A switch to whip you with

Children who grew up in a Certain Era remember this phrase with horror. That sort of thing is passé now, because sticks are just too valuable these days:

Three birch branches from Crate and Barrel

The warm white color and papery bark of natural birch branches adds a rustic, outdoorsy look to wintertime décor, blending equally well with classic and contemporary interiors. Bunch of three branches, gathered in the U.S., comes wrapped in jute and can be used for years to come.

Only $29.95 the set from Crate and Barrel.

Now the question becomes “How do you punish the child for breaking a stick worth ten dollars?”

(Via @twonervousdogs.)

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Embrace the brokeness

You want to know what’s really killing the blog? The lure of micropayments:

[I]t’s essentially impossible to have any discussion about blogging without that discussion turning toward, not blogging, but rewards for blogging — readership and pagerank and ads and Adsense clicks, and all of those numeric metrics that can add up to making more money from ads or selling products or selling the blog itself.

Many bloggers chase that reward, focusing the entire blogging effort on increasing their Adsense payments from enough money to buy a burger a month, to enough money to buy a burger a week. The entire value of what should be a joyous creative-effort is reduced, in perception, to a few dollars. And if the reward stays at a few dollars, or in fact never goes above a few pennies, they feel stupid, like they’re suckers.

Even when a blogger doesn’t actually care about money, the measure of a blog is still often based on the measures that produce money — readers, page views, pagerank.

Yeah, I watch those measures myself. But I assure you, they don’t make me a dime. In fact, my current stat service costs me $100 a year, more than the cost of actually running the site after I cash in my various referrals and kickbacks. Still, in an average month, I will churn out 15,000 words and lose about a tenth of a cent on each and every one of them. Since I’ve been doing this for almost twenty years — well, I must be making it up in volume, right?

If I were going to monetize (Jeebus, I hate that word) this stuff, I’d do it the hard way: bind it into a book or three. For the moment, though, while it’s certainly time-consuming, it’s not what I’d call budget-depleting. And if push comes to shove, I can always borrow the five most important words in the English language: “Hit the freaking tip jar!”

Oh, wait. I don’t have one of those, either.

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Weatherproofing

An unusually warm October will be followed, I expect, by several months for which “unusually warm” will be a pleasant memory at best. I don’t like it, but I’ll live through it — I think. It’s not as easy as it used to be.

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Quote of the week

Morgan Freeberg gets ready to roll over the tens digit:

Next year I’m closing out my first half-century on the planet. That’s a rather ethereal, fluffy reality that’s hard to grasp. I know how to grasp it though: The probability that I’m past the midpoint, has ceased to be a likelihood and is now a certainty. What am I to do with that bit of cheerless information? First, we can distill it further: If life is a book, maybe I’m not yet on the final chapter but I know I’m in the final part of it. My perspective on the whole thing no longer matches the perspective of: a young adult, a teenager, a toddler, a baby. My dreams and complaints bear only a passing similarity to their dreams and complaints. Whereas, the complaints of those with one foot already in the grave, assuming they still possess all their faculties, match mine thought for thought and syllable for syllable.

I’m not saying I have one foot in the grave, but I know where the toes point, so to speak.

One of his conclusions from those first 49 years:

The first thing we should not want to see in our leaders is eagerness to be the leader. People who harbor this kind of zeal to bark out orders to others, make bad leaders. I remember one gentleman, no longer with us, who didn’t work this way. He’d hang back, let everyone make their own decisions about how to do their work from one hour to the next, one day to the next, one meeting to the next. Then he’d come alive, like a fly-eating house plant, when a question surfaced that would require some authority to be answered properly. Until that happened, he knew how to lie dormant and let the team resolve the smaller issues the way the team saw fit to resolve them. Contrasted with that style, the “little emperors” constantly barking out orders cause a lot of trouble. They destroy morale, because they want to hog all of the credit whenever something good happens, and when something goes awry you can count on them hunting for somebody to blame.

On my corkboard at work: “1 manager = 1,000,000 micromanagers.”

Okay, maybe 1,048,576. Trust me, in the real world it’s a rounding error.

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Worth less than nothing

Some people may sympathize with these folks, but I don’t:

I read that banks collected $30 billion in overdraft fees last year. That’s like $100 from every person in the country. I can imagine that there are a few flakes who have so much money they can be careless with it, and if they run up a thousand dollars in overdraft fees a month it’s no big deal. But there aren’t very many of those folks. I’ve had a couple or three overdraft charges in my life, and I life to think that I am not out of the ordinary. To make up for all the people who keep track of their money and for all the ones who don’t even have a bank account, there must be a bunch of people incurring $1000 worth of charges a year, like one person out of ten. I just don’t get it. Doesn’t $1,000 mean anything anymore?

It’s worse than you might think. With the general decline in check usage and a concomitant increase in payment-card usage — at 42nd and Treadmill, our business is now about 70 percent plastic — about the only people actually paying these fees are the few remaining check writers with no money and the people who get charged for using their overdraft protection. Deadbeats without overdraft protection have their debit cards declined, and we see about fifty of them a week. For one of the nichiest of niche markets, that’s a hell of a lot of people who are, to borrow a Briticism, totally skint. This wouldn’t bother me so much if they’d take that first decline as a warning, but they don’t: I’ve seen people present the same bad card — or worse, a whole portfolio of bad cards — week after week. Once is a mistake, maybe; twice is stupidity; three times is fraud.

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Spinning the wrong wheels

“It’s either me or that damn car,” she says:

3 long years ago… I decided to save for a new car after driving my Toyota Corolla 09. I had friends who bought civics “ultimate rice car” and they wanted me to join their crew. I was honestly jealous and was almost tempted to just buy one and make it a project car but I told myself I’m doing it for myself or my friends. It was just that teen vibe of riding with you re friends and feeling cool with loud exhaust you know.. Considering I did not get that with my corrolla. Any whom 3 years later I bought my DREAM CAR Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. Around an year an a half I met my girlfriend who now is threating me to break up with me due to me spending to much on modifying my car. She hates it but I love it. I’ve tried to explain to her everything why I do it and that I love working on cars… Anyways now she wants me to sell it or she will “break up with me”. (She is doing this because we are struggling financially and selling it would help a lot.. But I just don’t see myself doing it.) She says it’s “slowly tearing us apart before our own eyes”. I love her dearly… I love my car dearly.. I’d just like people’s opinions is all.

It’s pretty obvious to me: he values “feeling cool with loud exhaust” more than an actual, breathing female.

The amusing aspect of this, I suppose, is contemplating the vast number of clueless goobs out there who believe that driving the right wheels will bring them romance, or at least an occasional grope in the back seat. (Cars which lack a back seat — well, that’s another matter entirely.)

He may take comfort in the fact that Mitsu is dumping the Evo after generation ten, and he might even end up with a collector’s item if he doesn’t wrap the damnfool thing around a tree.

As for me, I’ve been to this neighborhood: after I got married, one of my first instructions was to get rid of my scary old ’66 Chevy Nova, the fright factor of which was derived, not from its speed, but from its junkyard-ready appearance. There were, I concluded, better things to break up over.

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Not the right pitch

In fact, I’d say that this was downright tone-deaf. From 2013:

A New York attorney told a judge that a 25-year sentence was too long for a man convicted of murdering a transgender women because her life was not as valuable as someone “in the higher end of the community.”

“A sentence of 25 years to life is an incredibly long period of time, judge,” said attorney John Scarpa, when asking the judge for leniency on Rasheen Everett, who was convicted for the 2010 murder of Amanda Gonzalez-Andujar.

“Shouldn’t that [sentence] be reserved for people who are guilty of killing certain classes of individuals?” he asked.

Real subtle there, John.

Gonzalez-Andujar had been a sex worker; Everett, it seems, considered himself a victim of a bait-and-switch scheme. The judge, however, was not having any of Scarpa’s dick move:

Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter scolded Scarpa as he sentenced Everett… “This court believes every human life is sacred,” he said.

Thank you, sir.

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With her head in the clouds

We have yet another contender for Longest Legs. This is Holly Burt, of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg district, six foot five, 49.5 inches from hip to hoof, a tall drink of water by any standards not involving basketball:

She’s the tallest in her family, though not by much: her dad is 6’1″, her mom is 6’0″, and she has a 6’0″ sister. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she won’t date anyone under 6’3″.

Holly Burt seated

Holly Burt standing

And maybe let’s cancel that “basketball” remark. Point guard Shannon Bobbitt, who played four years in the WNBA and was last seen playing in Europe, is all of five foot two.

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Hammer and Sith

Now this is my idea of historic conservation:

An ongoing decommunization process in Ukraine, in which all Communist and Soviet symbols are being renamed and removed, had set a statue of Vladimir Lenin as its next target. This particular Lenin statue was near a factory in Odessa, however, and workers at the factory requested that the statue be redesigned rather than demolished. Local artist Alexander Milov obliged, transforming Lenin’s visage into the iconic armor of Darth Vader.

Statue of a Sith Lord where a Bolshevik used to be

The Sith Lord’s stature, so to speak, has apparently grown since the debacle of last year:

Darth Vader failed in an attempt to be elected Ukraine’s prime minister, unable to muster the votes despite a high-profile campaign. The aspiring politician had previously been known as Viktor Shevchenko, but he had his name changed to Darth Vader and also adopted the appearance of the Star Wars villain.

To add insult to injury, Darth Vader was not even allowed to vote. Fully embracing his new role, he had refused to take off his mask after being asked to do so by election officials, thereby incurring their wrath.

Vader/Shevchenko, representing Ukraine’s Internet Party, had vowed to alter the deal; he found his lack of votes disturbing, and it did prevent him from altering it further.

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Having had it up to here

I’ve gone out more than once with mismatched socks, which of course was utterly mortifying once I found out. (Never tell me my socks don’t match. You will plunge me into the Slough of Despond.) What I need is this level of indifference:

I’m getting ready to go out and I just put on two knee-highs of different colors and I don’t even care. But it made me remember back to a time when knee-highs were something new and they were more stockingish and less disposable. I read somewhere — Hints From Heloise or a fashion advice column in Seventeen magazine — that if you had a bunch of mismatched knee-highs you could boil them together and they’d all come out the same color. I did that at least once. I don’t remember if this technique actually worked but I do remember that one knee-high touched the dry rim of the metal sauce pan and burned up.

I wonder if it would help to freeze them first.

Not being part of the target market, I’m asking: Do buyers actually stock up on several different colors?

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Keep on pushing

Unfortunately, you can’t cross the chasm in two steps.

Kitteh has learned. We think. (It doesn’t hurt that kitteh has delusions of indestructibility.)

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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Unwellness of a sort

This is no way to start a week:

I retweeted this and received an answer: Panera Bread. Nearest might have been Beverly Hills, which for some inscrutable Beverly Hills-related reason closes fairly early, though not that early. And delivery? Perhaps it would have been better had she been in Louisville.

Anyway, there was no improvement the next day:

At least she’s sticking to serious remedies.

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Whatever this may mean

I have bloodwork done a minimum of three times a year, since some of the numbers derived thencefrom have occasionally been alarming. For the last decade or so, the blood has always been drawn from my left arm — or, when the veins are too embarrassed to show themselves, from my left hand.

For some reason this week — the only good reason I can think of is that they’d moved the furniture around — they drew from my right arm. And right there in the bend, for the first time in a decade, is a nasty bruise.

I’m not sure what to think of this. I mean, it’s not like I’m all of a sudden left-handed; I have always been a northpaw, and I thought that was why they drew from the left. And the left never bruises. (Used to the trauma, I suppose.) It will go away eventually, as bruises always do, or at least as mine always have. But it’s still strange.

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What goes (somewhat) around

It seems unlikely that the Fisker Karma failed in the marketplace because of its name, but you have to wonder about Henrik Fisker’s future prospects:

Karma is a Sanskrit word that translates literally to “action” or “fate”; in Hinduism and Buddhism it signifies (per Collins English Dictionary) “the principle of retributive justice” or (per American Heritage Dictionary) “the totality of a person’s actions and conduct during successive incarnations.” Bad actions lead to reincarnation in a lower order of being; good actions lead to rebirth in the higher orders.

In other words, if in a past life (say, 2011) you manufactured an unpopular car, in the next life (say, 2015) you are unlikely to prosper.

Meanwhile, China’s Wanxiang Group, which acquired the rights to the car, will restart production next year (maybe) under the Elux brand name. Maybe they can do something with it. So far, Maximum Bob Lutz hasn’t:

During Fisker’s Congressional investigation and plant shutdown, Lutz and his jet-fighter-flying partner, Gilbert Villarreal, had 20 Karma gliders waiting for a transplant and 100 orders. Lutz also said he had Karma owners interested in converting their cars to Destinos so they wouldn’t become “boat anchors.” Production was supposed to start last fall, although when we asked today, VL said it was “still working out the details” and would not comment further. The VL Destino comes with either the Corvette Stingray’s LT1 450-hp V-8 or the old ZR1’s 638-hp supercharged V-8, offering shoppers a choice of a six-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.

For “today,” read “20 February 2014.” Later that year, VL Automotive merged with WM Greentech. The renamed WM Destino remains vaporware, albeit really fast and expensive vaporware. Whatever cards Wanxiang may be holding, they’re being held close to the corporate vest. As for Fisker himself, we haven’t heard a word.

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Least-surprising development

This is part of a press release, but it’s so much more:

Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: IMMY), a specialty pharmaceutical company focused on the development and commercialization of proprietary compounded drug therapies, today announced it has made available a customizable compounded formulation of pyrimethamine and leucovorin available for physicians to consider prescribing for their patients as a low cost alternative to Daraprim®.

Last month, Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC, the sole supplier of Daraprim, increased the price of this prescription drug from $13.50 per tablet to a reported $750.00 per tablet. The FDA-approved label for Daraprim indicates that it is prescribed for toxoplasmosis and other types of infections. Toxoplasmosis can be of major concern for patients with weakened immune systems such as patients with HIV/AIDS, pregnant women and children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pyrimethamine works to block folic acid synthesis in the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, the cause of toxoplasmosis, and leucovorin helps to reverse the negative effects on bone marrow caused by this mechanism of action.

Imprimis is now offering customizable compounded formulations of pyrimethamine and leucovorin in oral capsules starting as low as $99.00 for a 100 count bottle, or at a cost of under a dollar per capsule. Compounded medications may be appropriate for prescription when a commercially-available medicine does not meet the specific needs of a patient. For ordering information, please visit www.imprimiscares.com.

There is, of course, a catch:

Imprimis’ finished compounded drug formulations do not have an FDA-approval label for recommended use. Imprimis compounded formulations are not FDA approved and may only be prescribed pursuant to a physician prescription for an individually identified patient consistent with federal and state laws governing compounded drug formulations.

This state has some fairly specific laws on the subject: a long list of “Good Compounding Practices” takes up six pages of the Pharmacy Lawbook [pdf]. Still, since Imprimis claims to distribute their compounds in all 50 states, one might assume that they’re in compliance with Oklahoma law.

And truth be told, it would almost be worth it to shell out $99 (plus, presumably, shipping) for a bottle of this stuff, purely as a way of saying “Screw you, Martin Shkreli.” That would, however, be, um, illegal, since I don’t actually have toxoplasmosis. I think.

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On average, we’re broke

Like you need a headline that tells you that:

The average American took in $44,569.20 last year, according to data released Tuesday by the Social Security Administration. It marks an increase of 3.5 percent from 2013.

Still, 67 percent of wage earners made less than or equal to the average. Median compensation came in at $28,851.21 for the year, up from $28,031.02 in 2013.

I can remember when twenty-eight K seemed like a fairly tidy sum.

(Via Fark.)

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