And the cycle repeats

I do not, generally, endorse the notion of reincarnation. (Nor did I when I was here last time.) One of the problems I find with the concept is that its most fervent believers tend to assert that they were someone notable in a previous life; scarcely anyone claims to have been a serf who perished at twenty-two of some hitherto unnoticed disease.

This new toy by Slate will not change that tendency. What it does is take your birthdate, find someone in Wikipedia — someone notable by definition, right? — who died just before your arrival, and then run the cycle as many times as they have entries. In my specific case, they dug up Sir Philip Wigham Richardson:

Richardson competed in the 1908 Summer Olympics and 1912 Summer Olympics. In the 1908 Olympics he won a silver medal in the team military rifle event. Four years later he was 65th in the 300 metre military rifle, three positions event and 33rd in the 600 metre free rifle event.

Richardson was elected as Member of Parliament for Chertsey at a by-election in March 1922, and held the seat until he retired from the House of Commons at the 1931 general election. In 1929 he was created a Baronet, of Weybridge in the County of Surrey.

Not that I’d be surprised to have been a Tory, particularly. Sir Philip, apparently, had served a previous lifetime as British entomologist William Sharp Macleay. The line, says Slate, goes back to Louis the German (c. 810-876), grandson of Charlemagne and designated King of Bavaria while still a child, though Louis apparently did not actively participate in ruling Bavaria until adolescence. His youngest son, Charles the Fat, was the last Carolingian to rule over a united empire. Now if Slate had put him in my timeline, I might have believed some of this.

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Avoiding the supermarket

I grew up thinking that all these New York folks carrying a single bag of groceries down the street had the right idea: every day, fresh and new, doncha know. This was, of course, long before I had to start shopping for myself, and I learned the wisdom of going as little as possible:

[S]hop with a list and go once a week for your main trip. Go more than once a week only if you have to restock on a necessity (such as milk in our family), or if you’ve run out of a critical item (cat food!). You may be able to cut your grocery trips to every other week if you have a large refrigerator and pantry. This does mean that you don’t take advantage of each week’s loss leaders but that may not matter as much as avoiding the store altogether and spending even less.

If you are forced to make that emergency trip, then make yourself buy ONLY the item you need. Walk into the store and do NOT use a buggy, which would encourage you to fill that empty space with impulse buys. Don’t even take one of those carry baskets. Carry baskets, small carts, and large buggies: each one lets you put more stuff into it so you buy more stuff. If you hand-carry what you need, you’ll buy less.

It’s a rare month when I show up at the supermarket as many as six times. Most often, it’s a Saturday trip for regular restocking, and a trip to Braum’s about every third Wednesday to silence that damnable craving for Rocky Road. Then again, the only one eating around here is yours truly, so I always know what I need to buy and what I’m already out of.

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Entering maximum meta

I mean, you can’t get much meta-er than this:

And if you can, please send it along. In the meantime, here’s a classic from Roberta X:

This reminds me — the Hofstadter’s Law T-shirts are still running way behind schedule. Really thought we’d planned for that.

Now that’s meta within meta.

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Future blast furnace

Dr. B gives ear to a Brian Fagan podcast, and this question comes up:

In the question and answer period, he was asked what the stricken people can do about it? “Move,” he said, “is the only option.” If the world is heating up, where would he move to? “Canada. It will be dryer, much warmer, and their politics are reasonable.”

There are reasons, of course, for cynicism:

My cynicism is not that I don’t believe that there is a major problem with pollution (there is) or that the environment is being destroyed (we see it here) or even that the climate is changing (it is) but because too many want to pull all these things together to make a top down dictatorship where the elites run everything.

As I have written before, here in the Philippines, one of the side effects of the more radical “green movement” is that it makes things worse. Keep out mining and logging, and the result is illegal mining and logging with worse poverty and environmental destruction than you would get if you regulated companies to do it without destruction.

And grow green crops and avoid pesticides, chemicals, and of course GM food, but that leads to importing food from other countries that use chemicals, pesticides and GM seeds because the local organic stuff is too expensive for the poor to eat.

It’s a situation you can see right here in town: stores in more upscale areas attract buyers who are willing to pay 79 cents a pound (or more) for organic bananas when the standard-issue fruit barely brings half a buck. A good head of organic leaf lettuce is $3ish; the usual fare from the Jolly Green Giant and his peers might break a buck during the winter.

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A taxing journey indeed

One might expect the collectors of state income tax to be, at the very least, enthusiastic enough about their work to cash your doggone checks in a hurry. (Refunds? Another matter entirely.) Sometimes, though, the weakest link is the Postal Service:

With the May 1 deadline looming, I decided to call the county.

They processed the check yesterday.

I sent it on the 20th.

It was received on the 28th.

Eight days to go eight miles.

Hmmm. I live about seven miles from the Oklahoma Tax Commission. I mailed my state return on the 30th of March, a Monday, to OTC’s box in the downtown Post Office at 5th and Harvey, four miles from me and three miles from them. According to my bank statement, the check cleared on the 3rd of April, which was a Friday. No laggards here.

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Some like it warmish

It has probably never snowed in Chennai, a city in south India located on the thermal equator: the record low temperature is somewhere in the 50s Fahrenheit. (Don’t ask about the highs.) If you don’t remember Chennai, you might remember it as Madras, a name officially changed in 1996. Despite that, Trisha Krishnan was named Miss Madras in 1999, and wound up in Telugu and Tamil films.

Trisha reads a movie magazine

Trisha pays attention

She’ll be thirty-two on Monday. Earlier this year, she was engaged to Chennai-based producer Varun Manian, but apparently they’ve broken up:

It is known that, soon after Trisha rejecting a film under Varun’s production house, Radiance Media, reports were rife that she is staying away from her husband-to-be. Some reports also carried that Trisha was not seen wearing the engagement ring. Adding fuel to that, Trisha has given a miss to the most important marriage in Varun Manian’s family, last week. But what is Trisha doing staying away from Varun’s sister’s marriage? Is she busy shooting?

We do know she’s been busy. She’ll appear in six films scheduled for 2015 release, including Lion, due out next week:

This has “zany” written all over it.

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WNGD wonders

“Mostly sunny and 80” strikes me as close to perfect for World Naked Gardening Day, which since 2007 has been celebrated on the first Saturday of May. The first two WNGDs were in September; before the first one in ought-five, I put out a list of possible disadvantages, which even now draws a fair amount of traffic as the day approaches, much of it from NBC’s Today Show, which covered the event several years ago, quoting my list.

In the intervening decade, a couple of hardy souls have asked how many of those potential problems were based on personal experience. The answer now is the same as the answer then: “Most.”

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Flavor of the moment

Media fascination with Bruce Jenner seems to have evaporated with Jenner’s declaration of affinity with the Constitution and the GOP. These two items showed up more or less simultaneously in my Twitter timeline, and in fact, you’re seeing a screenshot from TweetDeck that illustrates that evaporation most economically:

Proximate tweets by Jen Richards and Bailey Jay

I suspect Jenner’s happy to have the camera pointed in some other direction.

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Kings X’ed

The other day, we lost Kingsmen singer Jack Ely, the definitive interpreter of “Louie Louie.” Now we’ve lost Benjamin Nelson, otherwise known as Ben E. King, and that’s at least as great a loss:

Ben E. King, the smooth, soulful baritone who led the Drifters on “There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance for Me” and other hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and as a solo artist recorded the classic singles “Spanish Harlem” and “Stand by Me,” died on Thursday in Hackensack, N.J. He was 76.

His lawyer, Judy Tint, said Mr. King, who lived in Teaneck, N.J., died at Hackensack University Medical Center after a brief illness, offering no further details.

King’s ascension to lead of the Drifters, an established R&B vocal group, was remarkable mostly for its suddenness: after original lead Clyde McPhatter departed, the group was indeed adrift, and manager George Treadwell, who owned the name, disposed of them and hired Harlem’s Five Crowns to be the new Drifters. “There Goes My Baby,” produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, was like nothing the old group had ever recorded: awash in enough strings for a Tchaikovsky festival, the song is mournful, lugubrious, every syllable dipped in agony. And then it’s over in a mere 2:17.

Ben hung around the Drifters for a while, then went solo. “Stand By Me,” written by King with the putative assistance of “Elmo Glick” (Leiber/Stoller in disguise), is indisputably one of the great songs of the era, maybe of the century; the hook, I think, is set when he sings “I won’t cry, I won’t cry,” and you wonder how it is that he isn’t crying at that point. Restraint is definitely called for under such circumstances; see, for instance, Tracy Chapman on The Late Show with David Letterman a couple of weeks ago, a rendition I’m almost certain King would have loved.

And now B. B. King, 89, no relation, is in hospice care at his home. When he goes — well, this is a trifecta I’d hoped never to see.

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Credibly blue

We have on occasion presented an outfit worn by the First Lady, mostly because her choices have sometimes seemed random: for every “Oh, this is lovely” I’ve breathed, there’s been a “What the fark was she thinking?”

Michelle Obama in Tadashi Shoji

While this is admittedly just about the least flattering pose I could find from this particular state dinner, FLOTUS here, I think, has chosen well:

While Michelle Obama is known, generally, for her lavish design choices — remember, for a moment, that $2000 sundress that looked like it had been purchased at Target — last night, possibly in response to criticism of the White House and DC media’s out-of-touch Correspondents’ Dinner performance, the First Lady instead chose a modest gown by Japanese-American designer Tadashi Shoji that would likely retail for around $700.

Part of this was protocol: His Excellency Shinzō Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, was the honoree, and Shoji was born in Japan, though he never did any serious fashion work until he moved to Los Angeles. And this isn’t quite the version Shoji showed on the runway — someone between there and here wisely added a lining — but this is a very nice blue, and it’s not being cluttered up with accessories. Besides, Shoji does texture well: consider, if you will, Octavia Spencer’s gown for the 2013 Academy Awards.

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Riding talky

Not that you were wondering, exactly, but since I seldom have passengers, this may be your one and only chance to find out what I’m thinking while I’m driving home.

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Inconceivably so

Holly Brockwell is 29 and quite determined not to have children; Britain’s National Health Service is equally determined not to sterilize her.

After stirring up that hornet’s nest in the Guardian, she decided to try a different megaphone: the Daily Mail. As usual with the Mail, the photographs are lovely and the comments are unreadable.

She says of the Mail experience:

[T]here are over 2,000 comments already and I did not in any sense read them all, because I still have to find time in the day to glare at children and milk the National Health Service dry. But here are some of my favourites, and my responses. Which I won’t be putting in the comments section, because that’s like trying to debate with a floor lamp.

I note for comparison purposes only that (1) I was sterilized the year I turned twenty-eight, but (2) I was married at the time and had already spawned the next generation, and (3) it was, unsurprisingly, a lot cheaper in 1981, even allowing for the relative simplicity of the procedure I had compared to the one she wants.

Still, I tend to take her side on general principle: biological destiny can go only so far. And the usual deployment of contraceptives made her quite ill, as was the case with the woman to whom I was married. (She’s 60 now and is much relieved not to have to think about such things.)

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Edge of seventeen plus one

Next month, Rebecca Black turns eighteen. What happens then, if anything happens then, is anyone’s guess, but this picture she sent up earlier this week indicates that glam is on her mind:

Twitter pic by and of Rebecca Black

Definitely doesn’t look thirteen — which she was when “Friday” went viral — anymore.

Disclosure: I cropped that photo a bit and lightened things up ever so slightly. This is the original as posted to Twitter.

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Hostel environment

What can we learn from this?

For some reason, it appears that building hotels next to city convention centers is a honey pot for politicians. I am not sure why, but my guess is that they spend hundreds of millions or billions on a convention center based on some visitation promises. When those promises don’t pan out, politicians blame it on the lack of a hotel, and then use public money for a hotel. When that does not pan out, I am not sure what is next. Probably a sports stadium. Then light rail. Then, ? It just keeps going and going.

Two examples are offered, in Phoenix and in Baltimore, where city-owned hotels next to convention centers have dropped tens of millions of dollars. This is, of course, easily explainable:

All the companies who chose not to build a hotel with private money obviously knew what they were doing, and only the political benefits of pandering the the public at large and a few special interests in specific made it seem like an attractive investment to city politicians. Which is all pretty unsurprising, since hotels have pretty much been built off every exit ramp in this country, so there seems to be no private inhibition towards building hotels — just towards building hotels in bad locations.

Which shows you how far behind the curve we are in the Big Breezy: we haven’t even selected our bad location. Yet.

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Many, many descendants

Say a prayer for the late Dorothy A. “Stella” Scrobola, who departed this life last week. We may presume she wasn’t alone at the time:

Clip from Mrs Scrobola's obituary mentioning a shitload of grandchildren

Whether said load is metric, we know not.

(Via Fark.)

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Insufficient flesh

Things have definitely changed since I was in school:

According to French media reports, a 15-year-old French Muslim girl was banned from her class twice for wearing a skirt that was too long, and therefore supposedly a conspicuous display of religion. France’s state secularism has led to very strict laws prohibiting students from wearing overtly religious symbols in institutions of education.

The student, identified as Sarah, already apparently removed her headscarf before entering the school, in accordance with French law. But her long skirt was deemed a “provocation,” and potential act of protest.

“The girl was not excluded, she was asked to come back with a neutral outfit,” a local official in the northeastern French town of Charleville-Mezieres, near the border with Belgium, told the AFP.

A social-media response:

The hashtag translates to “I wear my skirt as I like.” And a petition is up on change.org.

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