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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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At a loss

Which describes my feelings of late to the proverbial T.

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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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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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