Archive for Dyssynergy

This doesn’t add up

Sure it does. You’re just doing it wrong:

A 2012 study comparing 16-to-65-year-olds in 20 countries found that Americans rank in the bottom five in numeracy. On a scale of 1 to 5, 29 percent of them scored at Level 1 or below, meaning they could do basic arithmetic but not computations requiring two or more steps. One study that examined medical prescriptions gone awry found that 17 percent of errors were caused by math mistakes on the part of doctors or pharmacists. A survey found that three-quarters of doctors inaccurately estimated the rates of death and major complications associated with common medical procedures, even in their own specialty areas.

So much for three out of four doctors. Not that we civilians have anything to brag about:

One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&W’s burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it.

Only when the company held customer focus groups did it become clear why. The Third Pounder presented the American public with a test in fractions. And we failed. Misunderstanding the value of one-third, customers believed they were being overcharged. Why, they asked the researchers, should they pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s. The “4” in “¼” larger than the “3” in “⅓” led them astray.

Not that it’s relevant, but Johnny Carson once announced in his monologue that McDonald’s had passed the sort of milestone they used to put on the sign, and mused: “Fifty billion burgers! You know, that’s almost 100 pounds of meat.” Then again, he paid people to come up with stuff like that.

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You can’t fool Jim Rockford

Who knew? James Garner, who died last night of presumed “natural causes” at 86, apparently anticipated our current police state way back in 1978:

Oh, hello, NSA.

(Via Steve Lackmeyer.)

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Not one of the Pointer Sisters

We start with a question that is essentially unanswerable to begin with:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Why is my index finger longer then my ring finger?

Actually, there is one sensible response: “Who the hell cares?” But then we get to the heart of the matter:

I am a male but I am not feminine?

This has got to be a metalaw somewhere: “All old wives’ tales end up being circulated by boys.”

I was tempted to tell him “Doesn’t matter, since either one is longer than your peen,” but that seems (slightly) unkinder than necessary. Still, this morbid fear that someone of equal immaturity will call him out will not serve him well in the future, assuming he has one.

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Paywall for one and one for paywall

NewsOK has started reproaching me for using AdBlock Plus, and has requested an explanation from among the following choices:

  • To stop automatic video ads from playing.
  • I have privacy concerns.
  • Blocking, speeds up page load times for me.
  • I didn’t realize I was blocking ads on NewsOK.com.
  • I don’t want to see any online advertising.
  • My company blocks online advertising.
  • Other:

For “Other,” try this: “I pay you guys a couple hundred dollars a year and should not be subjected to any further indignities of this sort.”

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Battle of divulge

This site admittedly has its confessional aspects, and of the several thousand topics that have come up over the past eighteen years, at least a handful have involved revelations that might be considered uncomfortable, not so much for me to say as for you to hear.

Still, I’m pretty sure I’ve never quite gotten to this point:

I’m sitting across a woman and her daughter, about ten, give or take a year, on the CDTA (local) bus. The mom is on the phone talking to her friend, and I’m not paying attention, until she says: “Do you know what I really hate about Eddie [not his real name]? He comes into the bathroom when I’m trying to pee and s###!” Then she goes on about how, when she closes the bathroom door, he pounds on the door and demands to know what she’s doing in there. And she repeats her intentions.

At this point, the daughter says, “TMI, mommy!” She actually used the initials, rather than “too much information.” But either the mom doesn’t hear her, or feels the need to continue with this important telephonic conversation.

The girl is sitting right across from me, and looks at me with this exasperated gaze. I give her the “what can you do?” shrug. She says, a little louder, “Mommy, everybody on the bus can hear you!” This was probably true.

But Mommy manifestly did not care: the denunciation of Eddie [not his real name] was uppermost in her mind, and her outrage trumps everyone else’s discomfort.

Then again, Ed is not entirely blameless: bathrooms being generally devoid of creature comforts not specifically related to the tasks at hand, it should have been perfectly obvious what she was doing in there.

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Leave it in neutral

The FCC has been taking comments on their “net neutrality” proposal, which is of course nothing of the sort. Author and media critic Jeff Jarvis has posted his online, from which I excerpt one paragraph:

We know that corporate incumbents in this industry will abuse the control they have to disadvantage competitors. I filed a complaint with the Commission last year when Verizon refused to connect my Google Nexus 7 LTE tablet to its network as required by the Commission’s own rules governing that spectrum as “open.” The incumbent ISPs have demonstrated well that they choose not to understand the definition of “open.”

Purely by coincidence, Entertainment Weekly senior writer Darren Franich notes (issue 1320):

[N]o one in America feels anything besides utter hatred for their cable company, so no one will mourn when all the Time Warners and Comcasts finally die two minutes after we press the “die” button on our remote controls.

Gee, where can I get a remote like that?

But that’s the deal: service providers, be they wired or wireless, have one goal in life, and making you happy is not it.

Side note: Entertainment Weekly was created by, yes, Jeff Jarvis, way back in the 1980s. (Issue #1 appeared in February 1990. I have read them all.)

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One of the safer aspects of Tornado Alley

We’re a long way from any of this carnage:

Though I suppose a funnel cloud could pick up a shark from Galveston Bay and drop it over Moore. Maybe.

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Reporting from hell’s 0.2 hectare

That Sunday quickie about the metric system has generated a concurrence:

I’ll let you in on how I feel about the metric system: it’s great for stuff that is too small to see and for stuff that is too far away to touch, but for everyday existence, I prefer American. A foot is a foot, a mile a minute is a good speed for getting somewhere by car. One hundred degrees is hot, zero degrees is cold. What are the values for these in the metric system? Prime numbers from the planet Xylorcanth. And before you go trying to tell me that we could have a kilometer a minute as a good speed, if we only changed the length of a second to a more metric-centric value, let me remind you that your heart beats once per second, or it would if you were a real human and not some Eurocentric cyborg wanna-be.

If we must have metric, let us have Metric, a Canadian band whose 2012 album Synthetica has been boiled down to a bunch of lyric videos, including this one:

The guy who’s singing with Emily Haines? Lou Reed, in what might have been his last studio performance. He sounds downright upbeat at times.

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An ounce of wisdom

Spotted over at Topless in Tupelo:

there are two types of countries in the world:
1) ones that use the metric system.
2) ones that have been to the moon.

Several conclusions are available, but I know which one I like.

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Less of a Hoot

I’ve looked into HootSuite once or twice, to the extent that Google’s ad tentacles managed to shovel promotions for it into my Web surfing for several weeks, but I never quite bought the premise, or the package. And after hearing Mack Collier’s story, it’s just as well:

Now normally I hate these “give us a tweet and we’ll give you this” offers, but I do use and like HootSuite, and I have been curious about trying out HootSuite Pro, so I decided to send the tweet. And as promised, I immediately received my email telling me how to get my 60 days of HootSuitePro for free.

Whereupon they told him: it would be added onto his existing HootSuite Pro account — you know, the one he didn’t have yet.

Mack Collier says:

I see this sort of stunt all the time, and it doesn’t build brand loyalty, it builds brand distrust.

And it motivates customers to write about how they were shafted by the deal, which in turn builds brand distrust among non-customers.

Subsequently, HootSuite’s Offer Manager came on to explain what was supposed to be happening, and admitted that maybe the wording wasn’t ideal. All new users of HootSuite, he said, were routinely offered a thirty-day trial; this promotion was intended merely to double the length of the offer.

If there’s a lesson in this, it’s perhaps that firms with mad tech skillz are not equally adept at presenting their products — and that a “What does this mean?” note, sent to the correct person (if you can find the correct person), goes a long way toward avoiding misunderstandings.

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On the streets of Laredo

I used to — repeat: used to — have family in Laredo, Texas, but I haven’t had a whole lot of reason to talk about the third-largest city on this side of the Mexican border, except for that time when the only full-line bookstore in town was closing.

This is not a selling point, so apparently now the city fathers are pushing another angle: it’s the 19th safest city in the US. This is perhaps not surprising, considering El Paso’s tiny but largely unnoticed crime rate.

But while looking that up, I found something else: El Metro Transit, the bus system in Laredo, serves 3.2 million passengers a year, in a metropolitan area of a quarter million, more than either Oklahoma City or Tulsa, who have four to five times the population. Each. The only reason I can think of, other than mere ethnicity, is that the Laredo system is privately owned.

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Burning not too bright

Meanwhile in Albany, the concern over Big Game grows:

State legislators in both houses have passed a bill banning people from posing for photos while hugging, patting or otherwise touching tigers in New York state.

Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal explained that she introduced the legislation to increase safety at traveling circuses and county fairs that allow the public to get up close and personal with their big cats.

Which is a major problem in New York, what with, um, two tiger-related incidents at such exhibitions in the past ten years, suggesting that there might be ulterior motives for this measure:

But the Upper West Side Democrat acknowledges proudly that the bill would also destroy a trend now prevalent among users of dating apps — men snuggling with tigers in reckless attempts to look brave or cuddly or, even more implausibly, both in their dating-profile photos on online services like Tinder and OKCupid.

Remember when a woman could point and laugh, and that was the end of it? Now apparently she has to have the Assembly backing her up.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Papa’s got a brand new Baghdad

So what happens next in Iraq? What will the US do?

Based on recent experience, something feckless and incompetent that makes America look stupid and does nothing to stop the killing. Worst case, something so blisteringly stupid that the Muslim fanatics take a temporary break from killing each other to kill Americans.

I know that sounds harsh and mean and unsympathetic, but really there is no action the US government can take to stop the killing in Iraq or any other Muslim nation. For a significant fraction of Muslims, killing is what they do.

And, of course, they should be allowed to do exactly that. Because culture. Beheadings? Female genital mutilation? Forced marriages? Well, at least they don’t say anything about having to pay for contraception.

It’s easy and not unreasonable to call out the feckless incompetence of the Obama administration on foreign policy. But in the case of Iraq, it seems to me that it’s mostly the fault of the Iraqis.

Save a slice of that fault for George W. Bush, who tried to follow something sensible — deposing Saddam Hussein — with something essentially impossible: so-called “nation-building.” That’s done from within, not from without. Always.

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Walk this way, or else

TSA scanner usage is on the wane, says Jack Baruth:

Use of the scanners is decreasing, slowly but surely, as TSA holds out exemption from them as a piece of candy to be given to the subservient. Are you a child? You don’t have to go into the scanners. After all, no child has ever carried a bomb anywhere. Are you the parent of a child? You also get to skip the scanners, because no parent anywhere has ever sacrificed themselves or their children for a political ideal. Are you old? You can skip them, because old people never do anything rash.

The most recent exemption, which I’ve witnessed twice in the past week, boggles the mind. If you are traveling with an emotional comfort dog, you can skip the scanner. That’s right. Carry a dog, skip the scanner. This is where we are as a country: we value the emotional comfort of an emotional comfort dog over the safety of Americans on a plane. Of course, since the scanners are just there for theater, it doesn’t really matter if you’re carrying a dog or not, they’re useless and the metal detector is to be preferred for all reasons that are grounded in reality — but what does this say about the ridiculousness of the TSA? Do they really think that Al-Qaeda can’t get their hands on a small-breed dog?

Perhaps they’re thinking that the traditional Muslim eww-dogs-have-cooties doctrine would stay the hand of the jihadi — in which case, perhaps you should obtain an emotional comfort piglet and be sure.

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We don’t read in this town

“This town” being Leawood, Kansas, hard by State Line Road and therefore practically in Missouri. The 30,000 or so residents are generally wealthy and possibly happy, and the authorities are decidedly anal:

Over the last year or so, Little Free Libraries have been sprouting up across the Kansas City metro. The idea is pretty simple: You construct a birdhouse-like box, paint it up, put it in your yard, and fill it with some books. Anybody who passes by is free to take a book, swap a book, or add a new book to the little library. It’s an informal thing that’s meant to promote literacy and community in a cute, friendly way.

Leawood ain’t about that life.

Brian Collins and his son, Spencer, built a Free Little Library as a Mother’s Day gift this year, at their home in north Leawood, near 89th Street and Ensley Lane. They went out of town for a few weeks and arrived home recently to find a letter from the city informing them that the structure ran against city codes. “Your take a book leave a book structure must be attached to the house,” the letter read.

Collins has since taken down the box, to the delight of at least one person:

KCTV 5 found a neighbor who is glad the city is forcing Collins to remove the library because it’s an “eyesore.” That person chose to speak anonymously, probably because he or she did not wish to be outed as the most boring/crotchety/joyless human in the metropolitan area.

If there’s a Homeowners’ Association in the neighborhood, this jerk(ette) is almost certainly on the board.

Note to Oklahoma City: Don’t even think of doing this. We’re doing fine.

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A suicide booth for your old phone

It’s called “ecoATM,” and this is what it’s supposed to do:

ecoATM is the world’s first automated eWaste recycling station. That’s a fancy way of saying that we’re a friendly green machine looking to pay cash for the responsible recycling of your old cell phones, MP3 players and tablets. Sell your phone or other device by placing it in the ecoATM kiosk, and we’ll tell you how much it’s worth. What happens next? You get instant cash. With ecoATM kiosks all over the country, and with your help, we’re working hard to solve the eWaste problem facing our planet.

It probably isn’t a whole lot of cash, but it’s something. And what does it cost you?

I had an old phone hanging around and I was going by a mall which had that machine set up. And honestly, the phone is so old as to be functionally useless. If someone offered me a U.S. quarter for it, morals would dictate that I politely suggest they were about to drastically overpay. But I was curious, and so I dropped in, found the machine, and started with the procedure.

First, it asked for my general category of device. Phone, says I, figuring we’ll sort down to the exact model later.

Next, it tells me to see if it has power and that all my personal data has been wiped. Good on both counts.

Then it asked for my driver’s license and thumbprint.

This is the point where the procedure pretty much stopped.

I gently inquired as to why the machine needed this, and was informed it was to make sure the phone was in fact mine and not stolen. Plus a human would check the other end of the connection to see if my license picture matched the live one. Because I was being filmed, a detail which had not been mentioned up to that point. Oh, plus thumbprint, which it didn’t bother going into.

Hang around to see if it’s worth a whole twenty-five cents? No, thank you.

I suspect that pawn shops and such are required to jump through similar hoops, but frankly, I’d just as soon drive a truck over a device as many times as it takes to render said device unrecognizable. At least that way there’s some return on one’s emotional investment.

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Some days, you just can’t get rid of a bomb

And sometimes it takes 70 years to finish the job:

A bomb dropped by the US Air Force on Leipzig during World War II was blown up on Thursday morning. It was discovered on Wednesday night near the east German city’s main train station… The 75-kilo bomb was found during building work on Wednesday and it could not be defused so was blown up instead.

Then one of life’s little jokes kicked in:

Bomb disposal experts from Dresden blew up the explosive shortly before 10.30am.

Dresden? But of course.

(Via Fark.)

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It’s always on sale

And therefore it’s never on sale, right? If you see it that way, you’re on the side of the Attorney General of the State of New York:

When a store runs the same promotion for 52 consecutive weeks, it’s really not a sale. It’s actually a type of deceptive advertising and that’s something the New York Attorney General’s office just isn’t going to stand for.

Hobby Lobby agreed to change its advertising practices, donate school supplies and pay an $85,000 civil penalty to settle an investigation into its alleged deceptive advertising practices, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says in a press release.

Background, from the press release:

The investigation began in 2013, when Attorney General Schneiderman’s office began tracking marketing materials advertising 50 percent off and 30 percent off sales. Hobby Lobby advertised its custom framing, furniture, and home décor products as sale items for more than 52 consecutive weeks. The investigation determined that Hobby Lobby violated New York’s General Business Law (350-D) for False Advertising. Sales that are never-ending are in violation of the false advertising law.

It could have been worse, I suppose: Schneiderman might have ordered them to start stocking birth-control products.

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Toward fatter and fatter cats

Dave Schuler reads that the formation of new businesses is definitely on the wane, and suggests a solution:

I think the solution to that problem is to lower the barriers to new business formation, to stop subsidizing large companies, and reduce the power and effectiveness of the tools, e.g. intellectual property law, that large companies exploit to beat down smaller upstarts. Unfortunately, I can’t see any enthusiasm for doing any of those things because all of them have powerful support constituencies.

Additionally, there used to be a dictum that big companies like to do business with big companies. I think that’s still true but I think it can be extended: big government likes to do business with big companies which prefer to do business with other big companies. In other words the larger and more powerful government becomes the more policy will tend to be oriented to favor large companies and the lower our rate of new business formation will become.

It might also help if big companies could get over their hormonal (or whatever) urge to get Even Bigger. Does anyone seriously believe that the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger — or the AT&T/DirecTV merger — will accomplish anything worthwhile? At best, some people will see paper gains on their stock holdings, and most of them won’t see that much. (I expect about $11, based on my own muddled portfolio.) Certainly there’s no reason to think actual service will improve.

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Hey, it’s just radiation

I have one smoke detector, located within spitting distance of the center of the house. This is sufficient, no matter what The Experts say:

I know the new “thing” is to push people to have smoke detectors in every room of the house. I will never do that. I live in a small house. I have one detector in the main hallway, which is centrally located and is 20 feet or less from every other room in the house. And I have one (which I really should replace, it’s more than 10 years old) in my bedroom. But it seems foolish to me to have one in the bathroom, which is three steps away from the main detector, and my experience with a smoke detector in the kitchen means you get a ton of “false positives” when you grill anything or broil anything. (If my house was more than one story, I’d have at least one on each story, but it isn’t.)

Two words: alpha particles. Admittedly, it’s not a whole lot of radiation, unless you actually swallow it, in which case you have issues beyond smoke detection, and besides, the half-life is a mere 432 years.

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By no means testing

There may be a few young innocents — or old socialists — who believe that people will not game the system of government benefits. And I, cynic that I am, still insist that the majority of folks don’t deliberately abuse the system. But it is also true that any system that can be gamed, will be gamed to some extent, as Australian authorities were reminded recently:

Some public housing tenants have declared they have assets worth hundreds of thousands of dollars while happily enjoying cut-price rent at the expense of more needy recipients.

More than 500 tenants of public housing have admitted rorting the system. Of those, 141 declared combined assets worth more than $11 million while 456 declared extra income worth a combined $10 million a year.

One man had $450,000 cash and 20 others declared land and property ownership.

The state government put tenants on notice last month, giving them until May 31 to dob themselves in for undeclared income and assets.

The final tally:

The amnesty, revealed in The Daily Telegraph in April and which ended last week, has generated more than $2.5 million a year in extra rental income after those who used the amnesty to make declarations of assets and income had their rents lifted accordingly.

Of the worst offenders, more than 1000 tenants declared an average of $26,000 in undeclared income, and nearly 700 declared an average of $60,000 each in assets, family and community services minister Gabrielle Upton said.

“I congratulate the 2300 people who took advantage of the amnesty to declare extra income and assets,” Ms Upton said. “And I thank the 200 people who gave us information about tenants who, they suspected, had not declared income or assets to us.”

The actual qualifying criteria:

Public housing leases are two, five or 10 years. One person earning less than $395 a week is eligible to gain a lease but once that person earns $888 per week, they become ineligible. For a single parent with two kids, eligibility kicks in under $580 a week and ends at $1126 a week and for two parents and two children those figures are $665 and $1364.

The Australian dollar of late has been worth about 93 cents US.

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Someone else, please

Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Seriously. They like the idea of being organized, but not through this organization:

Employees who want to unionize Alabama’s Mercedes-Benz auto plant say they no longer want to work with the United Auto Workers union to accomplish that goal.

A core group of pro-union employees has asked the UAW to stop campaigning at the German automaker’s Tuscaloosa County plant, because the current effort has gone on too long without success.

Now how could this possibly be?

At one point … the campaign had enough union authorization cards to legally file for an election, as more than 30 percent of the plant’s hourly production and maintenance workers had signed one.

But the UAW was pushing for a much higher percentage, 65 percent, because it wanted a sure win, they said. “It’s all about the image with the UAW, and it’s not about the workers.”

They’d like some other union to come in, though the AFL-CIO won’t permit that sort of thing.

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XS cheapness

It’s called “alpha sizing,” and it eliminates the need to remember some dubious number. Unfortunately, that’s not why they’re doing it:

Switching to what people in the biz call “alpha sizing” saves manufacturers money and resources, making it easier to stock clothes when they arrive and to sell out of a given size once they hit the racks. The Wall Street Journal reports that some clothing companies are making this switch with some or all of their items. [paywall]

Why is that? Each size in an alpha sizing system replaces two numbered sizes. Think of a typical size run of one item that you might see on a rack at a mall clothing store: you would find sizes 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16. Nine different sizes. Alpha sizing cuts that same size range down to five sizes: XS, S, M, L, and XL.

And if you happen to fall between two of those letters, you’re just out of luck.

My sentiments are right in line with Véronique Hyland’s:

Clothing manufacturers of America: just standardize things already. If men can walk into a store knowing their inseam and waist size and come out with a wardrobe, why can’t we just base things on the numbers? Our vanity can take the hit.

Well, we do need to know sleeve length, but unlike waist size, it’s fairly constant.

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Disaffiliated

Aristophanes, in The Frogs, circa 405 BC:

The course our city runs is the same towards men and money.
She has true and worthy sons.
She has fine new gold and ancient silver,
Coins untouched with alloys, gold or silver,
Each well minted, tested each and ringing clear.
Yet we never use them!
Others pass from hand to hand,
Sorry brass just struck last week and branded with a wretched brand.
So with men we know for upright, blameless lives and noble names.
These we spurn for men of brass…

This anticipates both Gresham’s Law and Francis W. Porretto’s extension thereto:

A group that equally values its most civilized members and its most vitriolic members will soon possess a preponderance of the latter. The good, self-respecting members will disdain to remain among persons who hurl insults and epithets at them, leaving the group populated by only the insult-hurlers, plus a smattering of generally decent persons with inadequate self-respect.

The progression won’t stop there. Such a group, now dominated by “the worst of the worst,” will gradually fail to return an adequate “profit” — in money, volunteer labor, prestige, fellowship, or anything else one might value — to its members, most especially those who’ve taken control of it. The typical response to such enervation is for the leaders to strive to whip up the enthusiasm of the group by artificial means; i.e., to “keep the hate alive.”

So far, none of the four organizations to which I belong have degenerated in such a manner, though I suppose it’s possible. (One of them, by all accounts, is hemorrhaging members, though the only precursor I’ve so far seen is a dearth of candidates for their offices.) Still, twenty years ago I paid dues to no one, and what’s more, these days I have several, um, unofficial affiliations.

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Zoned out

“Dolce far niente,” said the Italians: sweet to be doing nothing. That is, when it isn’t actually killing you:

There is such a thing as too much free time. When after forty-five years of wage labor you’re suddenly freed of external demands on your attention and energy, it’s easy to lapse into immobile torpor. It might be the #1 cause of death in retirees.

Fortunately, there still exist internal demands on my attention and energy, and while they’re not likely to be quite so demanding or to be compensated in the least, I have more than sufficient motivation not to plop myself on the sofa for days at a time.

(Technically, my sofa, which is wide enough to seat three if they’re really good friends, is considered a loveseat, built for two. You may write your own joke here.)

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We pathetic hicks

How you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm — oh, wait, they’ve already figured out that the farm is exactly where they want to be:

I’ve sat through far too many discussions where people who are far less traveled than I have made judgment calls on rural people. I have traveled all around this country and all around the world because I liked to go, because I liked to see and do new things, and because I loved the confrontation of new. And yet, I always loved coming back home to the farm.

Not out of fear. Not out of ignorance. But because I loved it, what it meant, what it stood for, and the people you find living in the rural community there.

And their definition of “rural,” I suggest, is risible: I live in a city of six hundred thousand, with six hundred thousand more in the ‘burbs, and people still ask me if I have running water Out There.

For whatever reason, folks who haven’t traveled much outside of an urban setting still see the fact that they live in a contained geographical area with a lot of different people as giving them a more valid opinion. Don’t confuse having lots of ethnic restaurants in a five-block radius as the same experience of going to a country and seeing much more than the food and politics of a people group.

See also, um, yours truly, 2006:

For my part, I’m quite unapologetic about who I am and where I’m from, and I’m sorry if you can’t deal with it. While it is indeed true that there is no single place in the Sooner State from which you can swing a dead cat and hit restaurants of twenty-seven different ethnicities, and that there is no surplus of waifish Goth girls with art-history degrees, not everyone — not even everyone of college age — aspires to live inside a Bertolucci film.

And I’m a transplant, fergoshsakes. Any roots I have in this place started at most one generation above.

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Belt and suspenders

Teresa Peschel explains that it takes more than just a fence:

Why do you need a fence and a hedge? Fences and hedges work together. The fence acts as a placeholder while the hedge grows up around it. The fence tells people where the property line is. The fence corrals kids and dogs. When the hedge grows up, the fence still blocks access through any holes and makes it that much harder to push through the shrubbery.

Hence the title. I have neither kids nor dogs living here at the moment, but this makes a whole lot of sense, though I have enough trees out back to cover approximately 80 percent of the fence.

While local zoning won’t allow me this sort of thing, the best option is one of the cheapest:

Why aluminum chain link? I will state upfront that it is utilitarian in appearance. It is also not expensive considering that it will last forever and is pretty much maintenance-free. Wooden fences have to be regularly restained or repainted, and rotted posts and sections replaced. Plastic fencing looks very nice: at first! However, it eventually gets brittle and breaks. Unlike wood, it can’t be repaired. Broken sections must be replaced and plastic will break. Wrought-iron is beautiful, must be repainted occasionally and is stunningly expensive. Even better and even more expensive is a 6-foot masonry wall topped with broken glass. Even if we could have afforded this, the township would never have gone for it.

I have a few fence panels that need to be replaced, especially since they’re not among the areas covered adequately by trees. (Three of them were knocked flat by springtime winds.) I admit to having contemplated stone all around the house, though the cost was daunting and I probably wouldn’t have been sensible enough to opt for the broken glass.

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It all comes out in the wash

Laundry: a problem that needs solving? Not to Nancy Friedman:

I confess I’m mystified by the obsession with laundry as a problem to be solved. Of all the necessary household chores, I find laundry to be the most satisfying — the newer machines are wonderfully efficient, and you end up with a clean, fragrant product!

Even some of the older machines — mine date to 2003 — aren’t so bad. But nothing will make you appreciate your laundry room quite like several years of having to bundle up your stuff and shlep it down the street.

I draw the line there, however:

I enjoy ironing, too, but in this as in so many other areas I am evidently an outlier.

Yet it must be conceded that not everyone’s idea of “permanent press” either constitutes a press or endures permanently.

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Meanwhile in Shropshire

I saw a turtle, but I didn’t see it leaving:

Tortoise theft leaves owner shell-shocked

(From Pleated-Jeans via Miss Cellania.)

Addendum: Why, yes, this is World Turtle Day.

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Close your eyes and pick a target

Congressional Republicans, miffed that their Democratic counterparts got to screw up an entire industry — health care — with the least possible GOP input, are now looking for an industry they can screw up themselves. The lucky recipients of this attention? The nation’s songwriters:

Last week, Senate Republicans introduced their version of the Songwriter Equity Act, with much ado, at Nashville’s famous Bluebird Cafe. Some well-known Nashville songwriters were there to promote the legislation. So were music-publishing and royalty-collection companies. Everyone used carefully poll-tested phrases like “level the playing field,” “road to fairness,” “fair market value,” and “unsung heroes.”

And what will this act actually do?

The proposal in Congress would do two things, primarily, both aimed at increasing the amount that accrues to songwriters (and thus music publishers and [performing rights organizations] like ASCAP and BMI). The first would be to expand the criteria the rate court judge could consider when determining the fair performance royalty rates, notably adding the performance rates paid to musicians and record labels (though SoundExchange).

The second thing would be to urge the three-judge Copyright Royalty Board to scrap the 9.1 cent mechanical royalty in favor of rates that “most clearly represent” the fair market value. The CRB currently is asked to determine rates based on what “would have been negotiated in the marketplace between a willing buyer and a willing seller.” The new language would add that the CRB should also take into account “marketplace, economic, and use information presented by the participants,” as well as the royalty rates paid out for “comparable uses and comparable circumstances under voluntary license agreements,” like film and television.

The CRB already has an essentially impossible task: that theoretical “willing seller” does not actually exist. Once a songwriter has permitted one use of her song, the compulsory license kicks in: anyone who pays the mechanical royalty, the 9.1 cents (up to five minutes), gets to use that song. Throwing in “marketplace information” will almost certainly mean a variable scale based on existing sales, meaning that the new kid starting out will get less, while the old pro collects more. (Why, yes, it does sound like the [cough] Affordable Care Act, except in one regard: it’s possible to read the whole thing.)

Still, there are some things that can’t be permitted to stand:

And yet Pandora is hardly rolling around in a roomful of gold. (Incidentally, that’s the wrong Twitter ID for Pandora.) Let’s hope these GOP guys and The Industry can come up with something that works — but if I’m writing songs, I’m not putting a down payment on anything until I see something tangible coming in.

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