At some point before closing

How many of you have gone through this?

ME: I like this house. I think I will buy it.

MORTGAGE LENDER: The house needs work before we’ll give you money.

ME, to sellers: The house needs work so that I can get money and not burn up in an electrical fire and stuff.

SELLERS: We know. We’ll fix some stuff.

ME: Great! I will make a list of the scariest stuff for you to fix.

SELLERS, post list: We changed our mind. We’re not fixing that stuff, so suck it.

ME: Dang.

“Dang,” perhaps, may be a placeholder for another word of comparable length.

Oh, when I bought the palatial estate at Surlywood, the princely sum of $500 was set aside for Necessary Work. About half of it was spent.

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We’ve been malled

Lynn visits the Mall of America, and finds it somewhat meh:

It has a total of four levels but the top floor is all movie theaters, so three levels of mall. Each of those three levels is as big as four average size shopping malls and there is an amusement park in the center of it all. However, otherwise it is like any other mall: 90 percent of the stores are full of nothing but ugly clothes and everything is over-priced.

Malls used to have a lot of interesting and fun stores. My mom and I used to love to spend a whole day at a mall but it seems like malls have changed. They have been taken over by The Gap and Abercrombie and Fitch and the like. I suppose those are the only kinds of stores that can afford to locate in a mall.

Last time (okay, the only time) I was up there was ten summers ago. Said I:

As enclosed retail compounds go, it’s pretty impressive, and not just because it’s huge; it’s downright intimidating at first glance. We spent little, walked a lot.

By “we,” I mean me and my two children, who did convincing impressions of ten-year-olds during the road trip, despite being 25 and 22. And I will long regret introducing them to Room Service at the Embassy Suites.

(Title from Larry Groce; this was a follow-up single to “Junk Food Junkie.”)

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Discontent providers

The vast quantity of (relatively) low-priced downloadable music available these days is truly a boon to civilization.

Except, of course, when it sucks.

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Quote of the week

There are somewhere around five million words on this site, and I suspect somewhere around a quarter of a million were expended on the tedious task of bewailing my Permanent Singleness. Then again, I am sufficiently self-aware to know why I’m in this state — should I need to identify the culprit, I need only pop open my wallet and look at my driver’s license — which perhaps makes me at least slightly better off than these characters described by Robert Stacy McCain:

[S]ome guys never quite figure this out, because they have never really evaluated themselves or women objectively. These guys psychologically separate women into two categories:

  1. Super-attractive women they really want to hump;
    and
  2. Normal women they might actually have a chance with.

Unrealistic expectations — and particularly the Barbie-doll fixation — inevitably produce disappointment, and guys who fall into that pattern tend to end up pathetically alone.

Before proceeding to our example of this phenomenon, let me explain something basic: By the time you are 25 or so, you have probably already dated the best-looking person you’ll ever date. True, there are late bloomers, people who were high-school losers who get their act together by the time they graduate college and suddenly discover that they are more attractive than they were as teenagers, but this late-bloomer effect is very unlikely to occur after age 25. So by the time a guy is in his mid-20s, if he has never dated an 8+, he’s a damned fool to keep dreaming that Cinderella/Barbie/Playboy model will stumble into his life.

Ain’t gonna happen, Jack. Get over it. Life is not fair.

You really should read the whole thing, which includes a grade-A (or at least Type A) object lesson. I note for record that my own selection criteria are at least as implausible; the difference, of course, is that I know it.

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Teal, dear

I have no plans at this time to see Elysium, on the reasonable basis that if I want to see a screaming dystopia, I need only read the papers. (“This is today. This is now,” said writer/director Neill Blomkamp.)

Still, Jodie Foster, now a hair past fifty and clearly not giving a damn about it, plays the SecDef who has to stop Matt Damon, and really, who among us hasn’t wanted to stop Matt Damon? (Sarah Silverman aside, anyway.) At the premiere, Foster looked fab:

Jodie Foster at the Elysium premiere

Said Jessica of the Fug Girls: “This isn’t the most MIND-BLOWING outfit that ever happened. But she sure looks great in it.” Yea, verily.

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Play something slow

The new Mazda6 has generally wowed the critics, who seem to enjoy its driving dynamics and its not-entirely-bizarre appearance. However, there’s apparently a drawback in the center stack:

The media interface is incredibly slow. I n c r e d i b l y s l o w. So slow that at first I assumed the head unit had frozen so I plugged, unplugged, plugged, unplugged to no avail. Then I gave up and listened to the radio. (Gasp!) A full 4 minutes later, the system switched to the iDevice and started to play my tunes. (Yes, I tested it with USB sticks and it did the same thing). If you think this is a momentary aberration, think again. The system has to fully index your entire USB/Android/iDevice music library before it starts playing. It does this whenever you unplug/plug or when you stop/start the car. Every. Single. Time. The larger your library, the longer it takes. Users on the Mazda forum reported a 10+ minute delay when playing larger devices while I averaged just over three minutes. Want tunes on a short journey? I hope you enjoy AM Gold.

Reminds me of my Sansa ClipZip, of which I once said:

[G]iven any really ginormous number of files, it chokes on the database refresh, which it never quite finishes. Meanwhile, your battery plummets.

I found a solution for the Sansa. Let’s hope Mazda finds one of their own before I have to start looking for new wheels.

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Vault tolerant

For the love of God, Montresor whatever your name is:

In what sounds like the very worst case of “Get off my lawn!” syndrome, police say the owner of a Boston-area storage facility was so ticked off at a Verizon worker who had parked on his grass, he locked him [in] an underground vault. And if we know anything about sealed underground chambers, it’s that they usually don’t have a lot of air. You know, for breathing.

Cops say the worker was on the premises to do some work in this mysterious sounding chamber, but the 71-year-old suspect didn’t appreciate his Verizon van parked on the grass nearby, reports CBS Boston.

Officials claim he not only slammed the door behind the worker, but placed large rocks on it and removed the ladder necessary to get out of the vault, ostensibly to keep him in there.

I dunno. To me, this seems to be the very antithesis of “Get off my lawn,” if the guy is put in a position where he can’t very well get.

Still, this speaks well for Verizon wireless coverage: the worker, trapped in his concrete-and-steel cage somewhere beneath the surface of the earth, was able to get a 911 call through.

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An exhaust manifold of your own

If you’ve lived here for any length of time exceeding a year, you’re aware that Oklahoma summers are hot, except in years like 2011 and 2012, in which the sheer inadequacy of the word “hot” proved to be every bit as painful as the scorching of the top of your head within 45 seconds of opening the door. (Note to Muslims: This is the way you sell the head scarf.) Complicate said heat with something seemingly just as hot along a different vector, and, well, you get this:

Every time I’ve ever eaten at a food truck, it’s been a typical Oklahoma burning hot day. This makes a lot of sense, because events like concerts, festivals, and anything that draws a large crowd of people outdoors occurs well, during the Oklahoma burning hot summer. It wasn’t until I, dripping with sweat, bit into a damn ahi tuna taco dressed with wasabi-mayo, handed to me by a thickly bearded man, surrounded by griddles and deep fryers, enclosed in a 4 ft x 8 ft vehicle, realized that there could be a problem.

Things have clearly changed from the days of the Roach Coach, the truck that occasionally visited us hungry soldiers on post; not only were the facilities far more hygienic than our disparaging name (alternative: “Maggot Wagon”) might imply, most of the foodlike products thence dispensed were approximately 23.5 percent preservatives and therefore would not undergo unseemly decomposition until actually digested.

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This pencil is barely #3

When I was a mere foal, we carried our precious school supplies in sturdy cigar boxes, and woe betide he who messed with somepony else’s box. Half a century later, things seem to have been inverted:

Some of my friends who have kids now say some schools collect the supplies, put them in a common box, and then distribute them. (There’s an interesting lesson in there, and perhaps not the one the school intends). So a sort of Tragedy of the Commons thing happens — there’s a race to buy the cheapest stuff, because who knows if your kid will get back what they brought in, so why spend the extra money? So everyone winds up with sort of crummy supplies … scissors that break, off-brand crayons…

On the other hand, given the apparent mission of contemporary primary education, this might be exactly the lesson the school intends.

And it probably doesn’t matter if the scissors break, because they won’t cut through deep mist, let alone actual construction paper.

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A caricature, not a copy

Reader “canadienne” kindly dropped this story into a comment, and I’m pushing it up here because — well, because it sounds so freaking weird:

If you think your photocopier is producing exact duplicates of your documents, you might want to double-check — some popular Xerox scanners and photocopiers change text and numbers documents scanned and copied under the “normal” quality setting.

The “character substitution issue” might occur with “lower quality and resolution settings” — which are labelled “normal” quality on Xerox machines — confirmed Francis Tse, principal engineer for Xerox, in a blog post Tuesday, several days after German computer science student David Kriesel first noted the problem in a blog post that spread quickly around the internet.

This is evidently the imaging equivalent of auto-correct. And what makes it worse:

Kriesel wrote in a blog post early Tuesday that based on his experiments, using a “higher” quality setting did reduce the errors. However, counterintuitively, it reduced the readability of scanned documents, prompting many people to choose the “normal” setting.

Meanwhile, my crummy Kodak printer/scanner, which I bought from Woot for fifty bucks (plus $5 shipping), gives me nice, clean 300-dpi scans with little effort. Admittedly, they may take as long as a minute, and I don’t mean a New York minute; but I never have to question whether the output is true to the input.

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Still the Girl

Every time I mention this particular song, I can count on someone in the comments giving the ASCII equivalent of a sigh. The first time was about ten years ago:

Composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim with a lyric by Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes, “The Girl from Ipanema” was a huge hit (#5 in Billboard) in the States in 1964, in a recording by Stan Getz and João Gilberto for Verve, with Jobim himself at the piano and Gilberto’s wife Astrud on the English-language (by Norman Gimbel) vocal. The picture it paints in the mind is vivid indeed, but it never occurred to me to assume that there was a model for it.

(If you haven’t heard the song lately, here’s a lovely TV appearance by Getz/Gilberto.)

Keeping in mind that the song was written half a century ago — well, a reference to the original Girl From in the Daily Mail motivated me to chase down this biographical note:

Helô [Pinheiro] became friends with poet De Moraes, who she calls “a dreamer, a charmer who married nine times, who was so clever he became a diplomat”. And Jobim? He proposed to her. “Tom was different,” she says. “He was shy, he was beautiful, a maestro on the piano. But the two of them drank too much. They were always at the bar drinking whisky, caipirinha, beer.” She chose, instead, a steady life with an engineer; they are still married. Jobim, she says, never got over her. “One time, he went to Vinicius’s home and told him he only married his wife because she looked like me. He said that in front of her. He was crazy.”

At the very least, he drank too much.

And I repeat this segment from a 2010 post, just for the edification of the readership:

The name “Ipanema” itself derives from the old Tupi tongue, and means “bad water,” which apparently is a reference to the quality of fishing from said beach. It has nothing to do with “Ipana,” which resides alongside Pepsodent and Gleem in the Hall of Faded Brands, Toothpaste Aisle.

Bucky Beaver was not available for comment.

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At least it gets your attention

Still, if death is a mere warning, what ultra-dire consequences must be in the offing?

Death may be a warning

This is the online version, with a wordier but maybe less alarming alarm.

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So over the Candlestick

Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, new home of the 49ers, inevitably features some high-tech trickery, including this:

[A]s recently reported by Yahoo Sports’ Rand Getlin, a stadium-specific app will allow fans to track the shortest beer and bathroom lines in real-time to most efficiently plan excursions away from their seats.

Which may not be the blessing you might think:

If everybody in the stadium is being directed to the shortest lines, wouldn’t they then quickly become the LONGEST lines?

Given the well-known tendency to believe an electronic device over your own lying eyes, I figure it’s a dead certainty.

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The citiest of all

To me, “city” has always seemed like it ought to be an adjective: Tulsa, for instance, is citier than North Platte. And scarcely any place on the continent is citier than New York City:

As a child, I had all kinds of fantasies about what the unmediated, unadulterated natural world might be like, but my experience was mostly confined to yearly hikes at Bear Mountain, which my father, paraphrasing Marx, called a Lumpenwilderness. And anyway, it can seem Herculean at times to leave New York City and go into nature, or anywhere else for that matter. If you don’t have a car, which is many if not most people, you have to rent one. For my set, that meant walking across the George Washington Bridge to the Rent-A-Wreck in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Then you had to actually drive out of the city, which could literally take hours, because, since you’d walked to New Jersey, you had to drive back across the bridge to get your stuff. And then there would be traffic and getting lost, which could not be avoided if your path took you through the Bronx at all. And then, if you weren’t some sort of wilderness expert, what exactly were you supposed to do when you get there? You could luxuriate in the grass while trying to wipe the fear of Lyme ticks from your consciousness, or marvel at the unobstructed views of sky. But if you’re like me, by dark you would be sweating in your bed because of the sonic emptiness, terrorized by the absence of the reassuring all-hours city din. As Woody Allen said, “I am two with nature.”

I first discovered this phenomenon in Basic Combat Training, forty-odd years ago. The absence of noise just screams at you. The farm boys from mid-Missouri, they seemed to be used to it, but those of us who were taught to genuflect at the very mention of Willis Carrier, we never quite adjusted.

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Columbidae trip

Something else I didn’t know about this town:

In 1973, the American Pigeon Museum and Library was established. Twenty years later, they purchased 10 acres in Oklahoma City and just last month moved into a brand new building that will open to the public early next year.

It’s located just south of NE 63rd Street and west of Bryant Avenue, and it has an extensive collection of pigeon equipment clocks, bands, trophies and paintings. It also has a lot great military photographs and Army pigeon corps equipment from both world wars including message holders like the one Cher Ami carried through whizzing bullets and battlefields of lore.

Despite her name, Cher Ami was a hen, and this is the message she was bearing:

October, 1918: Trapped behind enemy lines in Charlevaux, France, and surrounded by hundreds of German troops, the few hundred surviving members of the Lost Battalion soon had another problem to deal with in the form of friendly fire. His men rapidly succumbing to the onslaught and with two birds already shot down, Major Charles Whittlesay dispatched a frantic message by way of their last surviving homing pigeon, ‘Cher Ami':

WE ARE ALONG THE ROAD PARALELL 276.4. OUR ARTILLERY IS DROPPING A BARRAGE DIRECTLY ON US. FOR HEAVENS SAKE STOP IT.

When the pigeon miraculously arrived at the division headquarters 25 miles away he had been shot in the leg, breast and eye, and thanks to his efforts 194 members of the battalion were subsequently rescued. Cher Ami died from his injuries six months later, but not before being awarded the croix de guerre for heroic service.

This is, in other words, not the bird that crapped on your car ninety seconds after you washed it.

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In other news

Of course, we all know why Jeff Bezos was willing to ante up a quarter of a billion for the Washington Post: he got free shipping.

Still, this question comes up:

In any event, it’s noteworthy that the Boston Globe was sold for $70 million in the same week the Washington Post garnered $250 million. The disparity in sale prices hasn’t been explained.

Two factors come to mind:

  • The Post still moves about 480,000 copies a day, even though a growing percentage of those copies are virtual. The Globe sells about half as many.
  • Several times before, the New York Times Company, which owned the Globe, has sold properties to refocus on the Family Business; it’s possible that they wanted to firm up their balance sheets after paying off Mexican benefactor Carlos Slim three years early.

We will, of course, never know how much Phil Anschutz peeled off for the Oklahoman.

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