No-wheel drive

The Topic That Never Goes Away comes around again:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Is the Subaru XV Crosstrek a manly car?

And then he violates the First Rule of Holes (“quit digging”):

hey guys, i’m just a typical engineering student in college and ive been wanting to buy a car for some time, Ive thought of getting the Subaru XV since its loaded with tons of features like all wheel drive of course and nice rims lol.

Would this attract me hoards of girls as opposed to the Forester (lesbian stigma), what personality would you like I have if I drive one of these. Let me know, thanks :)

I know exactly one XV Crosstrek owner: a woman of rare beauty and prodigious talent. (And, of course, with a prior commitment.)

I note purely in passing that sniggering about Subarus and lesbians once got an automotive editor fired.

And it’s “hordes,” not “hoards,” though I suspect this “typical engineering student” will have his best chance with “whoreds.”

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Why Google still rules

Apparently they can handle even the most horribly mangled English:

(Via Rand Simberg.)

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An easier ramble

America’s most successful early compact car was the Nash Rambler, though most of us remember it in purely audio terms:

In a case of being at the right place at the right time, Tam got a shot of a perfectly lovely ’54 Custom and noted parenthetically:

Such cool lines! (Although I read that in ’55 they added cutouts for the front wheels and reduced the turning circle by six feet.)

Which is true, at least for the Ramblers; the senior Nashes retained the skirted look up front, and were still tedious in tight spots. (According to legend, that look was Nash president George Mason’s idea; when Mason died in the fall of 1954, the company moved as quickly as it could to banish it.) Still, the big Nashes had less of it in 1955, and even less in 1956 — though the ’56 Hudsons, based on the Nash bodyshell, had properly opened wheel cutouts, probably because American Motors, the surviving company following the Hudson/Nash merger, would just as soon you didn’t notice that both cars were built on a shared shell.

Fans of automotive progress should note that the ’54 Rambler had a turning circle of 42 feet; a 2001 Chevy Tahoe, seemingly about twice its size, could turn in 39 feet. (My own ride does 35.4 on the stock wheel/tire combo.)

And after both Nash and Hudson names were retired for 1958, the Rambler continued, under the name “Rambler American,” on the same platform through 1962, and got its only real redesign for ’63; it was replaced by AMC’s Hornet — a name Hudson had used during its postwar glory days — in 1970.

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Not that you were waiting for them, exactly, but here are some thoughts on the sacking of Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks.

(Warning: Contains several gratuitous pop-culture references.)

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No better date than this

I mean, Miss Rhode Island says so:

Then again, it got up to 84 today in Oklahoma City. Decide for yourself if that’s too hot or too cold.

(Scene, of course, from Miss Congeniality.)

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Reese is the word

Yesterday, I described a young woman in a dream as resembling “a vertically compressed Reese Witherspoon,” which, when you think about it, is rather difficult to pull off, inasmuch as Reese Witherspoon doesn’t have a whole heck of a lot of vertical to compress: she has occasionally claimed to be five-foot-two, but several sources credit her with an inch less than that. Of course, Hollywood trafficks in reality only when it has to. And I remain something of a fan, ever since her film debut in The Man in the Moon, way back in ’91 when Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon was just barely fifteen. (Which means, dear God, that she’s pushing forty.)

Reese Witherspoon in Bottega Veneta

Reese Witherspoon at the Pirch Store in Glendale

You may note that in neither of these pictures does she look especially “vertically challenged.” She has, however, apparently gone Full Hollywood, stretching a bit in a Bottega Veneta bodysuit, then turning up at one of those stores that’s so exclusive no one ever actually goes there. (Just kidding.) And once, after too many glasses of wine, she attempted to play the “Do you know who I am?” card with a Georgia trooper. She was, however, properly contrite afterwards: Suthun girls — Reese was born in New Orleans — don’t do this sort of thing, even after they’ve gone Full Hollywood.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Not even a first round

While discussion of revising the NBA draft continues, James Joyner offers up a case for abandoning it entirely:

First, the draft is inherently immoral. Prospects give up their right to chose for whom to work and the right to negotiate terms of their employment outside very narrow parameters as a prerequisite for the right to work in the cartel. To be sure, it’s collectively bargained between the owners and the players union, but the union pointedly doesn’t include those subject to the draft. Consequentially, they’ve negotiated a deal that artificially lowers the earnings of the best new talent for their initial years in the league, thus shifting more of the wages to those already in the union.

It might actually be worse than that, since rookie scale is fixed by the CBA, and the teams get two years’ worth of options before the players have anything to say about it. In theory, a team may offer a draft pick anywhere between 80 and 120 percent of rookie scale; in practice, almost all of them, once added to the roster, are paid 120 percent. (Until he’s added to the roster, though, a draft pick isn’t paid squat; many play overseas until needed, and the Thunder actually stashed one pick last year in the D-League.)

Second, the draft has the perverse effect of rewarding teams for losing games and dumping valuable assets. The worst current teams, the Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks have not only traded away their best older players — which is absolutely rational for teams not close to contending for a championship — but have systematically dumped their best young players in a quest to get to the top of the draft. That’s bad for the league and bad for the fans of those teams. (Oddly, the other contender for the worst team in the league, the Minnesota Timberwolves, have gone in the other direction. They traded away their best player, Kevin Love, rather than lose him in free agency but got a king’s ransom in young talent and draft picks in return.)

Absent a draft, weak teams would have an incentive to work towards improvement in order to draw fans to the arena. They would still play for the future, jettisoning older players and stockpiling prospects and draft picks, but they would play their best young players and try to get better. The premium would be on player development, rather than winning games per se, but the nature of the sport is that they’d nonetheless win a lot more than 16 or 17 out of 82 games if they weren’t intentionally tanking.

Then there were the ’72-’73 Sixers, who won nine games and lost 73. They would have had to improve to tank. Some teams are just terrible: the just-arrived Oklahoma City Thunder opened the ’08-’09 season 3-29, and they already had Kevin Durant. (And Russell Westbrook, but he started the season at the two because nobody believed he could run the point.) They wound up 23-59, as predicted by EA Sports.

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I’d certainly buy ’em

And really, they should charge more for deboning them:

I prefer mine a little greener at the store, but otherwise this seems like a decent deal.

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Side A

Well, she was just seventeen — you know what I mean? — and she and her BFF, who happened to be my daughter, were busily rousing me from my usual fitful slumber. From a chronological-consistency standpoint, this dream was clearly a disaster, since my daughter is actually thirty-six, and there would be further anachronisms, though I wasn’t awake enough to evaluate them.

Now teenagers don’t approach you unless they Want Something, and this unnamed blonde evidently did. While daughter beat a hasty retreat to wherever it is she retreats to, the request was made. Apparently the young lady had been to Record Store Day and had come away with an actual 45-rpm single by a currently popular teen act. Now when I was seventeen, the last thing in the world a seventeen-year-old wanted to listen to was a currently popular teen act, but then I am old and still devoted to that sort of thing, and I recognized the performer, though not the song itself.

“Most people your age,” I said, “don’t even have turntables.”

“I don’t either.” Oh. “I was hoping you could process this for me.”

I smiled. “You know, you could have just downloaded this. Probably would have saved you a buck.”

“Yeah, but everybody downloads. And then they lose it or forget where they saved it or accidentally erase it.” She had a perfectly valid point, I decided. And so the plan was hatched: I would play back the single on my own turntable and rip it to an MP3 file, but during the playback process I would simultaneously copy that track to a format even more obsolete than vinyl: an audio cassette. And if this gave the girl brief bragging rights, hey, that sort of thing matters at that age.

At my age, being able to show off matters, so I took her to the Audio Room, festooned with ancient equipment, including a vintage-Seventies open-reel deck, a semi-automatic turntable — you set the arm manually, but it retracts at the end of the side — and stacks and stacks of wax. In between explaining all the components — for all I knew, this might have looked like Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory to her — I attempted to keep up my end of a discussion of the current Top 40.

At one point, I said: “Isn’t it about time Rebecca Black put out a new record?”

She was dismissive. “I haven’t paid any attention to her since ‘Sunday Morning’ came out.” Disappointed, I guess.

Then came a snag or two. For some reason, the turntable that couldn’t autoplay was trying to autoplay, even before I’d slapped the disc on the platter. And for the life of me, I couldn’t find a single blank cassette in the place, and I knew I had a dozen or two stashed away somewhere.

Her phone rang. “I’ll just be a minute.”

I’d heard that before.

Now admittedly everything had been moved around since my recent illness, but how do you hide a case (24 count) of blank tape with humongous logos on every surface? It was, of course, in the last place I looked; I selected a TDK 60-minute tape in the “HD” series, which I seem to recall was a Type II.

After that, things wound up approximately the way they should have, though a pain in my shoulder woke me up before I could see the finale. The price I pay, I suppose, for crashing between work and dinnertime.

In real life, daughter had actually had a blonde bestie in those days, though this one did not call her to mind: the Dream Object looked sort of like a vertically compressed Reese Witherspoon, though the resemblance disappeared below the ankle.

And dammit, when’s the new Rebecca Black single?

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Only the beginning

Uploaded on 23 April 2005, ten years and one day ago, this was apparently the very first YouTube video:

Although the description has changed a couple of times since the original upload.

The chap who posted this particular video, Jawed Karim, is one of three actual co-founders of YouTube; when Google bought YouTube in 2006, Karim was paid approximately $64 million in Google stock. By now, he could buy elephants.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Now that’s time management

So this happened in Grand Rapids:

A former Grant High School science teacher has pleaded guilty to having inappropriate sexual contact with a female student with whom she exchanged about 14,000 text messages during a four-week period last fall.

Robert Stacy McCain, on that awfully large-sounding number:

Let’s see: 14,000 messages in 28 days? That’s 500 messages a day or — subtracting 8 hours a night for sleep, leaving 16 hours for daily texting — about 31 messages per hour. One wonders how either of them ever found time to do anything else except, you know, the “anything else” called criminal sexual misconduct.

Perhaps they weren’t getting much sleep.

Then there’s this old routine. Two women at tea. Says one: “Last night with him, wonderful! I came four times.”

Replies the other: “You weren’t screwing, honey. You were counting.

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Alone near the edge

Anyone who’s ever seen a bell curve knows what it means in terms of population distribution. We don’t, however, always consider the effects of that distribution:

Take, for example, a typical working class Irish guy from a Boston neighborhood. He will easily socialize with people in his neighborhood and other working class guys from other Boston neighborhoods. The further you get from his natural environment, however, the less he will have in common with people from other states, countries, etc. There comes a point where socializing becomes impossible. It’s why dropping Bantu warriors into Lewiston Maine is a very stupid idea.

In IQ, a similar relationship between distance and commonality exists. If you have a 100 IQ, you will be roughly as smart as 90% of the people you will encounter on a daily basis. That means you will be able to understand most of the same things and not understand most of the same things. That last bit is vital. Ignorance is bliss, especially when shared with friends.

The further you move to the right on the curve, the smaller the population pool of people in your intelligence range. That means most of the people you meet will not know what you know and will probably never know it. Worse yet, the vast majority don’t think like you think. That’s not always appreciated.

According to entirely too many tests taken in my younger days, I’m supposed to be way to the right of that particular curve. I do understand the distribution. However, I have always maintained that I’m not so damn smart, and I suspect that I would not be surrounded by people who are likely to agree with me even if I were sitting in the middle of that curve; whether I’m three or four (or more) standard deviations to the right really doesn’t make that much difference. And there are people ostensibly far smarter than I who have similar difficulties dealing with Joe and Susan Sixpack:

The two best examples of the latter are John Sununu and Chuck Schumer. Sununu tested into Mega Society and Schumer hit a perfect score on his SAT back in the 60s when it was still a real test. Sununu had some success in politics, but his prickly personality was a problem. Schumer, of course, is known as the most unpleasant human on earth.

I suppose, in the case of Schumer and Sununu, it can be argued that their unpleasant demeanor was overcome by their high IQs. Chuck Schumer’s position is entirely dependent on his ability to push through sophisticated legislation allowing the financial sector to loot the economy.

I did not, I hasten to note, hit a perfect score on my SAT back in the 60s when it was a real test. (I took it twice, in fact; I scored 34 points higher the second time, which was not the first thing I noticed.)

Anyway, this, to me at least, seems indisputable:

In some respects, a 1% IQ is like being seven feet tall. There’s some value at the fringes, but otherwise it has no value and can be a burden. There’s a low demand for seven footers and to most people it is a little weird being around a freakish giant. A 1% IQ is not in much demand and most people don’t like being around Wile E. Coyote for long, unless the genius is also blessed with a high agreeableness and extroversion.

Which I most certainly am not.

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Home of the Whopping

Apparently the magic number is 16 miles per gallon. From the individual vehicle profiles in the Consumer Reports 2015 Auto Issue:

Chevrolet Suburban: “Beyond that, it’s pretty much your tried and true Suburban, with a 5.3-liter V8, six-speed automatic, and fuel economy that improved to a whopping 16 mpg.”

Chevrolet Tahoe: “Beyond that, fuel economy from the 5.3-liter V8 and six-speed automatic, improves to a whopping 16 mpg.”

GMC Yukon/Yukon XL: “Beyond that, fuel economy from the 5.3-liter V8 and six-speed automatic improves to a whopping 16 mpg, but the combination doesn’t feel particularly energetic.”

Beyond that, these trucks are more alike than different, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen CR test a thesaurus.

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A whole bunch of color

Once in a while, a celebrity will send up a shoefie — selfie of her shoes — and occasionally (probably fewer than 96 times out of a hundred) I’ll notice. This one I noticed:

Clover Canyon’s pitch for this collection:

Everyone knows about the color in Africa: The women in their bright, printed dresses, ripe fruit in the baskets they carry from the market on their heads; the larger-than-life flowers; the endless savannah, all umber earth and toasted grasses. For Pre-Fall 2015 Clover Canyon sets the colors of South Africa into stark relief, printing on black for maximum graphic impact. The geometric painting of Ndebelli village houses is one key motif; another is tribal body painting, interpreted via delicate pointelle neoprene and lasered dots. Of course, there are flowers, too, blossoming out of the signature Clover Canyon collage prints that have been super-sized this season. Pattern here is bolder and more straightforward than before; likewise, this collection’s shapes communicate an unmistakable sense of ease.

At $350, this runs about twenty-odd times the cost of a copy of Paul Simon’s Graceland, if you’re into South African culture once removed from the source.

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This story is almost certainly not unique:

Recently, we were informed that our PPO no longer has a network in Indiana. They were one of the smaller companies in this state, and their analysts decided it wasn’t cost effective. As of the first of this year, they are still our health insurer — but we have been in some other network. And none of the online network-membership checking works for us.

Do I even have insurance in any meaningful way any more? I’m not sure.

It probably meets the letter of the law, which means — well, nothing, actually.

I think I might do better going to Vegas, finding a bookie, and making a series of bets against my health. — And paying for my own routine medical stuff.

The principle is the same in Vegas; only the regulations are different. (Sin City, unsurprisingly, has fewer.)

Prescriptions, at least in my case, seem pretty routine. CFI Care (not its real initials) has actually cut the copay on a bunch of garden-variety generics to $4, simply because Walmart and Target sell a lot of those tabs for four bucks. That said, a couple of my maintenance drugs are coming in at three bucks or less; it’s pointless to submit claims for them, which may be the whole idea.

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