Driving off with the goal posts

Or at least they’ve been moved a whole heck of a lot in a decade and a third:

Currently, the {Mercedes-Benz] C300 4Matic is powered by a sluggish 3.0-liter V6, only putting out 228 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. That, combined with a 3,737-pound curb weight, is why the current model takes 7.1 seconds to get to 60 miles per hour and only returns fuel economy ratings of 18 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg highway.

And then I look out in my garage, where I see a 3.0-liter V6 putting out 227 horsepower and 217 pound-feet of torque. It was the most powerful machine in its class back in the day, and now apparently it’s down there among the “sluggish.” (Current EPA rating is 17/25.) It might be able to do 0-60 in 7.1, though. And yes, I’ve griped about this before.

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Julius would not be pleased

If you were thinking that orange was such a happy color — which, of course, it is — you have to allow for the possibility that not everyone has a high tolerance for it:

Went to a wedding reception last night where orange was a prominent color. The bride’s older sister was wearing a bright orange skirt, the bride’s father was wearing a bright orange tie, my wife was wearing a flowered blouse thing with several orange flowers, and the tables were decorated with large sheets of paper, the topmost of which was orange. I credit my noticing all this orangeness to Dustbury’s continued posting of pictures of people wearing orange stuff, and what do I see when I open his blog this morning?

Scootaloo in a non-mellow moodWhat he saw was this. And well, yeah, there’s a lot of orange stuff here. I am always willing to do, redo, and eventually overdo a premise, much to the apparent dismay of little Scootaloo here. (Yes, a My Little Pony reference; see previous sentence.)

Speaking of Scootaloo, McDonald’s in Germany held a contest a few months back, asking customers to create and name a new sandwich. The winning entry was in fact named for this young pegasus filly; amusingly, it’s a chicken sandwich.

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Order now for next season

Because they’re custom-made and can’t possibly be done in time for the Finals:

Oklahoma City Thunder heels

Here’s the pitch:

Utterly captivating, Limited Edition, authentic HERSTAR™ Custom Crystal Pumps representing the Oklahoma City Thunder. Encrusted, dazzling, and intensely mesmerizing with every step, these elite pumps command a presence of their own. Fully hand strassed in luxurious, hand selected Middle Eastern crystals, then offset by a sky-high 6″ heel and 3″ internal platform; these glittering heels glisten on the court and off. They are simply magical to behold. Step into these shimmering, sparkling pumps and be ready to light up the games.

There’s an upgrade to real Swarovski crystals available, at a much higher price. If you can live with the more mundane crystals, these will cost you $295. And yes, the NBA is actually licensing these.

(Plucked, of course, from the tweetstream.)

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Block bleach

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s executive VP Michael J. Petrilli, a booster of neighborhood gentrification — it has a salubrious effect on neighborhood schools, he argues — went looking for the ZIP codes showing the greatest indication of same, using as a rough criterion the increase in non-Hispanic white population. Ninth on his list was 73104 in Oklahoma City, which went from 11 percent white to 39 percent between 2000 and 2010.

This is not surprising to anyone familiar with the area, which sits just east of downtown: there has been substantial residential development north and east of Bricktown, and much of it has been pricey. City-Data.com, which tracks real estate and income numbers, reports that a median-priced home sold in 73104 in the last quarter of 2006 would have gone for about $50,000; five years later it was $390,000. None of this has yet to spill over into 73117, the next ZIP code to the east, but give it time.

Thirteenth on the list is Charleston, South Carolina 29492, which strikes me as something of an outlier. The post office was assigned to the area known as Wando, north of Mount Pleasant but part of Berkeley County. Part of its delivery area was the largely undeveloped Daniel Island, sitting in the Cooper River, which didn’t take off until Interstate 526 (the Mark Clark Expressway) was built across the area and the Daniel Island Company acquired basically the entire island, both in the middle 1990s. The high school I attended, in downtown Charleston for its first eighty-odd years, relocated to Daniel Island in 1998. I visited the school and the area in 2001, and while the developed areas looked fabulous, you didn’t have far to go to reach the boonies. The population has more than doubled since then, though.

Number 5 on the list, Austin, Texas 78702, east of Interstate 35 north of Lady Bird Lake, probably got its numbers by dint of the fact that it’s too expensive to live west of Interstate 35 north of Lady Bird Lake.

And interestingly, of the top 25, four of them are in Brooklyn, New York: 11205, 06, 37 and 38.

(Via the Atlantic Cities section.)

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The pose, struck, strikes back

The Stepsister SchemeJim C. Hines has written several fantasy novels, including a four-book “Princess Series,” based on the premise that “happily ever after” is both unnecessarily dismissive and ultimately untrue. As is de rigueur in genres of this sort, the cover art will include a female character posed in an improbable position. Jim was okay with that, until he got the idea of trying to duplicate positions like that himself. Empathy for the characters, doncha know.

His conclusion:

My sense is that most of these covers are supposed to convey strong, sexy heroines, but these are not poses that suggest strength. You can’t fight from these stances. I could barely even walk.

Which just goes to show you — something, I suppose.

(This was brought up during the 26th annual MisCon, in a panel on urban fantasy.)

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Such a deal, they SHOUT

A question that deserves some pondering:

[W]hy do scammers always print their names in ALL CAPS? Whether they claim to be Nigerian oil ministers or Chinese missionary real-estate moguls like MR QIAN HUA PAN & YAI CHOW WONG PAN (that’s a direct cut-and-paste from the email), you can always tell a scammer by his all-caps name.

The only exception to this seems to be the Brazilian spam, of which I get an abundance, perhaps due to having a dormant account at Orkut, which has relocated its headquarters from California to Belo Horizonte because, well, that’s where the users are.

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The lure of the well-turned ankle

About three years ago, Gerard Van der Leun, a man with unquestioned taste and discretion, posted an advertisement from the old “Gentlemen prefer Hanes” series. I responded with one from my own stash, perhaps hoping to stir up some competition, but none was forthcoming.

Now here I sit with dozens of scans of this sort, and no place to put them. So I may as well post some of them here. This one dates to 1954, a time when apparently Tex Avery was still a household word:

Advertisement for Ballet Hosiery from October 1954

The fellow in the corner really needs to learn some discretion, wouldn’t you say?

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Strange search-engine queries (332)

This is the weekly exercise that involves a quick run through the week’s logs, and then a slower, more exacting pass in which possible jokes are derived from available search strings. It’s a complicated system, but after several years, it’s doing fine.

how to find the transmission cable on a 2001 626:  It’s across from the muffler bearings. (Rule 1 of DIY auto repair: before you go looking for a part, make sure the part actually exists.)

random weather statistic:  This past winter, it was impossible to find snow shovels for sale in Anchorage, Alaska.

how will hail damage effect ford escape availability:  They’ll ship them all to Anchorage in the winter, and nobody will notice.

canada should annex:  Vermont. The climate’s about the same as in southern Québec, and Bernie Sanders would probably be happier.

sweetgum trees grow like weeds:  Except that most weeds don’t leave little spiky balls for you to step on.

what is that thing on a boot:  It’s a spur. Drop by San Antonio sometime to see one.

fortunately, the oklahoma city did not get blake griffin:  Yeah, that’s what they said in San Antonio.

slimmer dinosaurs:  The Bloombergosaurus, of course, claimed full credit.

sexy young girls you have on your list an older sexy young schoolgirls you have all of them a while lot annie little school girl of 11 years old and 10 years old and that order sexy young girls:  With all that typing, when do you find time to wank? (It’s pretty obvious that those are the only two things you ever do.)

brian wilson hearing the voice of phil spector:  Well, you know, it’s better than hearing the voice of Charles Manson.

invisible art by warhol and yoko, where else has it been shown?  Everywhere, but no one ever noticed it.

how are my little pony friendship is magic names stripper names?  Somehow I can’t imagine Twilight Sparkle taking it all off in Valley Brook.

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Beneath the streets of Toronto

This story is called “Die Another Day,” and justifiably so:

A woman, crouched down, is at the very edge of the platform. Her toes are over the edge and she has her head buried in her hands. I’m afraid that calling out to her will startle her and she might fall, so I stand just beyond armslength away and desperately hope that she’ll look up at some point before I hear the sound of a train. She glances to the side just long enough that I’m able to make eye contact with her. I ask if she’s okay. She doesn’t respond, just shakes her head. “If you’re not feeling well, it’s dangerous to be that close to the edge,” I say. She shakes her head again. Her face is red — so red — like she’s burning up. I ask if she’s sick; she says she has a fever. When I offer her an Advil, she looks right at me and says “It’s not that kind of fever.”

I just know in my heart, immediately, that she has AIDS. I glance up at the clock. Due to the flood the trains are running less frequently and there isn’t one due for 4 minutes. I ask her “Is it okay if I touch you? Can I help you move back?” “No,” she says. I crouch down beside her, although not as close to the edge and still just beyond armslength away as I can’t gauge her mental state. “Why are you here?” I ask. She says it doesn’t matter. She has a fever all the time and it doesn’t matter. Over and over again, it doesn’t matter it doesn’t matter. I tell her that’s not true. That’s not true at all. “It matters to me. You matter to me.” She looks a bit spaced out and I’m scared she’s going to fall forward. I want to take her hand but I know that if that spaced-out look is her experiencing psychosis, I could be putting myself in danger of being pulled onto the tracks if she jumps. I look at the clock — 3 minutes.

In the late 1980s, when I was wrestling with the question of whether it wouldn’t be easier just to Get It Over With rather than continue to drag on in a state of severe emotional damage, I said that over and over again: “It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter.” Seeing it again here serves as a double shock to the system, reminding me of where I once was, and of the fact that others are finding it just as tough going through those same suburbs of Hell.

Disclosure: The author and I go back about fifteen years, to when she was a budding musician and I was a babbling idiot on Usenet.

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Dirty birds

Well, maybe not so much. But in 1915, when Dr George Levick wrote up his findings on the sexual habits of the Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) on Cape Adare in Antarctica, he couldn’t help but filter those findings through the mores of the time:

He was so shocked by what he saw he even wrote in Greek to disguise the information. ‘There seems to be no crime too low for these penguins,’ he wrote.

Levick described ‘little knots of hooligans’, penguins that hung around the outskirts of the colony, terrorising any chicks that went astray. He wrote, ‘The crimes which they commit are such as to find no place in this book, but it is interesting indeed to note that, when nature intends them to find employment, these birds, like men, degenerate in idleness.’

He observed and commented on the frequency of Adélie penguin sexual activity, autoerotic behaviour, the behaviour of young unpaired males and females including necrophilia, sexual coercion, the sexual and physical abuse of chicks, non-procreative sex and homosexual behaviour.

Or, as it’s called in 2012, “Saturday night.” Except maybe for the necrophilia, and eventually we found out that technically that’s really not what it was: they’re not actually into dead chicks, but apparently they don’t check for life signs before approaching. Bird motivations and human motivations don’t necessarily coincide.

Dr Levick’s report was not published with other studies from the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition, though more generic observations made it to his book Antarctic Penguins: a study of their social habits (New York: McBride Nast & Co., 1914). The report has now been published in the journal Polar Record at Cambridge, and it will cost you to read it.

(Via this syaffolee tweet.)

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No longer the hot topic

Tatyana has decided that she’s had it up to here with political discussions:

Only 6 months ago I was totally in the game, reading at least 10 political blogs and getting into online (and sometimes off-) debates on the hot topics.

But that was then. Now:

Maybe it is exactly my — at some time — close familiarity with people supposedly on the same side of political divide that disillusioned me, but my general attitude now run something like “plague on both your houses”.

It occurs to me that if the alleged leaders of those houses thought they could retain their power and perks, they’d gladly, even gleefully, welcome that plague.

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Eight digits and counting

Robert Stacy McCain and his faithful sidekick Smitty have now recorded ten million hits, a circumstance which calls for some recognition. And they got them the old-fashioned way, too: they busted their [insert euphemism here] to get the word out.

What? Envious? Me? Not in the least. I have neither the time nor the inclination to work that hard. However, I note semi-ruefully that McCain once had a post that garnered 438 comments, which exceeds any thread here by a factor of ten. Then again, if I wanted to read feedback all day and into the night, I’d try to wangle a job at Equestria Daily.

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How it’s done in der Vaterland

Admirers of European semi-socialism — sometimes without the prefix — look upon the high tax rates in the Eurozone as a feature rather than a bug, and they tend to be scornful of those nasty American companies who work so diligently to avoid taxes.

Then there’s the curious case of Volkswagen and Porsche. Former Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking had masterminded an ongoing attempt to buy out the much larger Volkswagen group; it failed, Wiedeking was set free via golden parachute, and after the dust settled, the resulting corporate structure had the Porsche holding company, owned by the Porsche and Piëch families — the government of Qatar has a 10-percent stake — owning 50.7 percent of VW Group, which in turn owned 49.9 percent of Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, the Porsche unit that actually makes and sells cars. (The Porsche holding company owned the other 50.1 percent.)

This has stuck in Volkswagen’s craw for some time now, and earlier this year VW Group decided to buy out the rest of Porsche AG. The trick was finding a way to do so without incurring a ginormous tax bill, and apparently they’ve succeeded:

The way has been found, says Wirtschaftswoche. The out has its price: €118, or $148. That’s the price of one share of Volkswagen stock.

Under the new deal, Porsche SE [the holding company] receives €4.5 billion, and one Volkswagen share. If a share changes hands, then it’s not a sale, but a tax-free restructuring.

Now that’s ingenious. [whistles admiringly] These are apparently the rules in the Eurozone, and Porsche SE is organized under European Community regulations — hence “SE,” short for “Societas Europaea,” the official designation for such an operation. (Before you ask: “Dr. Ing. h.c.” was Ferdinand Porsche’s title, “Doktor Ingenieur [honoris causa],” reflecting the fact that his engineering degree from the Vienna University of Technology was honorary.) Volkswagen will own all of Porsche’s carmaking assets, and will save almost two billion euros in taxes. Warren Buffett, darling of the American left, couldn’t have played it any better.

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Outpatience

To borrow a premise from Augustine: “Lord, give me delayed gratification — one of these days.”

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Saturday spottings (much weathered)

The Big(gish) Storms on the 30th of May left their mark over much of the town; at least one house on every block, it seems, is sporting a sign advertising a local roofing company. And there’s still a lot of ex-tree debris piled up on various curbsides, which the city has vowed to remove as part of the monthly Big Junk pickup. Mine was picked up on Wednesday; they left only a couple of small sticks behind, which is better than I had any right to expect, given the essentially random way it was stacked up.

There are also a fair number of cars sliding around town with duct-taped plastic sheeting in lieu of actual window glass. I was caught this afternoon behind some poor old Mopar econobox that had lost both a rear window and the trunk-lid latch: the lid flew open under acceleration, then eventually dropped back down and bounced with the road irregularities. The road in question being May Avenue north of 30th, there were lots of irregularities.

In somewhat better shape was a Nissan I saw at a supermarket parking lot: a very old Altima — old enough to have received a Stanza badge, which means twenty years at least — with the series name spelled out in letters several inches apart: A L T M I A. Wait, what? This must have been one of the first models built in Amercia.

In somewhat poorer shape, I must assume, was the guy who pulled his ancient Mitsubishi into what he thought was a handicap space up front. Turned out to be the ramp to the entrance, and he came within a yard or two of actually driving into the store. Near as I can tell, he’d just been there, had left a bag of something behind and wanted to retrieve it, and this way store staff would have less distance to carry it. Managers were mobilized, and he was gone long before I finished filling up my cart.

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One hundred years of platitude

The courts of Moscow have decreed a ban on gay-pride parades through the year 2112, by which time one may safely assume that all the members of said courts will have vacated their seats.

The Bayou Renaissance Man finds this, to put it mildly, risible:

WTF??? You don’t like the cause for which protesters are on the streets, so you ban the protests for the next century??? I can’t think of anything more calculated to make the banners look ridiculous — and justify the protesters in the eyes of any sane person!

I suppose it’s too much to hope that the ban will end with the overthrow of the Priests of the Temple of Syrinx.

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Sitar hero

Today is the thirty-first birthday of sitarist Anoushka Shankar, daughter of Ravi Shankar (and half-sister to Norah Jones). Most of the pictures out there fall into two categories — either Hard At Work or Overly Glammed Up — so I looked for something to split the difference:

Anoushka Shankar

Both Anoushka and Norah were nominated for Grammy Awards in 2003; Jones won five, including Best New Artist, while Shankar’s Live at Carnegie Hall album was beaten out in World Music by Rubén Blades. Curiously, the 2002 World Music Grammy had gone to Ravi Shankar, for an album recorded live at Carnegie Hall. Go figure.

And for those of you who haven’t heard a sitar since George Harrison, here’s Anoushka playing one of her father’s compositions at the 2003 Concert for George, in memory of Harrison, who had died the year before.

This qualifies as Hard At Work.

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Greatest commencement speech ever

Okay, maybe not ever, but surely this is one for the ages. David McCullough Jr. addresses the Class of 2012 at Wellesley High in Massachusetts:

[C]ommencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism. Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue. Normally, I avoid clichés like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field. That matters. That says something. And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all. Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same. And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.

All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special.

You are not special. You are not exceptional.

Contrary to what your u9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special.

Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman! And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…

But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.

It gets better — one might even say Incredible — after that:

“But, Dave,” you cry, “Walt Whitman tells me I’m my own version of perfection! Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!” And I don’t disagree. So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus. You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another — which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?”

You know a kid who needs this speech. (You probably know an adult who needs this speech.)

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I blame Erasmus B. Dragon

Click and Clack will go out with a clunk:

TOM: And with Car Talk celebrating its 25th anniversary on NPR this fall (35th year overall, including our local years at WBUR)…

RAY: …and my brother turning over the birthday odometer to 75, we’ve decided that it’s time to stop and smell the cappuccino.

TOM: So as of October, we’re not going to be recording any more new shows. That’s right, we’re retiring.

RAY: So, we can finally answer the question, if my brother retired, how would he know?

There are enough old shows, of course, to keep the thing going for another 25 years, and to remind you not to drive like either of them.

(Dragon, you may recall, is the head of their Working Mothers Support Group.)

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Bucking proud

PBS’ Idea Channel floated this semi-defense of the brony community, suggesting that they may be “changing the definition of masculinity,” or something like that:

While I don’t take issue with any of their conclusions — and the brief image of Anaïs Nin riding Rainbow Dash put all sorts of notions in my head — I must point out that there is, in the current MLP television series, one classically (and of course stereotypically) masculine attribute, possessed to at least some extent by all of the Mane Six: they’re prepared to kick ass and take names.

Consider, if you will, the situation just after the midpoint of “A Canterlot Wedding.” The false Princess has been exposed, Celestia is temporarily disabled, the entirety of Equestria is about to be overrun with changelings, and the Elements of Harmony are pretty much inaccessible. Can half a dozen mares save the world as they know it? As it turned out, no; but that didn’t stop them from going full-tilt at the invaders. “A mare’s gotta do what a mare’s gotta do,” I said while watching the battle. There’s a lot to be said for simone-pure guts, even when they’re wrapped up in a pastel-colored package.

(Seen at DerpyHoovesNews.)

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