The umble instrument

Trendwatching.com hath decreed for this month:

Yes, consumers are more demanding, time-starved, informed, and choice-saturated than ever-before (we know you know). For brands to prosper, the solution is simple though: turn SERVILE. This goes far beyond offering great customer service. SERVILE means turning your brand into a lifestyle servant focused on catering to the needs, desires and whims of your customers, wherever and whenever they are.

Um, no, it does not mean that. You don’t have to believe me, but you should definitely believe Nancy Friedman:

It isn’t a neutral term meaning “of service”; rather, it means “abjectly submissive,” “slavish,” “relating to servitude or forced labor.” Its synonyms are “obsequious,” “toadyish,” “sycophantic,” and “fawning.”

Not a positive association in the bunch.

See, for instance, “Check our monthly Servile Specials.” And does “ever-before” actually require a hyphen?

(Title courtesy of Uriah Heep. No, not the band.)

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Willing, and occasional won’ting

“The problem with these young fellows nowadays,” says Robert Stacy McCain, “is that young women don’t know how to play hard to get.”

They knew when I was young, but heck, I’m even older than RSM. Still, this seems fairly inarguable these days:

For a lot of kids, it starts in elementary school with the “boyfriend and girlfriend” game, and any boy that’s halfway cute has girls fawning all over him. (Ask the parents of boys how it is.) Even before there’s anything like actual sex involved, the boys get spoiled by all that female attention. It makes the boys arrogant and gives them an unfavorable impression of women generally as desperate, clinging, needy creatures.

I got my own wakeup call on Facebook one day, when a grandson, then well under FB’s ostensible age limit of 13, posted that he was, um, “in a relationship.” Seriously. Did I rat him out to his mom? You betcha. Now is the kid arrogant? Insufficient data at this time.

There is no reason women should be stuck-up — cruelly aloof and distant — but at the same time, a woman does not enhance the value of her companionship by chasing after men. A woman can be friendly and even flirtatious without being easy, and the most brilliant women are those who know exactly where to draw the line, who convey by their manner some sense of their own dignity.

I’ve known a few who met that criterion for “brilliant.” They were, of course, not the least bit interested in me, but then again, even those inclined to chase after guys were likewise lined up none deep on the porch.

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Fark blurb of the week

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The orange remains

Starting in 2009, the old-style license plates in this state were replaced with the new Sacred Rain Arrow design, though I was hoping for, um, something else.

Now Florida is about to toss its current plate design, but they have, um, other motivations:

Gone would be the county name designation and the “MyFlorida.com” motto. Also eliminated is raised lettering — deemed hard to read by electronic toll booths and red light cameras.

Gone too could be the state’s long use of prison labor to make the metal tags, as state highway department officials are proposing to put the plate contract out to bid for the first time in more than 30 years.

Julie Jones of the Highway Department figures this won’t cost much of anything:

Jones said the increased cost will be covered by millions of dollars the state expects to recoup from drivers now on the road with illegal or expired tags, who will have to pay up when they are forced to get the new plate.

In addition, from January to August, 2.8 million unreadable tags were reported by cities with red light cameras across Florida. At $150 per-ticket violation, a lot of cash potentially could flow into state and local government coffers, Jones said.

Vanity plates, which have their own separate revenue stream, will not be affected.

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The happiest of circumstances

When Trini was doing our hardware stuff, she’d occasionally assert that she had enough spare parts on hand to build a whole new (or used, actually) desktop box, and knowing her, I have no doubt that she was correct. There once was a time when I had enough computer parts on hand to do such a thing, but attrition has left me with three complete machines, none of them exactly au courant, and hardly any spares.

Still, I retain a certain admiration for this mindset, and Bill Quick exhibits it in a non-computer environment:

When I built my new Schwinn Paramount all-chrome, all-Campy Record single speed, I cannibalized most of the parts from my old Paramount frame.

So I was looking at it, and I got to thinking that I probably had enough spare parts lying around to build a whole new bike.

He did, too; the only things he bought new were the tires (twenty bucks apiece). Color me impressed.

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At least a 2-wood

Golfer Michelle Wie, who turns 23 today, has been playing the game for most of her life: she spparently started at age four, and in 2000 (at ten) she qualified for the Women’s U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. The week before her sixteenth birthday, she announced that she was turning pro.

As anybody this side of Tiger Woods (which is just about anybody) can tell you, the darn ball doesn’t always go where you want it to:

Michelle Wie

It took rather a while for her to gain any serious traction as a pro, and a couple of hotly-hyped appearances in men’s tournaments didn’t really help her reputation. In three years on the LPGA tour, she’s won twice. Still, she’s only twenty-three.

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Available only in size OMGWTFBBQ

Scary Beautiful by Leanie van der Vyver and René van den BergThese are being billed as “the scariest shoes of all time,” and certainly the fright potential is there; I can imagine nightmares induced by this photo alone. The artist explains:

“After working in fashion for seven years, and therefore being well aware of the manipulation images in fashion suffer for a perfect result, I still compare myself to them and other current beauty ideals,” [Leanie] Van der Vyver told Yahoo! Shine exclusively. “My frustration with my own inability to overcome these feelings of inadequacy was what brought ‘Scary Beautiful’ into fruition. The shoes formed part of my graduation project that was a result of my thesis. The conclusion of my thesis investigation was that people are not satisfied with what they look like, and that perfection, according to the beauty and fashion standards, has reached a climax. Humans are playing God by physically and metaphorically perfecting themselves. Beauty is currently at an all time climax, allowing this project to explore what lies beyond perfection. Scary Beautiful challenges current beauty ideals by inflicting an unexpected new beauty standard.”

We might be playing God, but God has a four-run lead with two out and nobody on in the bottom of the ninth.

Why, yes, they were offered to Lady Gaga. How did you know?

(“If I were a shoe blogger,” Syaffolee tweeted, “I think I’d just give it the OMGWTFBBQ tag and leave it at that.” Hence the title.)

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One of the earlier birds

Lileks was showing off some 1950s radios yesterday, and by golly, I had one of these:

Westinghouse 541T5 clock radio

This little darb dates to 1956; it was moved into my bedroom when the parental units got a Better One. Thirty bucks (about $250 today) for an AM radio that would actually switch on at a prescribed time. (If you wanted it to switch off, well, that was $5 more.)

Said Lileks of this design:

“Modern styling” means the face reminds you of TV and the letters are elongated to the point of absurdity.

And that includes the figures on the actual dial, except for the CONELRAD indicators at 640 and 1240. After a period of heavy use, the top of the case began to droop, the plastic unable to retain its shape after being exposed to all those vacuum tubes (five, including rectifier) for so long.

For that contemporary $250, you can buy a pretty decent AM radio that also gets FM. Assuming, of course, you have some reason to listen to radio.

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Bits of rust

It’s the preseason and therefore it doesn’t count; on the other hand, it’s the Rockets, and you don’t want to lose to the Rockets, even in the preseason. (Kevin McHale remembers things like this.) The Thunder were minus Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins, which made for an interesting starting five: Cole Aldrich manning the middle, Lazar Hayward at the three and Kevin Durant playing power forward. Aldrich played longer than anyone — 33 minutes — but he seemed to lose his edge in the fourth quarter, and Houston’s Terrence Jones gave all the Thundermen a scare, rolling up 20 points from the bench and leading the Rockets to a 107-105 win.

It was good to see Eric Maynor back. And Hasheem Thabeet, who spelled Aldrich at center, used his 14 minutes to score ten points — and pick up six fouls. (Aldridge had five. Is it any wonder the Rockets went 27-35 from the stripe and the Thunder only 12-14?)

And, oh, yes, Lindividual effort. Jeremy put in 19 minutes, about what you’d expect from a preseason starter: he scored 3 but served up six assists. This Rockets team seemed methodical and poised at times when the Thunder obviously wasn’t. Still, it’s the preseason.

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Want it, need it

Although Facebook isn’t working on a “Need” button, “Want” is definitely on their radar:

It’s kind of like the “like” button, but instead compiles a wish list of all the products you’re lusting after on the Internet and lets your pals (and ostensibly, the retailers selling the item) know.

The convenient part for shoppers and the attractive part for retailers? Once you’ve amassed your virtual treasure trove, the idea is you’d be able to click through and actually buy the products on that list.

The question for me, of course, is whether I’d have enough sense to limit my Wants to that which I can actually afford.

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You’re so syllable

I can’t say I’ve always wondered about this, but I must acknowledge the truth of the matter:

It has been noted that “Uh”s and/or “Uhm”s in linguistic, cultural and situational settings can perform varying functions not only according to their timing and their intonation, but also dependent on their position in a sentence.

Curiously, I tend to use “um” here and “uh” in fiction. I’m not quite sure why I make the distinction.

(Via the Local Malcontent.)

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Easier to swallow

“Better living through robotics,” says FuturePundit, and that especially includes robotic surgery:

We need robotic surgery to cut costs and reduce accidents. We especially need robotic surgery to swap out old organs for new organs once organ growth in vats becomes practical. Replacement organs created by tissue engineering are going to be a key rejuvenation therapy. Only robots will be fast enough and safe enough to do organ swapping on the scale that will be required for full body rejuvenation.

He cites a present-day implementation for tumors in the neck:

The study found that the use of robot-assisted surgery to remove these tumors through the mouth took about 25 minutes on average, and that blood loss was minimal — a little more than three teaspoons, or 15.4 milliliters, on average, per patient. No surgical complications were encountered and 11 of the 13 patients could accept an oral diet within 24 hours.

If, on the other hand, these tumors are removed by performing open surgery on the neck, the operation can take around 4 hours to perform, require 7 to 10 days of hospitalization on average and require a tracheotomy tube and a stomach tube, the researchers say.

As the Instant Man might say, “Faster, please.”

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They could almost be twins

Rainn Wilson tweeted this Monday: “I’m like Zooey Deschanel without the quirkiness, beauty or vagina.”

Replied Zooey: “Why? Did you get bangs?”

In response, Rainn put up a vintage photo of himself at around age 14.

You know what’s coming next, right?

Zooey Deschanel and Rainn Wilson as teenagers

On the left, one of Zooey’s high-school yearbook pictures; at right, Rainn’s vintage photo. In view of same, we find Mr Wilson to have made his case, or at least two-thirds of it.

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A general sense of rightness

Snapped from the iTunes Shuffle playlist:

Screenshot from iTunes

“Right or Wrong” is, of course, a cover of Wanda Jackson’s 1961 original, and you met Dr. Smith here.

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Agitators everywhere

All of a sudden I feel better about my relatively antiquated (nine years old) laundry equipment:

Families are reporting exploding washing machines that have led to doors shattering and shards of glass covering their kitchen.

Dozens of complaints from owners of appliances have been received by an online forum and now consumer magazine Which? has launched its own investigation into the growing phenonemon.

In some cases, doors have shattered when the machine is not even in use while others users said glass had simply fallen out of its casing.

I tell you, it’s those damned front loaders. They’ll get you every time.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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Bad for your imaging

I think we bought this same damnable device:

Today, after scanning a 10 page article and hitting print, after printing two pages, it happily informed me that I needed to replace the toner cartridge. Which of course I don’t have, since I didn’t get a spare with it. And unlike most copiers, this gives you no wiggle room. When it says you need to replace the toner, there is NO. MORE. TONER. At all. So I’ve just spent several minutes standing uncomfortably on my toes, and lost all of it. To e-mail this I’m going to have to scan it a page at a time into my office scanner attached to the computer which takes a lot longer. And I’m going to have to wait a week or so to get the new toner in. Grrrr. I ordered one of each color cartridge and two black, since one is going directly into the machine the instant I get it. And of course I can’t find out who else in the hospital has one of these models, if anyone, because no one can use the “everyone” e-mail list anymore.

I have a color laser printer in my weaselworks (like skunkworks, but vaguely deodorized), and it has the same attitude toward toner: Now, And I Mean Now. I have learned to keep C, M, Y and K at its side at all times, at a hundred and six bucks per letter.

On the upside, we have a chap who comes by the shop once a week to ascertain our printer needs, and then delivers the products himself. I suppose if I spent half a day combing through the Intarwebs I could beat his prices by a few cents here and there, but why bother?

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Spotting the generic spammer

Distinguishing characteristics:

On sο many levels, Ӏ am more angered by the “generіс commenteг” than by the leѕѕ аrtful spammeг. Υou might ask whу, Bеcauѕe at lеast the obvіous spammer is complеtely open and honest about their spamming! We can sеe who they aгe. The so called genеrіc sρammer is a lіаг and a fаκe! Υou can probably sеe that І have ѵeгy stгong toward thiѕ group of рeорle.

Which was just one of entirely too many such foisted off on poor Buttercup.

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More dinty

Or, we can have archaic and eat it too:

“[B]y dint of” — does any American speaker of English actually use that? I only know it as an “English” translation of some French construction — which I have now forgotten. But of course the English phrase sticks in my head, and even though it may be archaic, it still fits some situations, so I use it.

I duly typed “by dint of” into the Google Custom Search box over in the sidebar, restricting it to just this domain. Got 857 results. Admittedly, some of them were for the same page — this happens when you have individual, monthly and category archives — but still, that’s more than a hint of dint.

Then there’s Antarctica’s Dint Island, within a handy 7 km of Vittoria Buttress.

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A pony-powered bandwagon

Every now and then I shake my head and wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. And then a reminder pops up:

Bronies — adult fans of animated children’s show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (FiM) — are bound to set a record for the highest number of fanworks in the shortest amount of time.

Tons of art, hours — weeks, at least — of music.

But neither medium can hold a candle to the massive world of brony fanfiction.

Brony fanfiction has become one of the fandom’s most lasting traditions, with adoring writers creating their own stories that take the original equine characters of the Friendship is Magic universe and portray them in new situations.

I wonder about that word “lasting,” since the fandom itself is only two years old, but I can’t deny this:

I swore I would not get involved with fanfic, period. I admit that this particular fandom has drawn more of my attention than any other in recent years, and that these characters mean a lot to me in many ways, but still: No Fanfic.

And then I read one, because a friend suggested it. One can’t hurt, right? And then I read another, and it turned out to be My Little Dashie.

I wrote that on the 16th of June. Of this year. That was more than 400 stories ago. (Including three I actually wrote, with a fourth in progress.)

Perhaps I’m paying now for never having been a proper Trekkie/er. Or something. But nothing in Deepest Roddenberria ever affected me as much as MLD.

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Your 2012 State Questions

The sixth biennial roundup on what’s on the ballot next month besides, you know, all those dadgum candidates.

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