured that Kate is out there:

I would (gently) suggest that Maureen Dowd is simply not the kind of person that any sane man would want to wake up next to every morning, and it’s not because she’s smart (which she may be, and can intimidate many men), or successful (ditto), but because she’s such a damn shrew.

So noted.

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Further distinction

A post last week about British MP Louise Mensch contained a peripheral remark about Home Secretary Theresa May’s “distinctive shoes,” illustrated with a pair perhaps not as distinctive as these:

Theresa May in leopard-print heels

Fleet Street, as is its wont, tends to go ballistic over women in UK politics for extraneous reasons like this, which suggests to me that there will be more material of this type during the next several months.

(Source.)

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Text only

Bailey Connell explains why she’s not doing a video blog:

[I]t’s in your best interest to keep my videos to performing pre-written music and lyrics, where I don’t have to speak off the top of my head. As much I wish I were, I am not quick-witted; when I try to be, I tend to … er … talk out of the wrong end. If I wanted you to hear word-diarrhea, I’d refer you to a recording of one of Ron Paul’s speeches.

There’s a lot to be said for knowing your limitations. (Assuming, of course, that those actually are her limitations.)

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Gently sipping

Demand for gasoline has been down of late, which hasn’t affected the price all that much for some reason. At least we know we can’t blame Amy Alkon:

I spent $153 on gas in 2010. In all of 2010. Don’t know what the 2011 tally was because I haven’t added it up yet, but it’s probably less. I work my life so I barely have to drive anywhere. Most people probably can’t do that. I also bought a Honda Insight hybrid in 2004, as the first new car I’ve ever had. I bought it so I wouldn’t pollute (it’s a SULEV — a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle) but it’s turned out to be really amazing in savings on gas ever since.

A spin over to fueleconomy.gov shows the post-2008 figures for the ’04 Insight to be 45 city/49 highway. (Original sticker said 57/56.) I’m guessing she has the CVT version, because the stick-shift model just missed SULEV by a hair.

A hundred and fifty-three bucks would keep my car gassed up for, oh, seven weeks, maybe.

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A tweet of great social and political import

There is, of course, silliness in several thousand varieties on Twitter, but once in a while something like this comes along:

Tweet by saucybritches

And this is what happened, later that same day.

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Quick, build a house!

That damn fire keeps getting closer all the time…

Screen shot from Fox 5: Fire Destroyed by Home

(From LAObserved via this Amy Alkon tweet.)

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Gets her through her busy day

George Carlin used to deride the very concept of pain pills: “I already have pain! I need relief pills!”

Undoubtedly much to the annoyance of the Warriors on Drugs, some of those tabs actually deliver the goods:

My eight-day drug regime has predominately consisted of the generic drugstore variety; Nyquil, decongestants, antihistamines, cough syrup, aspirin, Vicks. Today I kicked it up a notch with a modest amount of vicodin, the modern-day version of mother’s little helper. What a difference a script makes! I spent two hours shopping for birthday gifts and a grand dinner, cleaned the house (no small task after many days of gross neglect), herded boys after school, prepped the meal, wrapped presents and found myself singing as I tucked clean sheets on the bed.

My hair is gorgeous, legs are shaved, the make-up is beautiful and these gorgeous peep-toe stiletto heels feel like they were meant to be worn forever.

“What a drag it is getting old,” sang Sir Mick when he was twenty-three and never imagined anyone would ever refer to him as Sir Mick. Then again, he was probably making reference to Nembutals, the sort found in Mr Murphy’s overalls.

Amusingly, an advisory panel once suggested the FDA take Vicodin and its ilk off the market because the acetaminophen component — not the opioid, mind you, but the stuff like Tylenol — was a threat to the nation’s livers. Eminem and House, you’ll note, are still alive and kicking; and I have to figure that anything that makes stilettos “feel like they were meant to be worn forever” is a genuine boon. Not that you can convince Chuck Schumer of this, of course.

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Snow angel alert

Robert Stacy McCain has apparently chosen to wrap himself in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

[T]he past few days in New Hampshire, I’ve begun feeling increasingly glum, and uncharacteristic mood-swing that I at first attributed to being forced to take the Jon Huntsman campaign seriously. Later, I thought maybe I was bummed out by hanging around with those squishy RINOs from National Review during Saturday night’s debate.

It wasn’t until I picked up Sunday’s Boston Globe and saw that story about “arctic hysteria” that I realized I must be suffering from the same problem that affects the Greenlandic Inuit.

Not being in the habit of thumbing through DSM IV, I decided to see what the Wikipedants had to say about this particular syndrome:

Symptoms can include intense hysteria (screaming, uncontrolled wild behavior), depression, coprophagia, insensitivity to extreme cold (such as running around in the snow naked), echolalia (senseless repetition of overheard words) and more.

Coprophagia? Well, that would explain the grin he’s wearing in all those pictures from the road. (Or it wouldn’t. I know I certainly wouldn’t grin under those circumstances.)

Still, there are three words which should be kept in mind under the conditions: “New,” “Hampshire,” and “January.” Perhaps it wouldn’t bother the Inuit, but I must note here that the major New Hampshire nudist facility is closed until mid-May. They’re not crazy.

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Subordinate claws

By now, everyone has figured it out: the Memphis Grizzlies are fierce, and at the FedEx Forum they’re more so. The Thunder learned this last season, losing three of four, and got a refresher course in the playoffs, where it took seven games to subdue the Don’t Care Bears. The last meeting was 28 December, which OKC somehow won by three points, 98-95, despite Russell Westbrook having the Worst. Night. Ever. Tonight, Westbrook exploded for 30 points, and for good measure blocked a shot with 20 seconds left, and OKC somehow won by five points, 100-95.

We learned one thing: Marreese Speights, acquired from the Sixers, is no Zach Randolph, but he’s no slouch either, coming up with 10 points, one of six Grizzlies in double figures. Mike Conley, who played only a few seconds in that December game, was in good form, and Marc Gasol continues to be Marc Gasol. Rudy Gay, unfortunately for the Griz, wasn’t very Rudy Gay, hitting only 7 of 21 and missing four of five from the line.

With Westbrook running amok, Reggie Jackson saw limited minutes, but he’s probably not complaining, and he had two steals, as many as the rest of the team combined. Both Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Durant had free passes to Rebound City, Perk reeling in 13 and KD snagging 11 to go with 22 points. And then there’s Thabo Sefolosha, offensive machine, who knocked down three treys in three tries. You gotta love the idea of an elite defenseman who can shoot the long ball, right?

The Thunder have to play the Griz twice more this season, but at least they’ll have Loud City on their side. Not that Memphis is going to notice. For now, though, the more immediate issue, and by “immediate” I mean “tomorrow,” there’s a trip to New Orleans, where the Hornets, having taken out their frustrations on the Nuggets last night, should be well rested and anxious to prove a point — though what I want to know is whether Eric Gordon has recovered from that bruised right knee.

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Delayed reaction

Some of you are no doubt familiar with this phenomenon: you read something, record a noncommittal “Huh,” and move on — and minutes or hours or days later, it finally dawns on you what was said.

Roberta X dealt me one of those t’other day:

This reminds me — the Hofstadter’s Law T-shirts are still running way behind schedule. Really thought we’d planned for that.

I guffawed, and then I cursed myself for my blindness — and then, of course, I recursed.

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Take these tunes and shove ’em

The Reg manages to keep a straight face for some of this story:

Police in the Czech Republic have arrested a man who attempted to steal a digital music player by concealing it in his anus.

The thief was caught when the shoplifting alarm rang loud and proud at the supermarket he had entered in the town of Prerov. Nabbed by staff, he was found to have a pair of earphones stashed in his slacks.

Yet the earphones had no alarm-system tag. What had cause the bell to ring? Searching the man more thoroughly, security guards uncovered a tube of lube in his pocket.

To quote Interested-Participant: “Frankly, this story is hard to believe.” Well, maybe. Then again:

Sony MP3 Walkman

Dimensions: 84.9 x 28.8 x 13.9mm. You gotta admit, it’s easier than an iPod.

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All adjective-y

Jason Cammisa writes in the February Automobile:

BMW makes an even-more M3-y version of the M3, the GTS. It’s not available in North America, but it’s even faster, quicker, and more precise than the regular M3. AMG is now making a more AMG-y version of the [Mercedes-Benz] C63 that is even more berserk.

Admittedly, that -y suffix looks a trifle weird, but it does the job. A car described as M3-esque — or worse, M3-ish — sounds like it wouldn’t even approach the standard of comparison, let alone exceed it.

Disclosure: I once described an Ides of March record as “Byrds-y,” which proves — well, nothing, really.

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Wanting to see Caroline

About a week ago, I did a short piece about Louise Mensch, a British MP who claims that discussion of her appearance had “obscured” her political statements, and I followed up with a look at Home Secretary Theresa May from here down [gestures], suggesting that the press, being obsessed with this sort of thing, would likely provide more blogfodder.

With that in mind, here is Caroline Flint, currently MP for Don Valley (in South Yorkshire) and Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change — I’m guessing she’s for the former, against the latter — as she appeared in Observer Woman in 2009 at the age of forty-seven:

Caroline Flint in 2009

Said Elizabeth Day, who conducted the interview with Flint:

Caroline Flint is undeniably glamorous and, professionally, that posed her a problem: should she ignore her looks and seek to play them down or should she accentuate them and wear clothes that showed her to best advantage?

If she had taken the former route, Flint would no doubt have been mocked for her lack of style in acerbic newspaper opinion pieces asking why our politicians are so dispiritingly dowdy in comparison with the French. By opting for the latter, Flint made herself an easy target for the grey men in government who want to dismiss her as a flibbertigibbet whose pretty little head was not up to the job.

And what does Flint think about it?

She went on to say that she found the attention paid to her looks could be insulting “when it gets in the way of the other things I hope to contribute … It’s a bit of a double-edged sword how you look … I don’t think you can win on it.”

She’s probably right about that.

Caroline Flint was first elected to the Commons in 1997; Labour has held this seat since 1922.

(Title from a Kirsty MacColl tune.)

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Brake shoes they aren’t

Cars in Depth editor Ronnie Schreiber, commenting at TTAC, describes something non-automotive he spotted at the North American International Auto Show:

Porsche had their models wearing 6″ stilettos with about an inch and a half platform. It’s the kind of shoe that 10 or 15 years ago you would only see in porn, and not plain vanilla porn either.

The Booth Babe has already noted that she wasn’t going to Detroit this year, so I won’t ask her about that.

And it’s not like Schreiber objects to heels, exactly:

I understand and appreciate the appeal of high heels. A moderate high heel gives the female leg a shape that people find attractive, but my guess is that the vast majority of men don’t actually find extreme footwear attractive.

Then again, my guess is that a man’s concept of “extreme footwear” is defined by the very shoes he doesn’t like.

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Adventures of the swat team

Not too surprisingly, one of the leading scorers for the New Orleans Hornets tonight was someone named Chris. I admit to having more than a little trouble adjusting to the post-CP3 Bees — more than half of their roster was replaced in the off-season — but they’re no slouches. For one thing, that’s Chris Kaman with 17 points. (Carl Landry had 17 more.) For another, they pulled down more rebounds than the Thunder, 42-36. But the Hornets seem way inconsistent: after thrashing the Nuggets in Denver night before last, they fell to those rotters from Oklahoma City, 95-85.

It was, of course, a long way from inevitable. New Orleans jumped out to a ten-point lead in the first quarter, and after falling behind by 12 halfway through the third, managed to pull to within three at the start of the fourth. But the Thunder’s throw-everything-against-the-wall approach — what can you say about a night when Kendrick Perkins gets an assist and no technicals? — paid off once more. OKC was fairly lousy with the long ball, hitting seven of 20, but the Hornets connected on only one of 16. Scott Brooks clearly has “perimeter defense” bookmarked somewhere. And no, we didn’t see Eric Gordon tonight, but I’m thinking it wouldn’t have mattered that much.

And you know, Kevin Durant looked a fair bit fatigued from time to time. Didn’t stop him from dropping in 29 points and grabbing ten rebounds. Add 22 from Russell Westbrook, and hey, it’s Batman and Robin all over again. Nominations for Commissioner Gordon are being accepted.

The Knicks come in Saturday night, followed by three road games against Eastern teams: Boston, Washington and New Jersey, the last on another Saturday, meaning four games in the next ten days. Considering the last ten days featured seven Thunder games, you can practically call this a vacation. Not.

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It’s supposed to Sting

There’s a line of ex-workers trailing down the street
(That’s our Mitt back there)
There’s a capital gain and ain’t that awful sweet
(That’s our Mitt back there)
There’s a lot of red ink in the books today
It’s the same old debt as yesterday

It’s a leveraged buyout, it may cause some pain
It is certainly legal, but against the grain
Watch the GOP go spiral down the drain
As they try to sell us on the King of Bain

(Suggested by Nathan Wurtzel. And yes, I have beaten this particular horse before.)

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How things haven’t improved

Andrea Harris, child of the 1970s, is not at all impressed by these years starting with 2:

[S]omehow we went from the relatively free-wheeling Seventies to the restricted, drugged, and psychotherapied 21st Century. We have “men’s rights” websites whining that women who don’t wear high heels and makeup aren’t “feminine,” when the idea that to be “feminine” a woman had to wear makeup and high heels is a recent development in fashion, not a basic trope of human nature.

Your MRA guys seem persuaded that women should simply fall into their laps. (Prepositions may vary.) Few remember, or will admit, that for most of recorded history it was the male who was prettied up for public consumption.

We have everyone and their dog getting a tattoo.

I remain tatless after all these year. Also dogless.

Everyone but me is on Facebook and has ten thousand “friends.”

Well, 150, anyway.

Everyone is either a treehugging hippy crap leftist Democrat who thinks the rich “1%” should pay everyone else’s bills, or a gun-hugging, Bible-flogging, commie-hating, sky-and-earth-polluting, globe-warming redneck Republican who thinks rich people should be able to do whatever they want with their money including piling it on the lawns of their mansions and setting it on fire. And if you beg to differ from either position one iota you’re a traitor and a fake.

The real GOP rednecks don’t have money to burn. Then again, since on the worldwide scale I qualify as one of the hated One Percent — well, maybe I’ll set my lawn on fire. It will make life a little more difficult for the weeds, and for any would-be Occupiers.

People are so neurotic about drugs that everyone, even non-smokers, act as if they’re having a continuous nic-fit.

It takes several dozen tablets and caplets and pills (oh, my!) to keep me going another week.

And everyone — everyone — links to the UK sensationalist tabloid The Daily Mail as if it were an objectively reported newspaper for proof of their positions.

As I did above.

Beyond that, we’re living in “interesting times,” which was either a Chinese or a Persian curse.

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Something like training wheels

This town is not exactly world-famous for its “green” initiatives, but occasionally something happens here to gladden the hearts of treehuggers:

Bicycle lanes included in downtown Oklahoma City’s Project 180 could get a workout in short order by users of a shared-bike program called Spokies.

The program should launch this spring, Jennifer Gooden, the city’s sustainability director, told the Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday. Federal grant money paid for 95 bicycles to be placed at six stations downtown.

How much will it cost to borrow a bike? That hasn’t been decided yet:

People will be able to use automatic kiosks to check out bikes. The cost hasn’t been determined, but there will be plans to suit everyone from a one-time user who needs a bicycle for a half-hour to someone who lives downtown and rides the bikes often.

With downtown residency on the rise, this may actually be an idea whose time has come. (The one bicycle shop in Automobile Alley — once there were two — is actually flourishing these days.)

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Fark blurbs of the week

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Having been carded

Suze Orman has introduced something called the Approved Card, which appears to be a prepaid debit card with fewer fees than usual. The response from moneybloggers has been something less than entirely favorable:

All she was trying to do was launch a prepaid debit card that charges slightly fewer exorbitant fees than the competition, and sort of reports your spending habits to credit bureaus but not really. Then a whole bunch of “idiot” personal finance bloggers began ganging up on her on Twitter, and she had no choice but to lash out and remind them that they’re not real journalists.

This sounds like my own brand of idiocy, so I’ll suggest that if you must have a prepaid debit card, the one to have comes from American Express, which, as I’ve noted before, has only two fees:

  • If you refill it with cash, you go through GreenDot, which costs $4.95;
  • Second ATM withdrawal of the month costs $2 (not including any fees imposed by the owner of the ATM).

And depending on your predilection, there may be another advantage to going Amex: there are lots of places who don’t take it, so you may have an opportunity to rethink that impulse purchase.

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Transcontinental trash

It takes a certain warped genius to send out junk mail in an envelope that looks for all the world like it contains a W-2 form — in January, of course. Inasmuch as I already have my W-2 for 2011, I could easily have justified consigning it to the circular file, but curiosity won out. (The terrorists have won.)

Inside was a “VA Mortgage Payment Reduction Notice,” offering me some sort of refinancing offer that is “guaranteed by the Veterans Benefit Administration.” There is, it appears, no such agency: a va.gov page identified as such redirects to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, which is at 810 Vermont Avenue NW in Washington and has a proper government ZIP code: 20420. (The Feds run 20200 through 20599.) This, um, Notice has a return address of 2020 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, 20006, which according to the Oracle of Google is shared by, among others, Comcast, Hmong National Development, and World Net Daily.

Punchline: I don’t even have a VA mortgage. Nor is it FHA, Fannie, Freddie, or any of those F-ers. I do have, however, the ability to read the postage-meter imprint, and this particular example of tree waste was mailed, not from the District of Columbia, but somewhere near the Columbia River, from deepest Portlandia.

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Although technically it isn’t “Good” Friday

Once in a while, I will answer Rebecca Black-related questions on Yahoo! Answers, on the (mostly) honorable basis that I’ve already looked all this stuff up myself, and hey, why shouldn’t I share? Besides, the amount of misinformation being circulated is positively (or negatively) staggering; there was a brief flurry of suicide references earlier this month.

I was not, however, prepared for this: What does God think of Rebecca Black?

Several answers came in, but I seemed to be wandering in the desert. Then, just as I was about to give up in despair, a book arrived at my desk. The Last Testament: A Memoir by God [with David Javerbaum] (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011) actually addresses the question. From 1,400 Years of Sanctitude 22:14:

I have gleaned much from Numa Numa Guy; I have rolled my eyes at “Double Rainbow” (though I appreciated its numerous shout-outs); I have reeled in horror at 2 Girls 1 Cup, and I have seen Rebecca Black do her level best to help remove the phrase “Thank God It’s Friday” from the popular lexicon.

Which, you may be certain, He approves. Same book, 3:8-9:

The worst is Friday, for that is the day I am forced to hear myself endlessly and mistakenly thanked. Thank not me; thank Frigg, the Norse goddess of love, ye unwitting pagans.

It’s official: Rebecca Black is doing the Lord’s work. Expect a harp arrangement of “Friday” some time in the next millennium.

And by “the next millennium,” I mean last year sometime:

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Nest egg insufficiently laid

The guys who handle my 401(k) evidently use ScareMonger™ software to produce their projections: they’re now claiming that if I’m to have the same none-too-comfortable existence after retirement, I need to be socking away somewhere around 127 percent of my income. This, needless to say, is not an option.

Then again, interest rates are in the toilet, the Fed having decided that it’s more important for Goldman Sachs to be able to suck down dollars through a straw than it is for sad sacks like me to be able to stash them away. I have a smallish money-market account in the far corner, but I haven’t tossed it any coin in recent years, simply because the returns were so poor. And “coin” is the operative word; last year, in fact, the account lost one cent.

However, I did show a positive return (even before employer match) for the year; the biggest percentage gain, ironically, came from a since-closed Goldman Sachs large-cap fund.

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Quote of the week

Michigan, alone among the 57 states, has a ten-cent container-deposit law — five cents seems to be the maximum elsewhere — and apparently this is high enough to motivate your friendly neighborhood derelict to go poking around in people’s trash bins in hopes of finding some easy dimes:

It is bad enough to find my trash in my own yard, but a few weeks ago, I was infuriated to discover my “reject” bottles (which lack the magical Michigan label) thrown onto the lawn of the nearest lot where there is a street light! The picker obviously couldn’t read the label in front of my house as it was too dark, but once he saw that they weren’t redeemable, he just figured he’d throw them wherever he was. I hate having to pick up my bottles (trust me, I know they’re mine, as it’s a beer not sold in Michigan which I buy as a special treat) from a neighbor’s yard, and I hate whoever the hell did this. I would love to see whoever it is punished. But there never can or will be any sort of legal punishment, because derelicts who commit summary quality of life offenses are one of the classes exempt from the law. In order to be arrested for things like littering or taking a leak (or even a dump) in public, you have to be middle class and capable of showing up in court and paying the fine. Otherwise the cops won’t bother. And not only is there no incentive for them to bother with a filthy derelict, there are major disincentives. For starters, the guy will stink up the officer’s nice police car and maybe throw up in it, or give the officer bedbugs or lice. And if the officer were dumb enough to write a citation, the derelict will most likely never show up, never pay the fine, and the likely result would be that the officer would learn from his superiors (unofficially and off the record, of course) that if he wants to be promoted, he’d best not mess with “the homeless.” Or illegal aliens, and other exempt classes.

That’s the funny thing about the Law of Unintended Consequences: it requires no separate enforcement mechanism.

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Nor can I get any satisfaction

A line from Stan Freberg’s “Elderly Man River”: “He must know something, but he doesn’t say anything.”

If that brings out your inner Tweedly, you’re on stage, doing Grammarian’s Karaoke:

We expect (and even demand) that poets will stretch and bend the language —  we call it poetic license, and we issue those licenses right and left… So why don’t we extend the same privilege to song lyrics?

Perhaps it’s because poems, unlike popular songs, aren’t in heavy rotation: you may be disturbed by the words of the poem, but you’re not going to hear them once every other hour for the next three weeks. Song lyrics, however, tend to drill themselves into your head.

Or it may simply be this:

[T]hese days, we expect our popular entertainment (unlike poetry, which we no longer consider popular) to be smooth and easily digestible, and any lump in the lyrical oatmeal sticks in our craws. The wrong word sounds a wrong note, if you will; to some listeners, it’s just as jarring.

Sometimes it gives us a chance to free-associate. For years my head has been playing a mashup of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” with Treasure of the Sierra Madre: “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges…”

(Via Wordnik.)

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Just short of perfect

Under scrutiny: Jennifer Lawrence, perhaps best known as Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone, for which she got an Academy Award nomination, at this week’s People’s Choice Awards. At least part of the reason you’re seeing this here is that I’m enthralled by this little cobalt-blue number conjured up by Viktor & Rolf:

Jennifer Lawrence in Viktor & Rolf

I even like the shoes — Sergio Rossi — except for one minor detail:

Jennifer Lawrence in Sergio Rossi shoes

I mean, these are about a size and a half too big for her.

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Maybe they’ll even look at it

A new voter ID arrived yesterday from the County Election Board, and since I hadn’t changed anything about my registration, it took me a couple of moments to figure out why: after the Census, all sorts of district lines were redrawn, and while I’m still represented by the same old crew, I’m in a new precinct. (Goodbye, 453; hello, 195.)

The new cards also list those districts by number, which is nice. From my own:

US Rep:  5  Senate:  40  House:  87  Cnty Comm:  1

Everyone in the same precinct should have the same numbers, of course.

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A hole/pigeon imbalance

Docjim505, over at Tam’s place, on the handing out of labels:

The problem of defining left, right, conservative, and liberal comes up a good bit around election time. People (especially the lackwits in MiniTru) like nice, tidy labels and categories: this or that person is “conservative” or “progressive”.

Especially if their contribution to Teh Narrative is dependent on such tagging — and apparently it always is. Of course, it fails:

Another problem is that most people aren’t rabid on any position. Hence, they may consider themselves pro-2A but support “sensible” gun control. They may consider themselves liberal but support the War on Drugs. Etc. In the final analysis, they just want things to run smoothly: for their families, houses and businesses to be safe; for grandma not to be cold or hungry; for the kids to be off the streets during the day (and if they actually learn something, hurrah!); for the trains to run on time; for taxes not to be too high; and to be left the hell alone. They’ll vote for whomever convincingly promises to do these things, and labels be damned.

I have the simplest possible stance on gun control — I keep my guns under control, and expect you to do the same — and as for the Drug Warriors, I find their lack of faith in Charles Darwin disturbing. (We could get rid of meth-heads in no time: identify them, send them a two-pound package, and then fill out the death certificates. Most of them won’t last long enough to share any of it, let alone offer any for resale.) But beyond that, I’m one of those guys who just wants things to run smoothly, though unlike a few of my peers, I have a pretty good idea of what that takes, and some of it is a lot more complicated than it sounds.

That said, any tax that supports a governmental function not authorized by the Constitution is “too high” by definition.

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On the nature trail

One evening Emma Thompson opened the door of her home in Scotland, and there stood a policeman, reporting that “a dog walker had called the police to say he had seen ‘a naked man, about 50 years old’ walking on her land in the afternoon.

At precisely the right moment twelve-year-old Gaia chimed in from from the top of the stairs: “Wasn’t that about the time that you came up from the river, mum?”

Said Thompson of the incident:

“Making the connection, I could see the same thing happening to the policeman. And I could see him, as he backed off, and I was thinking, he’s going to go back to the station and he’s going to say, ‘You see that Emma Thompson? Her tits must be so low that from a distance they read as testicles’.”

Um, no, they’re not.

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Knicks knocked knicely

I have to admit, I still grin a bit when I see “New York at Oklahoma City” on the NBA schedule; the steadily-shrinking podunkularity of my adopted home town continues to impress. And it’s the only meeting with the Knicks this year — the foreshortened schedule cut out a lot of East/West games to preserve conference and division matchups — which probably doesn’t bother the Knicks too much, since they were down 70-47 at the half and Scott Brooks pulled his starters in the third quarter, sending the Carmelo Anthony-less Brickerbockers back to Gotham with a 104-92 drubbing. (Obviously Brooks doesn’t believe in running up the score on a vanquished opponent.)

With lots of garbage time available, there wasn’t a single DNP-CD; Renaldo Balkman did his darnedest to make a game of it in the fourth, running up 12 points in the final 12 minutes, and in fact five Knicks finished in double figures, but none of them managed more than 14 minutes. With ‘Melo out, Bill Walker got the start, and he was simply overwhelmed.

Batman and Robin swapped utility belts this time around: Russell Westbrook led the Thunder in both assists (8) and rebounds (also 8), and tossed in 21 points, while Kevin Durant was visible mostly as a shooter, rolling up 28 points on 10-13 shooting. There was an anxious moment early on, when Westbrook apparently stepped on Mike Bibby and did something weird to his ankle; however, he was back within half a minute of game time, showing no ill effects. And something happened to Reggie Jackson in the fourth; James Harden replaced him for the rest of the game. (Harden, incidentally, had a season-high 24 points.)

Some aspects of this game were not pretty. We’re talking 41 turnovers (Thunder 21, Knicks 20), and 45 fouls, not counting the T dropped on Amar’e Stoudemire. Brooks’ post-game statement didn’t seem too concerned, though, and you didn’t hear Loud City complaining about it.

The upcoming three-game tour of Eastern clubs will take all week, something closer to normal scheduling: it starts Monday night in Boston. (Next home game is one week later, against the Pistons.)

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Live from Bacon Center

Do pets evaluate pet food on the basis of appearance? Maybe, maybe not. But I’d bet the resident humanoids do, which can lead to uncomfortable situations like this:

So I was cleaning out my jacket pockets as I got home from the cigar lounge tonight, looking for my cell phone, which I haven’t seen since before I left to go there, and sitting on my desk next to me is a beggin strip.

It looks like fake bacon. Tofu bacon. Turkey bacon. It looks ALmost like bacon.

In fact, it looks JUST enough like bacon that it’s triggering my bacon center.

And it’s sitting there.

On my desk.

Staring.

At me.

He did not give in to the temptation. The scary part, of course, is that there exists a possibility for temptation in the first place. Certainly no one is going to look at Alpo and think “Dinty Moore.”

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Considering the source

Joseph Epstein has a book out called Gossip (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) which covers various aspects of the snooper/blabber matrix, though the one most pertinent to us at the moment might be his discussion of the Internet variation on the theme:

As far as I know, I have never been directly gossiped about on the Internet. I live, after all, a dullish life that does not provide much fodder for exotic gossip. But I have been insulted innumerable times online, as has anyone who writes for the general public, and insults not made to your face but with the capacity to be instantly widespread are an indirect form of gossip. Stendhal said that to write a book is to risk being shot at in public. But until the Internet, one didn’t know all the tender places in which one could be shot. And there is no redress, not really, not likely, not ever, not so long as the Internet remains the playground of the too often pathological and the Valhalla of the unvalorous, where the unqualified and the outright foolish can say what they please about whom they please, which in the end amounts, as Molly Haskell has it, to “democracy’s revenge on democracy.”

Does Epstein call for regulations? Well, maybe:

Meanwhile, until such time as laws governing behavior in cyberspace are made, or at least an etiquette for Internet behavior is developed, we are all potential Internet victims.

My valor is perhaps debatable, but I would definitely prefer people behaving themselves to people being ordered to behave themselves, purely as a matter of principle. The problem, as I see it, is that J. Random Googler doesn’t always have a way to evaluate what he encounters: it could be complete and utter BS or God’s Own Truth, and there’s no reliable mechanism for determining which is which.

In the meantime, I’m thinking there are distinct advantages to living a dullish life, one of which is keeping down the chatter.

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Spring citrus

Or maybe not “spring,” exactly. Designer Erdem Moralıoğlu — who, quite understandably, goes by simply “Erdem” — has announced a Pre-Fall 2012 Collection, and while I think most of it is worthy, this is, I think, the dress to die, or at least waste away, for:

Orange-ish dress by Erdem

Possible downside: Erdem enjoys “Premier Designer” status at Neiman’s, so this means a four-digit price tag. Yes, I checked. I’m just that way. I also looked at some of his previous collections, which are also worth some of your time.

(Suggested here. Hire her for design work so she can afford this, wouldja please?)

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Starkers reality

Britain’s Channel 4 last week presented a documentary called My Daughter The Teenage Nudist, and while it didn’t call to mind any particular incident in my own life — my own children tend toward the buttoned-up — it did point out the basic disconnect between older naturists, for whom nudity is a lifestyle of sorts, and the younger set, for whom it’s an occasional pastime. (One young woman said she had no particular desire to see “genitalia 24/7.”)

British Naturism, the national organisation, has suffered from declining membership in recent years, though their own survey indicates sustained interest in nude activities. A similar situation prevails in the States, where two rival groups fight for their piece of a pie that continues to shrink.

Unlike some sections of its self-conscious former colony, though, Britain has no specific anti-public-nudity law, which makes life easier for both part-time and full-time naturists. (Compare to some places not so far away where you can be threatened with jail time for taking a leak off your back porch.)

The teenager in the documentary seems normal enough: she liked the idea of the World Naked Bike Ride, and will occasionally participate in a nude event, but she’s not going to get to the point where she recoils in horror at the very thought of having to wear clothes.

(You can see this program — about 47 minutes — here. Believe me, you don’t have 47 minutes during the work day to watch this, and you probably shouldn’t try.)

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Cesium the day

In fact, all of our usual measurements of time are based on cesium:

Since 1967, the second has been defined to be the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom.

Which corresponds pretty closely, but not exactly, to the behavior of the planet on which we found that atom:

Every now and again, the folks at IERS either add or subtract a second from the world’s calendars and clocks in order to make the Earth’s time match the atomic clock time. They last did it in 2008 and this year will do it between June 30 and July 1. Once your clock hits 12:59:59 on June 30, it will actually take it two seconds to go to 0:00:00 on July 1 instead of one second.

Did you say that should be 11:59:59? Sorry, you forgot about DST, about which neither a French lab nor the planet itself give a damn.

Incidentally, while the system allows for adjustments in both directions, in the forty years since the protocol was established, all the corrections have involved adding a second, never to subtract one. The earth, apparently, is slowing down a bit.

As for me — well, it’s a Saturday night, so there’s at least a small chance I’ll be awake for it. Not that I’ll notice anything.

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