Archive for November 2012

Trophy cars

In the December issue, Car and Driver throws an unexpected question to John Hennessey of Hennessey Performance:

Why do guys in the Middle East seem to have such extravagant taste in cars?

I have a theory. And I’m saying this in the most respectful way. When you’re over there, you generally don’t see any women in public. And when you do, they’re all covered up. In that culture you can’t show off your girlfriend or your wife, but you can show off your car. I think that, at least somewhat, the cars take the place of women.

There’s a throttle-body joke in there somewhere.

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A page from the old playbook

How many times have we seen this in the last couple of years? The Thunder play it close for a half, slip badly in the third quarter, only to come back strong in the fourth. Tonight we had a textbook example: tied after the first quarter, up one at the half, outscored by seven in the third, and then a 17-6 run to start the fourth. Unfortunately, this was the point where Luol Deng realized he was much bigger than Kevin Martin and knocked out five consecutive points. Darnell Mayberry suggested at this point that the Thunder should put Martin on Kirk Hinrich, Russell Westbrook on Rip Hamilton, and Thabo Sefolosha on Deng. It was tied at 85-all with 3:30 left, but Scott Brooks stuck with small ball. And damn, but it paid off, to the tune of 97-91 over Chicago’s tall timbers.

Deng, albeit finishing -2, still wound up with a game-high 27 points, with Rip Hamilton adding 20 more, and both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer missing a double-double by a single point. The Bulls’ bench contributed 14 points, one less than Kevin Martin. Chicago had a slight lead in rebounds, and had two fewer turnovers — though 20 is nothing to brag about.

This was a big night for Serge Ibaka, who scored 21 on 8-15 shooting and reeled in nine boards. Durant, who got six of the last eight OKC points, finished with 24; Westbrook was erratic from the floor (7-22, 16 points) but mostly passing well (12 assists). Eric Maynor added ten points in a mere 12½ minutes. Telltale statistic: the Bulls took 11 more shots than the Thunder (84-73), but managed to hit fewer (35-36, 42 versus 49 percent). “Small ball,” says Scott Brooks, beaming.

Back home tomorrow to blow by the Pistons, and then a Sunday matchup with the Cavs.

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Another RTFM failure

This falls under “conspicuous due to its absence”:

I have owned three 2002 Hyundai Accents, all purchased used, and don’t remember any of them having come with an owner’s manual. What, do the original owners thumb through it, lips moving as they sound out the difficult words, peer at the pictures, gnaw briefly on the cover and throw it over their shoulder?

I figured they sold ’em on eBay to raise some semi-quick cash.

And I’d bet none of them even knew about the Hyundai Service website, either.

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Worst shoe ever?

New York magazine’s The Cut has a slideshow feature of the 50 Ugliest Shoes in History, and while “ugly” is of course in the eye of the beholder — I’d defend Doc Martens and maybe even the Earth Shoe in terms of form following function — some of these Dr. Moreauvian creations perhaps ought not to be beheld at all, and as it happens, of the two I like least, one has already been featured here. This is the other:

Brian Atwood Charleston Peep-Toe Ankle Boots

Said The Cut of the Brian Atwood “Charleston” peep-toe platform ankle boot, unleashed this year:

Dripping with a bordello’s worth of upholstery tassels, the “Charleston” has a Clydesdale look without the unsavory reality of actually killing and wearing a horse’s hoof.

Evidently — and perhaps surprisingly to some — I have a great deal of resistance to hooves in this context.

(Via Nancy Friedman, who also defends Docs.)

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Purple reign

There was some realignment of voting precincts between 2010 and 2012, and my precinct has changed both its borders and its designation, but one thing hasn’t changed: the red/blue balance. If anything, it’s even purpler than before. Some numbers from the precinct-level table, pending certification:

President: Mitt Romney (R) 693, Barack Obama (D) 670.

Congress: James Lankford (R) 665, Tom Guild (D) 585.

House District 87: Nick Singer (D) 661, Jason Nelson (R) 658.

All the State Questions passed handily except 759, the bar on affirmative action, which passed by a comparatively close 683-569.

The State Election Board has posted lots of data for your reading and sampling pleasure.

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For amusement value only

This, says Rebecca Black, is “the appropriate thing to do while in my manager’s office.” Huh?

Rebecca Black does a handstand

No comment from said manager at this time. And who took this picture, anyway?

Addendum: Another clip from “In Your Words” has been posted.

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The whir of machinery

“It has not been a pretty performance,” said radio guy Matt Pinto, and churning up the mud in that 18-point first quarter did nothing to flatter the Thunder’s new Ultra-Drab™ alternate jerseys. OKC recovered a bit in the second, taking a 49-42 lead into the locker room; the Pistons didn’t at all act like an 0-5 team in the third, though, and the Thunder had to work at putting them away. The final was 105-94, a reappearance of the Bad Russell Westbrook (3-10 from the floor, 10 points) offset by Serge Ibaka’s career-high 25 points (9-13). (Okay, he had 26 in a playoff game once, but that’s a different set of records.)

Detroit did show strength tonight: starting center Greg Monroe posted a double-double (14 points, 10 boards), and three of the other starters (Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Brandon Knight) landed in double figures. What’s more, rookie power forward Andre Drummond put together a 22-point, 8-rebound night, and the Pistons actually outrebounded the Thunder, 41-38 (16-8 offensive).

Kevin Durant, yet again, came up with a double-double (25 points, 14 boards), and with Westbrook mired in whatever quag was surrounding him, Eric Maynor got more time to strut his stuff. And Maynor’s stride was long tonight: 5-6 from the floor, including 3-3 from Way Out There, for 13 points. The Thunder actually shot 53.5 percent, with Westbrook’s woes costing almost four percentage points. Still, Westbrook served up six assists. Then again, so did Kendrick Perkins (!). And how was Kevin Martin? Not the greatest shooter tonight, with 16 points (5-14), but the defense he allegedly doesn’t have, he showed he had: three steals and a block.

The Pistons get another shot on their home court Monday night. In between, there’s a Sunday-evening game against the Cavaliers, who might be without both Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller. “But what can you do?” said Cavs coach Byron Scott. We shall see.

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At a loss

Which describes my feelings of late to the proverbial T.

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Occasionally quoteworthy

Lynn has a weekly feature called Quotes From Here and There, and once in a while one of the four slots goes to something I’ve said.

This week I got two slots, which qualifies as an honor. (Picture me bowing.) Now I’m wondering: is it worth the trouble to go back through twenty thousand posts to pick out the best 100 or so?

Possible side project: given my high state of anxiety of late, perhaps it might be worth trying to determine if being agitated enhances, or detracts from, the quality of these little monologues. (Then again, it may have no effect whatsoever. I can’t tell, and I’m arguably the worst judge of my own work.)

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Pushing Huttons

According to the old TV spot, when E. F. Hutton talks, people listen. Today, this would be described as an early example of digital influence, and there’d be some sort of score for it, because online advertisers want to reach people who in turn reach other people, thereby presumably garnering more bang for their bucks. There’s just one problem with this scheme, and it’s simply this: how can you trust these scores? Consider the matter of PageRank:

Google developed an innovative relevance ranking algorithm — PageRank — based on the hyperlink structure of the Web. The PageRank algorithm basically takes inputs (i.e. the hyperlink structures of the entire Web) and cranks out a score for every webpage that, in theory, represents its authority on the Web.

As we learn from the behavior economics of humans, when we put a score on something, we create an incentive for some people to get a better score. This is human nature. Because people care about themselves, they care about any comparisons that concern them, whether it is their websites, cars, homes, their work, or just themselves. Some would go so far as to cheat the algorithm just to get a better score. In fact, Google’s PageRank algorithm has created an entire industry (i.e. SEO) around gaming their score.

Subsequently Google, quite properly I think, began screwing with its algorithms, just to foil those who would game them, a process which continues to this day.

I used to display a little button on the sidebar that looked up my PageRank on a regular basis and showed it to the world, and by “the world” I mean the tiny fraction of humanity who’d visited the site. Eventually I figured out that the number of damns actually given about my PageRank was likely less than the PageRank itself, and deleted the button.

Now comes a trickier scheme: attempting to measure an individual’s personal influence in social media. The justification is the same, and the results are even easier to fudge:

If you tweeted a lot yesterday and your influence score jumps up today, you’ve just discovered that you can increase your influence score by tweeting more. Knowing this, would you continue to tweet more? Most people probably would, especially if they care about their score. This has created a lot of loud mouths who are not actually influential in any meaningful way. Therefore, his influence score is merely a reflection of the fact that he has successfully gamed the algorithm into giving him a higher score simply by tweeting more, but not actually doing anything truly influential.

The poster child for this sort of thing is called Klout, and it measures a mix of social media. Based on my tweetage and Facebookery, I apparently have Klout of 59. Fifty-nine out of what, they don’t say, though some folks I know who take this far more seriously than I do — or who pay no attention to it yet happen to do things that fatten their scores — fall into the 70-80 bracket. This suggests that infinite Klout — so much influence that conversations stop just to hear what you, like E. F. Hutton of old, have to say — would be assigned a score of 100.

Incidentally, the old Hutton company disappeared into the void of Wall Street consolidation many years ago; a grandson of Edward Francis Hutton and some former Hutton execs are trying to restart the company anew. As of today, they have a PageRank of two. Mine is, um, five.

(Tweeted by high-Klout Jeff Jarvis, with the observation that “Klout is bullshit.”)

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Visually oriented

Niki Karimi, forty-one today, is an Iranian actress turned writer/director; her most recent effort is Final Whistle (2011), in which the following happens:

In this suspenseful social-realist drama, a filmmaker struggles against time and apathy to save a woman she barely knows from the death penalty. Film-producing partners Sahar (played by writer/director Niki Karimi) and husband Saman (Shahab Hosseini, from 2011 Sydney Film Prize winner A Separation) discover that a young actress they employ is living a nightmare. Her mother is charged with murder and sentenced to hang; she can’t afford the blood money that would free her under sharia law. Sahar is desperate to help, but the men in her life are reluctant at best — and distracted by following the World Cup on TV.

Photo of Niki Karimi

In addition to her film work, Karimi translates books into Farsi; her first was Marlon Brando’s autobiography Songs My Mother Taught Me. And her still photography is occasionally exhibited.

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Five-hour food stamps

Sign in Crest Foods today: “ENERGY DRINKS ARE NO LONGER AVAILABLE THROUGH ACS.” “ACS,” I presume from the context, is short for “Access,” the brand name on Oklahoma’s EBT card.

Wondering if there had been a legal change, I went to the USDA, and found this:

When considering the eligibility of energy drinks, and other branded products, the primary determinant is the type of product label chosen by the manufacturer to conform to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines:

  • Energy drinks that have a nutrition facts label are eligible foods
  • Energy drinks that have a supplement facts label are classified by the FDA as supplements, and are therefore not eligible

I didn’t go back to read any labels, but I did come up with what I think is a reasonable hypothesis: the store was letting this issue slide a bit, and was slapped down by the authorities for so doing.

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Fewer tags

One of the first things that happened to me, that day in 1972, was being brought into compliance with General Order No. 204, 20 December 1906:

An aluminum identification tag, the size of a silver half dollar and of suitable thickness, stamped with the name, rank, company, regiment, or corps of the wearer, will be worn by each officer and enlisted man of the Army whenever the field kit is worn, the tag to be suspended from the neck, underneath the clothing, by a cord or thong passed through a small hole in the tab. It is prescribed as a part of the uniform and when not worn as directed herein will be habitually kept in the possession of the owner. The tag will be issued by the Quartermaster’s Department gratuitously to enlisted men and at cost price to officers.

The shape of the dog tag would change somewhat over the years, but its purpose has remained the same: to identify the fallen when they can no longer identify themselves. In other words, it’s a preparation for something you’d rather not think about.

There are times when I think the whole nation would rather not think about things like that; there is much talk of peace, comparatively little about the idea that maybe you have to fight once in a while to obtain it. They forget that during most of human history, peace was the exception, not the rule; and they believe that ultimately, mankind will happily lay down its arms. Anyone who’s ever had any of those arms pointed at him knows better. But there are fewer and fewer of them — of us — to serve as a reminder, and so we forget, lulled into a false sense of security by those who prefer butter to guns, or would if butter didn’t have so much darned saturated fat.

My own role in pacifying the angry hordes was exceedingly minor yet absolutely essential: if I wasn’t on the front line, I was backing up someone who was, and had the rotating blades been struck by waste material at the right (or the wrong) time, it could just as easily have been me out there. You should, of course, remember that someone before you remember me, especially if he didn’t come back; but you should remember all of us, from the time when you needed us — because such a time will come again. It always does.

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Positively angelic

Cleve Duncan, who died last week at seventy-seven, is one of the few singers who ever got to sing his own name on a record:

This was what they nowadays call a “metasong,” a song whose major purpose is to recall other songs, and in fact, it was meta-er than most such. In 1960, L. A. deejay Art Laboe put out a compilation album called Memories of El Monte, songs recorded by vocal groups who sang at the dance parties he held in, yes, El Monte, California. Frank Zappa, a major doo-wop fiend, thought there ought to be a song called “Memories of El Monte,” and broached the idea to future Mother of Invention Ray Collins, who came up with a verse or two based on the chord changes of “Earth Angel.”

Laboe, needless to say, thought this was a swell idea, and what eventually emerged was a song incorporating bits of doo-wop favorites that were presumably regularly heard in El Monte, although only two of the songs thus name-checked (“You Cheated” and “Cherry Pie”) were actually on Laboe’s compilation LP. The masterstroke was getting Cleve Duncan, who sang lead for the Penguins on “Earth Angel,” to sing this one. He’s identified herein as “Cleve Duncan along with the Penguins,” which was technically true, though the original Penguins had long since broken up and Duncan was trying to create a new version of the group. Walter Saulsberry, who sings lead on some of the other song fragments, would remain a Penguin; the backing vocals were done by the Viceroys. Zappa produced the single, which wound up being credited to the Penguins; Laboe released it, and while it never made the national charts, “Memories of El Monte” is still loved and cherished in places where vocal groups never really ever went away.

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The sorest of losers?

On the face of it, there is nothing particularly unusual about this:

The losing candidate for Oklahoma County sheriff is asking county election officials to count the votes again.

Darrell Sorrels, a former sheriff’s deputy who works as a contract security officer for the U.S. Marshals Service, filed papers Friday seeking a manual recount of the race results.

Sorrels, 58, of Midwest City, also put up a $25,800 deposit to cover the costs of the recount.

This is all in compliance with the law: legally, any candidate may ask for a recount, but the candidate must pay for the expense incurred.

But here’s the punchline:

Incumbent John Whetsel beat Sorrels, 163,839 to 89,353, according to the county election board.

Historically, recounts have been called for after races finishing with splits like 50.2 to 49.8 percent, not 64.7-35.3. What’s missing from this story?

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Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl

I’m pretty sure, though, that she had nothing to do with this. From the Oldies but Baddies file, the bogus promise of a tax refund from Her Majesty’s Government:

Dear Applicant:

Following an upgrade of our computer systems and review of our records we have investigated your payments and latest tax returns over the last five years our calculations show that you have made over payments of GBP 384.77

Due to the high volume of refunds due you must complete the online application, the telephone help line is unable to assist with this application. In oder to process your refund you will need to complete the application form attached to this email.Your refund may take up to 3 weeks to process please make sure you complete the form correctly.

NOTE: If you’ve received an Income Tax ‘repayment’ it will either be following a claim you’ve made or because HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has received new information about your taxable income or entitlement to allowances. The refund may come through your tax code or as a payment and could relate to the current tax year or earlier years.

An Income Tax repayment is a refund of tax that you’ve overpaid. So, if you’ve paid too much tax for example through your job or pension this year or in previous years HMRC will send you a repayment. You’ll get the repayment by bank transfer directly to your credit or debit card.

HM Revenue & Customs
London, HA7 2LD
All rights reserved

The attachment, blithely titled “Refund.html,” is in fact a wicked-looking Base64 encode.

HMRC, as it happens, is well aware of this sort of thing.

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The latest example of Cavalier treatment

This one wasn’t exactly a roller-coaster ride, but the Cavaliers did run up a ten-point lead in the first quarter, no thanks to a slower-than-usual Thunder start. This sort of thing doesn’t sit well at the Peake, so OKC churned up a run to take a six-point lead after the first, stretching the lead to eleven at the half. Cleveland regained some traction in the third, when Anderson Varejao, who hadn’t been a factor up to that point, began to click, and with a few seconds left in that quarter, the Cavs were within three, 76-73. At the buzzer, Russell Westbrook fired up a trey; in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter, he hit two more, and Cleveland was done, the Thunder skating away with a 106-91 win.

As the various manifestations of Westbrook go, this was evidently the Good One, with 27 points, 10 assists and six rebounds, though there are those eight turnovers to account for. (The Thunder coughed it up 21 times, which can’t be good.) Scott Brooks left him in for almost 40 minutes, presumably because he was on a roll. In fact, the starters generally played more minutes than average, what with Cleveland refusing to throw in the towel early. And you can’t really argue with Kendrick Perkins landing ten points to go with five boards. That Durant fellow? Twenty-six points, eight rebounds. And Daniel Orton, the Pride of Bishop McGuinness, entered for garbage time at 2:02, hitting his one shot attempt and blocking one of Daniel Gibson’s.

Gibson, in fact, may have exemplified this game for the Cavs. Like Kevin Martin, he led his team’s bench with 16 points, including a trey and three free throws; unlike Kevin Martin, he was -24 for the night. (K-Mart was +25.) With Varejao off his game, it was left to Kyrie Irving (20 points) and Alonzo Gee (18) to run the Cavs’ offense. And while Irving shot well (9-16), nobody else did; Cleveland finished at 41 percent, and a woeful 30 percent from beyond the arc. (For OKC: 55 percent, seven of 15 treys for 47.) Last few years, the Cavs have scored big upsets in this town. Not this time.

Next: up to Detroit tomorrow for a rematch with the Pistons, and then at home Wednesday against the Grizzlies, who just thrashed (some of) the crap out of the Heat. Blood will flow.

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Strange search-engine queries (354)

And here we go with yet another collection of semi-wacky search strings from last week’s Web traffic, and while we can’t guarantee it’s going to be as funny as a government sex scandal, we’re pretty sure no one is going to resign as a result.

to receive 2500 points click on this link and click through the next icons until you find the answer to this fill in the blank “______ and popping sounds can be a symptom of temporomandibular joint (tmj) disorder.”:  Ten thousand points and 99 cents can be exchanged for a 1.25-liter bottle of Pepsi-Cola.

The most important tasks of a democracy are done by everyone:  Which means, human nature being what it is, that they won’t be done at all.

Let us have a quote for 1700 pcs also will like to know the card you accept for payment we need this in Rush order at least in 10 working days if you can meet up with this date let us know immediately:  Someone from the democracy just realized that something didn’t get done.

advertised mouthwash, cars and hosiery:  And after two years of this, she finally got a date.

beneficiary of an unlaid house:  Who knew that houses got laid? (And what does this means for residents of a cul-de-sac?)

3.31 liters to horsepower:  No conversion possible. Old Holden engines of this displacement produced anywhere from 76 to 135 hp.

Googlenasty little skirt free porn pics:  Remember, folks, it’s not just nasty; it’s Googlenasty!

no warranty given or implied:  As is the case for all pages on this site.

After wearing seat belts became mandatory, drivers reacted by driving faster and less carefully. This is consistent with what Principle of Economics?  Not a valid question. This Administration teaches that when the government does something, the only correct response is meek compliance. Report to your nearest community organizer for reprogramming.

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Satyrday in the park

With sixty staring me in the face, I’m deluded enough to assume that the timing of this incident might not be entirely random:

Think of that poor sap, General Petraeus, and how his sexual desires and fantasies took hold of him at sixty and turned him into a kind of satyr. Deeply flattered to be admired by an attractive younger woman with an equal need to be embraced by a brilliant hero, and you have the adage of “no fool like an old fool” especially when he’s not feeling so old and his wife is not in his league or that of his mistress.

How long had Petraeus been laboring under the sad illusion that he needed a new soulmate of carnal perfection? Was it a pornographic mind, a simmering of fleshy delights that ate at him, teased him, or the yearning for what Jung called the anima to his animus, the perfect female half to his masculine selfhood?

I suppose I should consider myself fortunate to be utterly unnoticed by attractive younger women, given the dire consequences that seem to accompany that sort of thing. Of course, I’m not married, and I have no reason to think I ever will be again. (Weirdly, I dreamed Saturday night that my ex had thrown in her lot with Roger, and she seemed deliriously happy, though I couldn’t really tell if this was due to his merit or my lack of same.)

Still, the General has earned a “WTF were you thinking?” And the fact that we can pretty much guess what he was thinking — it’s the possession of two heads, only one of which is functional at any given moment, a condition practically universal among men of my gender — does not obviate the need to ask, if only to remind ourselves of the possibility that our calling, as a species, might be a trifle higher than the purely carnal.

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No squabbles

Show this to your children. They won’t believe that there was once a time when fashionable women read the newspaper:

Dovedown hosiery ad

The old mill at 18th and Broad in Griffin, Georgia, south of Atlanta, has long since disappeared, though the Dovedown trademark didn’t actually expire until 2008.

An operation called StockingShowcase.com reports that they have the last remaining pairs of Dovedown stockings, in the following colors: Cloudmist, Rose Blush, Tango, Wild Mink, Serenade and Promenade.

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There’s that Tenth Amendment again

This post at The Other McCain drew a comment from “crosspatch” on how to keep the Republicans from screwing up so badly next time:

We need to recognize that the USA has very different regional culture. What will sell well in Oklahoma isn’t going to sell in Connecticut. We need to stop trying to sell Oklahoma to Connecticut.

Or, for that matter, Connecticut to Oklahoma.

We need to “federalize” the GOP. We need to find a common set of positions that ALL the GOP candidates from all regions can support… What makes federal politics so divisive is that people with both conservative and liberal points of view fear the other side is going to shove their social values down the throat of the entire country from Washington DC. That wasn’t the intention of the federal government. Let those social issues be worked out at the state capitals, not the national capital.

The fly in this particular ointment, I suspect, is that sooner or later — and it’s never, ever “later” — someone is going to complain that whatever disparities may exist between Oklahoma and Connecticut are somehow violations of that “equal protection of the laws” clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. We want federalism when we get what we want; otherwise, it sucks pond water and we don’t want any part of it.

Which, of course, merely restates the obvious: our political class is prone to experimentation, justified by the belief that it makes them look like they’re somehow earning their keep. (“We have to do something!”) Ultimately, we might be better served by dropping the lot of them into an active volcano. Even a dormant volcano would be an improvement.

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High RPMs

The Pistons were definitely moving at high speed tonight, taking a 51-45 lead at the half and extending it to 73-62 after three. The Thunder started the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run to get back into it, and things went back and forth for most of the rest of the evening, with OKC going up 88-85 with 47 seconds left and Detroit taking its last timeout. The final was 92-90, and the Pistons are officially swept.

It was Russell Westbrook’s birthday, and he didn’t take any time off. In fact, he played the entire second half, putting together a formidable line: 33 points (11-25), 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and only two turnovers. And beyond that, there were free throws: 37 points from the stripe out of 42 attempts. (Of the five misses, Westbrook had four. Then again, he hit 11.) Kevin Durant (26 points) went 10-10 on free throws; Kevin Martin (15 points) went 8-8. This almost makes up for the appalling 37-percent shooting (and a nauseating 1-10 for distance).

The Pistons shot a little better (just under 40 percent, 6-17 on treys), definitely moved the ball better (22 assists versus 10), and had fewer turnovers to boot (11 versus 14). Four Detroit starters finished in double figures (Brandon Knight, who went 2-13 from the floor, missed by a bucket), but none broke twenty. They could have pulled this one out, but Durant and Westbrook weren’t having any of that, and besides, Scott Brooks’ brand of small ball — Serge Ibaka took over the middle, with Durant playing power forward — seems to work a hell of a lot better than you’d think it would.

Next opponent figures to be even tougher than the Pistons were tonight. I’m talking Grizzlies; the Memphis boys will come to town Wednesday. Let’s hope there are extra medical personnel on hand.

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Triglyceride Patrol dissolving

Last year, Denmark imposed a tax on high-fat foods, by which they meant over 2.3 percent saturated fat. This month, they announced they were scrapping the whole idea:

[A]uthorities said the tax had inflated food prices and put Danish jobs at risk.

The Danish tax ministry said it was also cancelling its plans to introduce a tax on sugar.

Oh, and one more thing:

The ministry said one of the effects of the fat tax was that some Danes had begun crossing the border into Germany to stock up on food there.

Sikken en overraskelse — or, as the French would have it, quelle surprise.

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Still alive, dammit

Scott Routley, thirty-nine years old, reports that he is not in pain. This seemingly mundane statement is more remarkable than you imagine:

It’s the first time an uncommunicative, severely brain-injured patient has been able to give answers clinically relevant to their care.

Backstory:

Mr Routley suffered a severe brain injury in a car accident 12 years ago. None of his physical assessments since then have shown any sign of awareness, or ability to communicate.

But the British neuroscientist Prof Adrian Owen — who led the team at the Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario — said Mr Routley was clearly not vegetative.

“Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind. We have scanned him several times and his pattern of brain activity shows he is clearly choosing to answer our questions. We believe he knows who and where he is.”

Of course, in our new cost-controlled world, they’re not about to let anybody else hang on for twelve years no matter how much brain activity might be present.

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Trash for clunkers

The mayor of Paris wants you to keep your old rattletrap out of the central city:

Under proposals presented to the city council on Monday, Socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë intends to outlaw by September 2014 the use of cars and utility vehicles more than 17 years old and lorries or buses more than 18 years old.

Motorcycles built before 2004 will also be forbidden, as the mayor said they were the “most polluting and noisiest”.

The ban extends to anywhere within the A86 beltway. The motivation:

They are part of a plan to turn Paris into a Low Emission Zone, cutting emissions by 30 per cent by 2015. Failure to comply with European air pollution norms could see Brussels slap a €100 million fine on France in 2016.

And inevitably, the punchline:

Users of old cars are only thought to account for three per cent of the 4.5 million or so vehicles in the Paris region.

But of course.

(Via Tim Blair.)

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They just shot her

Laura San Giacomo (Just Shoot Me!) turns 50 tomorrow, and since my few archive shots were from her late thirties, I had to go searching a bit. Curiously, one of Google Image’s recommendations was “laura san giacomo rack,” and I was sufficiently miffed by this to go hunt down a picture that wasn’t particularly rackalicious. Which explains why you get this shot from the ’12 GLAAD Awards, back in April:

Laura San Giacomo at the 23rd GLAAD Awards

And then I decided that this wasn’t very sporting of me, so you also get this shot from the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards, in mid-June:

Laura San Giacomo at the Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards

Locals will remember San Giacomo as Rhetta Rodriguez, one of the few characters in Saving Grace with a sort of non-Oklahoman name, although the last year the phone company sent us white pages, we had several columns of Rodriguez.

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Their number-one tourist attraction

One might ask, legitimately, how many tourist attractions there actually are in Suwon, a city of 1.1 million twenty miles south of Seoul, and I’m thinking that it’s possible to top the legendary Hwaseong Fortress, but it takes something like this to do it:

The Restroom Cultural Park is billed as the world’s first toilet theme park. It’s a monument to the colorful former mayor of Suwon, a man known as Mr. Toilet.

The late Sim Jae-duck was himself born in a toilet and had an affection for loos throughout his life, rigorously promoting public facilities while mayor.

Sim also founded the World Toilet Association and wrote a book entitled Happy to Be With You, Toilet. He died of prostate cancer in 2009.

Al Bundy was not available for comment.

(Tweeted in my general direction by Ryan Baker.)

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Each and every day of the year

One of the blessings of later life is that you can sometimes persuade the older women to doff their duds for a good cause:

What would inspire 16 women in their 70s and 80s to get nearly naked for a photographer? Apparently, Helen Mirren.

In Mirren’s 2003 movie Calendar Girls, a refined women’s club decides to raise money by selling a risqué calendar. And so things went for the Riderwood retirement community in Silver Spring, Maryland, said Beth Gordon, 79, who is Miss November in the “Going Bare For Benevolent Care” 2013 calendar and organized the project.

Sixteen retired women — all in their 70s and 80s — appear naked in the 12-month calendar that is selling for $15.

Well, they’re only naked in the sense that they don’t have any clothes on. (I’ve used this excuse myself, in fact.)

Amazon says 3-5 weeks shipping, so if you want this by New Year’s, you’d better get on the stick.

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Online-dating limbo

If you’re up on your Chubby Checker tunes, you know that the hook in “Limbo Rock” is “How low can you go?” A chap who faked up a female profile on one of those dating sites discovered that there’s no real bottom to this abyss:

I wanted to make [the bio] so idiotic and unappealing that no one in their right mind would show interest in this girl. If you are hitting on her after reading her profile you have no interest in anything intellectual whatsoever.

The results, alas, were predictable:

Within 6 hours my profile had been viewed over 400 times and 39 guys had messaged me.

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say they didn’t really read the bio. They just saw a cute girl and went for it. I’m not saying that’s smart but I’m just hoping for their sake they didn’t read that train wreck of a description and think “Ok yeah! This is what I’ve been searching for!”

You should probably read the whole thing, just to get an idea of how clueless this “girl” — and her would-be suitors — seem to be.

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Twidjits

Of late, there have been some weird delays in getting everything loaded up here, and while it’s easy, even instinctive, to blame SiteMeter, which has had several inexplicable outages of late, the real culprit most of the time is Twitter, whose widget I’d carefully rewritten to match the site design. They have announced that they’re dropping support for said widget Real Soon Now, and they’re pushing Embedded Timelines in its place. I have duly installed the contraption, and it does seem to load a little faster, which may be simply due to the fact that it’s less customizable. I do, however, find it disconcerting to see all these Mini-Me apparitions down the sidebar.

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You owe us two stars

Restaurant reviews in The New York Times, I am given to understand, run from zero to four stars. This place, apparently, ventures deep into the Negative Zone, judging by the questions they pose to the proprietor. For instance:

Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?

Or this:

How did nachos, one of the hardest dishes in the American canon to mess up, turn out so deeply unlovable? Why augment tortilla chips with fried lasagna noodles that taste like nothing except oil? Why not bury those chips under a properly hot and filling layer of melted cheese and jalapeños instead of dribbling them with thin needles of pepperoni and cold gray clots of ground turkey?

Or even this:

What accounts for the vast difference between the Donkey Sauce recipe you’ve published and the Donkey Sauce in your restaurant? Why has the hearty, rustic appeal of roasted-garlic mayonnaise been replaced by something that tastes like Miracle Whip with minced raw garlic?

And when we hear the words Donkey Sauce, which part of the donkey are we supposed to think about?

It is de rigueur to scoff at the Times these days; but you’ll never see anything half this harsh in the Oklahoma Gazette.

(Suggested by this @inthefade tweet.)

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Terrible pony afflictions

Fillyjonk speculates on the possible chronic ailments of the Mane Six:

Twi would have to be hypertensive. And Pinkie Pie — too much sugar, type II diabetes. Or maybe ADHD … And Applejack would have some kind of RSI from bucking too many trees. And Rainbow Dash would either have concussions, or perhaps altitude sickness from flying too high. And Fluttershy, probably agoraphobia. And Rarity, I don’t know about Rarity … maybe she’d swallow a pin.

Pinkie Pie is unwellI would not at all be surprised to see Twilight Sparkle’s blood pressure off the charts. (Assuming Equestria uses the traditional sphygmomanometer, I’d expect the mercury to break through the top of the column, and maybe through the top of the tree that houses the library.)

I am less worried about Pinkie, despite her eating habits, since she seems to have a linear accelerator built into her metabolism. I fully expect her to keep a supply of Higgs bosons scattered around town in case of emergency.

Fanon has it that pegasi generally end up with lots of broken bones for pretty much the obvious reason. In a short story I wrote, Rainbow Dash is done in by pneumonia, a disease that seems to be more common among weather specialists, perhaps due to extended exposure to aerosols. And I’m thinking that sooner or later, Fluttershy is going to catch something from one of those motley critters she watches over at the edge of the Everfree.

RSI seems plausible for Applejack, though I suspect the entire Apple family has relatively high resistance to that sort of thing. As for Rarity, I see her as borderline bipolar, or maybe a bit over the line, given the contrast between her manifest joy in completing a task perfectly and her horror at the various and sundry events that qualify as the Worst Possible Thing. Not that swallowing a pin is anything to be joyous about.

(Picture: Pinkie Pie after a bad batch of muffins in “Applebuck Season,” from the first season of MLP:FiM.)

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It couldn’t be Grizzlier

Thirty-six to fifteen. Think about that for a moment. Oklahoma City led 30-20 after the first quarter, and then Memphis took command. Totally. The second quarter went to the Griz, 36-15. This was partially due to the Thunder’s second unit being seriously outplayed by the Memphis reserves; but when the starters returned, the Grizzlies remained in the driver’s seat, and stayed there the rest of the night, culminating with Kendrick Perkins and Zack Randolph trash-talking each other into the locker room with two minutes left. The Thunder would never close the gap, and Memphis got away with a 10-point win, 107-97.

And 36-15 isn’t even your telltale statistic. This is: despite a marginally smaller shooting percentage, the Griz got off 21 more shots. With that going for them, OKC’s otherwise-competitive numbers and double-doubles from both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant (a season-high 34) didn’t mean a thing.

Speaking of double-doubles, Z-Bo had one before being thumbed. And Rudy Gay tossed in a season-high 28, second only to Durant’s 34. Five Grizzlies wound up in double figures, including two off the bench. (The OKC second unit barely got into double figures in aggregate.)

A word about Westbrook: Huh? He didn’t shoot that well — 6-19 — but he served up 13 dimes to go with those 17 points, grabbed six rebounds and turned it over just twice. (The turnover-prone Thunder gave it up 15 times, the stingier Griz only eight.) Whatever went wrong tonight, and what it appeared to be was a defense just slightly more porous than SpongeBob, it didn’t seem to be Russell’s fault.

This much for the Griz: if they can play three quarters like that every night from here on out, it’s good night, LeBron. Memphis, rot them, just might go all the way. Meanwhile, the Thunder will vent their frustrations on a fairly average Hornets squad in the Big Easy on Friday night.

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Sunny unshare

Lynn is happy to inform you that she will not share this:

I guess Facebook is exactly what I knew it would be, or should have known, but I was hoping it would be a lot more of “This is what I’ve been doing,” and “This is what I’m thinking about,” and “Here are these pictures of my kids, grandkids, pets, house and garden,” and a lot less “Share this if you love your mother, father, brother, sister, husband, wife, Jesus or puppies”. After a few of those I decided that I will not share anything that says “Share this if…” It just seems so manipulative to me — like they’re saying “you have to share this.” So I don’t.

I’ve sent up a couple of those things, hinting at an ill-concealed tendency toward gooey sentimentality, but the rationale is more “I don’t have a damned thing to say” than “Oh, that’s so true.”

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Three-buck puck

Drew Magary’s “Hater’s Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog” complains bitterly about a food item:

Item #02-741009 Callie’s Charleston Biscuits

Williams-Sonoma says: “Flaky, buttery, and made by hand by celebrated caterer Callie White.”

Price: $72 (set of 24)

Notes from Drew: That’s $72 for biscuits. At Popeye’s, the biscuit comes free with your order. At Williams-Sonoma, it costs you the rough equivalent of your phone bill. How good could these biscuits possibly be? There’s a threshold past which biscuits cannot improve. Even the best goddamn biscuit in the world isn’t $72 better than a Popeye’s biscuit. Unless that biscuit can make you teleport.

You may be assured, however, that if it can, I’m buying it — even if the only place it takes me is the nearest Popeye’s, which is less than half a mile away.

(Via this @syaffolee tweet.)

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Now that’s a cold-air intake

I’ve never really had the heart to tell those young whippersnappers on Yahoo! Answers that there might possibly be better ways to spend their hard-earned cash than trying to squeeze an extra 10 hp out of [car deemed inadequately speedy]. Perhaps it’s because I lack this level of eloquence:

When you modify your car, what you’re doing is trying to resolve a deep insecurity. This is what’s wrong with modifying your VW: what issue are you exactly resolving? Safety? Reliability? Lowering your cost of ownership? My answer: you’re just bored with your ride. If you acknowledge that to be the case, you now recognize that you’re living a boring K-selection lifestyle and now is your chance to move towards an r-selection lifestyle in the fast lane.

So start modding that car. Because cars are often the only thing that has meaning to a young guy. Then, when you’re looking at settling down in 10-15 years, feel free to discard it all and start over again. Meanwhile all those boring people you dusted with your hot car have done things like travel, paid off debt, or upgraded their skills so they can write their own ticket in a down economy.

That’s gonna leave a skid mark.

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Meet the New Right

Same as the old Right, says the Hyacinth Girl:

Having ceded the culture war decades ago, the right has continued to lose touch with popular culture, even while believing that because they watch Dancing with the Stars they are somehow still “hip.” Each generation brings its new “sexy” “young” conservatives who are generally younger versions of their elders. Maybe they’re thinner, or female, or have fake breasts and expensive highlights, but they’ve got the same degrees from the same schools and have had the same career trajectory as their predecessors. They’ve got law degrees or poli-sci degrees or whatever, and they sound the same as the old guys.

Now I happen to think that popular culture’s influence on contemporary politics suggests, um, a state of urinal poverty; but there are people who live, breathe and excrete this stuff. You’ve heard of “low-information voters”? Today we’re seeing the rise of no-information voters, and various campaign committees on both sides of the aisle have figured out that their votes count exactly the same as everyone else’s. (Truly we have enshrined the principle of One Douche, One Vote.) I await their discovery that the School of Hard Knox is the one and only institution guaranteed to have an open-admissions policy.

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Recount, then recant

When last we heard from Darrell Sorrels, he was asking for a recount in the race for Oklahoma County Sheriff, which he lost by a mere, um, 74,000 votes.

Check the floor for stray fabric, because Sorrels has thrown in the towel:

Wednesday afternoon, the Oklahoma County Election Board announced that Sorrels’ attorney, Stephen Jones, stopped the recount.

That’s because across 14 precincts, Sorrels had a net gain of only one vote.

About 90 percent of the $25,800 recount cost paid by Sorrels — via check from something called Enterprise Investments, Inc. — will be refunded.

In other news, Stephen Jones apparently now has his own Wikipedia page, which needless to say does not link to this.

Update, 16 November: Sorrels is now being sued for some “defamatory” material on his Facebook page.

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On her 80th

Petula Clark turned 80 today, and I must acknowledge Roger’s contribution to celebrating her birthday (which, he says, might have been my idea). I’ve done a few celebratory posts myself, and I need to do just one more.

First, a seriously cute shot from the British Invasion days:

Petula Clark on a piano

Given my complete and utter lack of musical talent, this to me seems to be the only justification for someday owning a piano.

And this is the one song of hers that is guaranteed to break me up, every single time:

This was Petula’s second visit to the Les Reed/Barry Mason catalog: she’d previously recorded “The Last Waltz,” a big hit for Engelbert Humperdinck. “Kiss Me Goodbye” came out in early 1968, with Reed himself on piano. It was nearly four minutes long at a time when so-called “middle-of-the-road” songs seldom touched three and a quarter, and it packs more heartbreak per minute than almost anything else from that era.

This was her last Top 20 hit in the States. (The British spurned it for some reason.) I wore out a copy of the Petula LP (Warner Bros. 1743), which included the follow-up (comparative) flop “Don’t Give Up.” According to the album’s uncharacteristically sparse liner notes, she’s “cheek soft, heart warm, and sassier than ever.” No argument from me.

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Add some rigor to your mortis

A couple of items from a previously undisclosed list of Final Instructions, posted despite the fact that the writer is not actually dead:

Don’t jump to conclusions about the events leading up to my death. Just take the actual story and embellish it in a way that makes you look good. Make it about you. Don’t tell work I’m dead. Let them think I just stopped showing up. See how long it takes them to fire me. When they do, show them the obituary and yell PSYCH!

I should definitely swipe some of these in advance of my own demise.

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