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The following was originally posted by Morgan:

My Mom saw a sultry and subtle evil behind passive-voice sentences. When she was still alive, I didn’t quite understand the rationale for this … it’s just a construct of the English language, which like any other, might make sense in some situations. With each year I see come and go, I get a little bit more wise to the true nature of her complaint. Verbs should be connected to subjects. Oops, uh, pardon me … writers should connect verbs to their subjects. The “who’s doing it” should, at the very least, exist as a common and successfully-communicated idea, between writer and reader, speaker and listener … whether or not it’s stated specifically, it should be spec’d out in some way. To fall short of that goal, is to deceive.

Perhaps the most blatant failure on this count is “Mistakes were made,” so common it now rates a Wikipedia article, tracing usage beyond Nixon’s henchpersons to Ulysses S. Grant, who tossed it into his 1876 State of the Union message — though Grant did finish off the phrase with “I admit it.”

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And then there were fifty

Even Illinois, which arguably has been heading downhill since I left in late 1954, is capable of buying a clue:

[Tuesday] the Illinois legislature overrode Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of a bill allowing state residents who comply with certain objective standards to carry concealed fireams. Illinois, the last state to impose a blanket ban on concealed carry, is complying with a December decision in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit said that policy violates the Second Amendment. Under the new policy, which will take effect in nine months or so, people 21 or older who have state-issued firearms owner identification cards can obtain licenses to carry concealed weapons provided that have clean records and complete 16 hours of training.

Why nine months?

The new law gives the Illinois State Police six months to make applications for concealed-carry licenses available. It has to issue a license within three months of receiving a valid application, so it could be nine months before the first Illinois gun owner is licensed to carry.

The key phrase there is “has to.”

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Quibbling over genres

About half of my music acquisition these days has been by way of the ponyverse, which has a thriving music scene and hundreds of worthy composers; if they haven’t yet produced a John Williams or a Thelonious Monk or a Joni Mitchell, well, it’s not for lack of effort.

A lot of the items I check off for future investigation are labeled “trance,” “ambient” or “chill.” Now “trance” I understand, more or less: faster than house, strict adherence to 4/4, and the breakdown somewhere in the middle of the track. The other two are not quite so clearly defined, so I went to someone who has had more MP3 tags than I’ve had breaths, and he explains it thusly:

Basically, if it can’t ever wake me up, it’s Ambient. If it’s something I can see playing while I’m standing on the balcony of a ship, it’s Chill.

On the basis of the above, I think we can call this Chill:

Though that ship had better be well out of port, I think.

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I blame neutrons

The atomic weight of carbon is quoted as 12.011, not because there are any carbon atoms out there that actually measure 12.011, but because while most carbon is in fact C12, there’s a substantial amount of C13 and a smidgen of C14 out there. (Which latter variant, incidentally, is radioactive, which is why carbon dating works, just in case you’re a carbon-based life form needing a date.) These variants are called “isotopes,” like the Springfield Albuquerque baseball club.

Now the distribution of carbon atoms is pretty consistent. Some other elements, not so much:

The standard atomic weights of magnesium and bromine will now be expressed as intervals to more accurately convey this variation in atomic weight. For example, bromine commonly is considered to have a standard atomic weight of 79.904. However, its actual atomic weight can be anywhere between 79.901 and 79.907, depending on where the element is found.

This variation will not affect your late-night tumbler of Bromo-Seltzer, which hasn’t actually contained any bromine since 1975.

(The Friar caught this before I did.)

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Gizmos available at extra cost

You know what’s wrong with those really expensive cars? All those really expensive doo-dads they tack on:

The problem with Cadillacs and all other big fancy cars is all the gimcrack gizmos they use. Nice thing about luxury cars is that they are bigger, faster and more comfortable than your ordinary car, and if that was all the difference, they would be just great. But someone has decided that big, powerful cars should also be fancy, and so they install all these gizmos that are fine and entertaining as long as they work, but eventually they fail, and they fail much sooner than any of the standard mechanical stuff, and they cost a fortune to fix, so nobody bothers to fix them and that leads to a cascade of failures that eventually make the car unusable, even though mechanically it is still very sound. I want to buy an older luxury car and rip out the dashboard and all the other whizbang gizmos and replace them with standard switches and dials, or a standard off-the-shelf computer if that would be simpler. I don’t want to have to learn a bunch of new stuff to work on a car. I invested a good part of my life boning up on all kinds of esoteric computer crap and it was mostly a waste of time because the stuff all went obsolete before I ever got a chance to use all my hard won knowledge.

Remind me not to mention my backlit fluorescent instrument panel and my A-pillar tweeters and my electronic engine mounts.

(Actually, I’ve had to replace one of those mounts, which of course costs twice as much as an ordinary non-electronic mount. Then again, it held up for about 140,000 miles.)

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Not on call

Last time I brought up Carly Rae Jepsen, it was in connection with a sermon. About a month later, someone snagged this photo of her wandering around Paris, and it’s been sitting here ever since.

Carly Rae Jepsen

Assuming you don’t want to hear That Song, here’s a clip of a Jepsen appearance on Canadian Idol, circa 2007, singing, of all things, “Killer Queen.”

No, this did not get her eliminated: she got all the way to the Top 3 before being voted off the stage.

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Amphibian chaff

From Car and Driver‘s take (8/13) on the Nissan Juke NISMO:

There are no logical reasons for it to look the way it does, so clearly drawn without conventional aesthetic considerations in mind. And its 1.6-liter turbo four is an overachiever, imbuing this automotive non sequitur with the verve to match its shape. There’s not a cynical bolt or negative bead of adhesive in the Juke’s batrachian body.

The online version of this same half-paragraph is a lot less scintillating:

There are no logical reasons for it to look the way it does; its aesthetics are so clearly drawn without concern for what critics would think. Its 1.6-liter turbo four is an overachiever, imbuing this automotive non sequitur with the verve to match its shape. There’s not a cynical bolt or bead of adhesive in the Juke’s spunky, amphibian body.

I have to assume that someone in the Web department choked on “batrachian,” and that’s a shame, unless you’re Miss Piggy.

(Title from this recording, a copy of which I have owned for close to forty years.)

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Another plug to be pulled

One of the more curious screen resolutions I’ve ever had to deal with is 544 x 376, which was the size of the original WebTV (later MSN TV) screen. Our decidedly low-tech customer base flocked to the service, and I learned quickly enough to keep the page width down to 540 or so.

Well, what’s left of that base is now being deflocked:

MSN TV closure announcement

WebTV was founded in 1996; Microsoft bought it the next year for $425 million, and turned a fair profit on the service for several years. But no platform can last forever, and this one dies at the end of September.

(Via this Steve Lackmeyer tweet.)

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Pollock exhibition

Recently seen on the frozen-fish shelf: Van de Kamp’s Sandwich Fillets, for those of us who never remember to order a Filet-O-Fish at Mickey D’s. (Then again, about the only time I duck under the Golden Arches is to snag a McRib, at which time I’m not even thinking fish.)

Of course, these are pricey: a box of six approaches $7. Still, how many can you eat at one sitting? I duly picked up a box, slid a couple of the little rectangles onto the cookie sheet, and baked for 29 minutes at 425°F. There was a sauce recipe on the box, which probably wasn’t as convenient as a little packet you can dribble onto the product, but I’d just as soon whip up my own anyway. (Try this, and remember you have to start it half an hour before baking.)

The result was surprisingly good, if a tad short of my gold standard for such things: the fishburger (or whatever it was called) on the kids’ menu at El Matamoros in Austin, which I remember vividly despite not having been there in fifty years.

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Live deadbeats

You know those “buy-here-pay-here” used-car lots? They’re hoping you don’t pay, here or anywhere else:

If the downpayment-plus-interest is high enough, every buyer who defaults is a source of profit: you have what he’s paid to date plus you have the car back to resell. Since most of the cars are older and already past their point of steepest depreciation, your biggest expense is the fees for the repo man and the detailer.

I’ve actually had the experience of trying to buy a car from one of these guys for straight cash, 100% of the price on the barrelhead… and being turned down because I wasn’t going to be paying 12%+ interest for half a year and then defaulting on the note.

Similarly, at least once a week on Yahoo! Answers some poor shlub will ask some variation of “If I’m paying cash for my car, how much discount can I expect?” He is always surprised to hear that the answer is none: the dealer is hoping to make some money off the financing, and if you take that revenue source away, he’s going to make it up somewhere else.

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Contemporary futilitarianism

Feel “used” lately? There are apparently those who think you should:

It’s a commonly expressed sentiment that “we’re all users;” alternately, that “we’re all prostitutes.” The idea, of course, is that with the exception of whatever pure-subsistence farmers remain in the world, each of us sells something — his labor, his skills, or his brainpower — to earn his living. We “use” the desire of others for what we can do to produce income for ourselves, “just like a prostitute.”

This quasi-condemnation of Mankind is among the foulest propositions ever to gain currency among us. It relegates the one and only way in which men could advance from the bloody savagery of the jungle — the division of labor and subsequent specialization of men into our many distinct trades — to the plane of venality. For what does it mean to say that Smith is “using” Jones? Doesn’t that imply that Jones’s desires are of no moment? That Smith is trying to get Jones to do something that is in no way in his interests, and indeed might be against them? How does that match up against the requirement, in a free and open market, that both participants in any transaction must regard it as beneficial to them on net balance?

The “free and open market” is the problem, according to proponents of this foul proposition: in any such market, there is competition, and therefore there will be unequal outcomes, which are deemed unacceptable in this day and age. “Fairness,” doncha know.

Of course, if life were actually fair, then your below-average outcome is, by definition, your fault. So there’s a definite disconnect between fairness and “fairness,” which governmental mutts are more than happy to exploit, knowing that Smith and Jones have day jobs and therefore aren’t able to spend forty hours a week inventing grievances for the government to redress.

Inevitably, this traces back to Marx and “to each according to his needs” — except, of course, for those who have oh-so-willingly tasked themselves with deciding what those needs are supposed to be. “Eight point five,” says Dante, checking their itinerary.

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Purely theoretical

That’s the answer. One possible question: “How’s your love life?”

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Strange search-engine queries (388)

Did I get four days off? Of course not. Did I spend four days looking through the logs, trying to find enough search strings for you guys this Monday morning? Well, um, no, not really.

to get past “alice” reverse one of your items and insert the roman numerals for 1001, 51, and 11 into it to make your two word phrase:  Even more baffling than the Konami Code.

sms scam 2005 rita grower:  Actually, I hear Rita’s a shower, not a grower.

“jack webb” “you’re my girl”:  Whatever floats your boat, hotshot, but Joe Friday doesn’t get down that way.

Pictures of the Pearly Gates with pet door:  Actually, they get the main entrance; it’s the humans who have to crawl their way to the back porch.

allintext: Martin Luther King had the fantastic replica watches uk to do away with the racial discrimination and segregation for your black. How about you and how about me? I’d like to tell you my replica:  You know, if there really was something on your wrist that could expunge the stench of racism forever, there are people who’d move mountains to cut off your arm. Isn’t that right, Reverend Al?

tweetdeck stop working:  Just wait a few minutes and it will quit on its own.

everything see me:  So either go inside, or put on some pants.

video for loading struts jar files in my ellipse:  I have no idea what you’re talking about, so please either go inside or put on some pants.

Unhashed feet:  Well, I should certainly hope so.

“she wears a size 10 shoe”:  Leaving no room for hash.

is fluttershy supposed to sound like marilyn monroe:  Well, no, not specifically, but she shouldn’t ever sound like that guy from Crash Test Dummies either.

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A sacred golden cup

It is an article of faith in some circles that people gravitate toward the welfare system because it makes more room in the budget for, as the phrase goes, prescriptions available without a prescription.

Or, you know, not:

Last year, the Republican-dominated Oklahoma Legislature passed a law that requires drug screening of adult applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF. The Oklahoma Gazette reported this week that only 29 out of about 1,300 applicants were supposedly caught under the new program from November 2012 to February 2013. That’s a whopping 2.2 percent, and even those who refused to take additional tests weren’t exactly caught doing illegal drugs or didn’t receive money.

Given some of the measures they come up with, I’d be surprised if only 2.2 percent of legislators were doing drugs.

And even if they’d caught twenty, forty, fifty percent, a rule like this sets an extremely bad precedent: it opens the door for all manner of mischief. What’s to stop some petty tyrant of the Michael Jacobson mindset from installing a weigh station at the supermarket checkout and disallowing any purchases he deems inappropriate for your BMI? Legislative Republicans need to put down the bong and rethink this thing.

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Sharply detailed

“The first three weeks are wonderful,” says Doghouse Diaries:

Typical razor blade usage

Do women follow this schedule? (And if so, why?)

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Incoming!

What happens when you’ve been tooling along for years with a hundred visitors a day, and then one day twenty thousand show up?

A few days back, Julie Neidlinger wrote a longish post about her wicked Diet Coke habit, which contained this statement I consider well worth repeating:

Let’s just be honest: people who point out the inadequacies in my eating and health regimen are merely quibbling over the bet they’re placing that I’ll die first. You’re telling me I’m killing myself and it’s my fault. You almost hint that I can take the blame for any physical ailment coming my way. I propose that cellular degeneration and the natural order of things might get some blame, and not just that Snickers I ate yesterday.

Upon reading that, I uncorked — okay, unscrewed — a fresh bottle of Dr Pepper. And not Diet Dr Pepper, either.

The word spread. Over six thousand shared the story on Facebook. It was tweeted more than a hundred times. The Google+ counter doesn’t say anything, but I know there was at least one.

And finally:

Today I was out visiting Fort Abraham Lincoln with friends, and my phone kept beeping and vibrating from tweets and email notifications of comments that awaited moderation as we walked through Gen. Custer’s house and the Mandan village. I finally turned off Twitter notifications, because I can’t even process having more than 100 followers, much less deal with comment moderation.

Comment moderation is a tricky business. You’re damned if you don’t (spammers! d-bags!) and damned if you do (you hate free speech! comment nazi!).

I do as little comment moderation as I can get away with, not so much that I worry about being called a Nazi — believe me, there are creatures far worse than Nazis out there, and rather a lot of them are holed up even now in Mordor-on-the-Potomac — but because I am basically lazy and can expect the automated tools on hand to dispose of 90 percent of the stuff.

Still, twenty thousand visitors in a day, half again as many as I’ve ever gotten in 24 hours, will do things to your head:

And now I’m not sure how to write the next blog post because a bunch of people signed up for my email newsletter and it is inevitable that I’m going to write something someday that makes them unsubscribe or unfollow on Twitter and watching numbers on the wane again and losing hard-earned readers after a decade of blogging in what feels like perpetual obscurity makes it tempting to sort of water down my usual post style to stave off the inevitable.

And now you know why I have never had an email newsletter, though I have several hundred subscribers to the site feed. Besides, the one saving grace of perpetual obscurity is that it’s long-lasting; you never have to worry that you’re getting too big for your britches.

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