A white lab coat of enamel

The Z Man, for one, welcomes our new mechanized practitioners of medicine:

It seems to me that one place where the robot future should be a reality is in basic medical care. Instead of paying an arm and a leg for disinterested humans to act as a go between, let the patients talk to the robots direct. A mall kiosk could be used for blood pressure, urine and blood work. While you’re there you answer questions on a touchscreen. A week later the robot e-mails you the results and any recommendations.

Of course, the robot would also have access to your DNA. As we march into the humanless future, DNA will become the touchstone of medical science. Connecting the dots between genes and a wide range of diseases is a data problem, in most cases. Cheap collection devices in public places means masses of data to sort of collate.

Robot care would inevitably be cheaper and that means more people would get regular checkups by their local neighborhood robot doctor. If this sort of service were $50 a shot, most people would do it twice a year. Extend the services to things like flu shots, and nuisance things like colds and allergies and most of your basic care could be done on the cheap by the machines.

And if there’s one thing that’s not happening now, it’s basic care done on the cheap:

Of course, none of this is going to happen because the medical rackets are neatly aligned with the ruling liberal democrats. America does not have a government run system like Britain; it’s more of a partnership between the industry and the state. That way, we get the worst of both worlds. On the one hand there’s the avaricious private suppliers and on the other the mindless idiocy of government.

Yeah, but Big Business is generally happy to operate under Uncle’s thumb: they know that Uncle can sweep away competitors with a flick of his wrist — preferably his other wrist, but that’s the chance you have to take.

I’m fond of pointing out that we have all around us one of the greatest health care system on earth. American veterinarian medicine is better than what most humans enjoy on earth. It’s also cheap and plentiful. That’s because it is largely government free and parasitic lawyer free. Maybe when the robots take over, they can just kill all the lawyers and bureaucrats. Then maybe medicine will because a normal business again.

Dick the Butcher, your update is ready.

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Perhaps meant for each other

Two souls with a single thought, however far apart:

Text from Calvin Harris about scissors

Text from Taylor Swift about scissors

Of course they’re dating.

(Via TSwiftDaily.)


And soddenly

It’s the rainiest month ever — over eighteen inches with nearly a full week to go — and if I’m not actually drowning, I’m not taking it well either.

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Strange search-engine queries (486)

Things are apt to be even stranger for a couple of weeks, as we switch over to a new analytical system; however, we will continue to try to bring you, as we always have, the best of the worst.

Brain bug “Brain sucking” erotic:  Are you sure you didn’t mean “erratic”?

deadline 627 blogorrhea:  Well, then, it’s a good thing we’re only at 5/25.

transmission coolant line serviced now having shift problems:  You’ve heard that phrase “If it ain’t one thing, it’s another”? This is another.

economics At Fenway Park home of Boston Red Sox seating is limited to 34,000. Hence the number of tickets issued is fixed at this figure:  This is Captain Obvious reporting for SportsCenter.

its beautiful:  Yes, Fenway Park has its charms.

i was tortured by the pygmy love queen mp3:  A short-term relationship, I presume.

Taiwan Chat Meet Girls Meet Boys Make Friends Find Love…  Ah, if only it were that simple. (See “pygmy love queen,” supra.)

what was one of the advantages of western civilization:  It was reasonably well-mannered, perhaps too much so to thwart the barbarians at the gate.

your a curator of a museum. the museum is running out of funds-you decide to increase or decrease admission prices:  We’ll file this under “Western Civilization Problems.”

come who is thirty:  Certainly not I.

chevy van song crap:  A lot of those old Chevy vans were crap, and many of them were used to haul crap.

who has the price list for chaz on charles:  Did you check with Chuck?

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No Schlitz, Sherlock

The problem with beer commercials is that they’re aimed at guys who fancy themselves in beer commercials, which may do wonders for planting an association but which ignores (we won’t suggest degrades) roughly half the species. This sort of thing worked back in Don Draper’s day. Today, though, it apparently takes technotrickery to try to get women interested in the product:

How it works:

The campaign by advertising agency Philipp und Keuntje, Hamburg, Germany, creates personalised content for viewers, fabricated from 70 unique videos. Additionally, when the ad identifies men, or those who it deems underage, it will tell them to keep on walking.

The installation identifies commuters via a built in camera coupled with facial recognition technology.

Possible downside: if this brand catches on as, say, the Official Beer of Women, the sort of guys who fancy themselves in beer commercials will likely spurn it forevermore.


A little more than minor housekeeping

With SiteMeter in free fall from once-useful utility to apparent vendor of malware, I have opted to remove their code from the blog portion of this site. (This leaves about 8,000 static pages which will have to be changed manually, scheduled for When I Get Around To It.) If you’re coming into a current page, you should no longer have to deal with attempted redirects to vindicosuite.com. For the time being, I have switched to StatCounter, which in its WordPress plugin form does not display in the sidebar. The pricing is about the same, and StatCounter has a couple of features I’d wanted, most notably an integration with Google’s Webmaster Tools.

I have also had a few issues with the comment-subscription routine, which you may remember; I have juggled a couple of things, installed a new subscription manager, and I’m thinking there’s a slight chance that it might actually be working. If you’re not getting your notifications, please advise.

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Synths and sensibility

This Fark blurb caught my eye last night: “Happy Birthday to Robert Moog. Stand up and give him a sine wave”.

And this is what it brought me:

Featured: a newly constructed exact duplicate of the Moog Modular Synthesizer from the middle Sixties, as used by Keith Emerson. Turn it up loud and scare the family pets.


Apply Miskatonic as needed

InStyle.com has a little slideshow called “The Weird and Wonderful Past of the Hair Dryer,” from which I have plucked this one item for your dining and dancing pleasure:

1936 hair dryer

Of this particular model, they say:

Alien abduction, or hair styling session? This model, showcased at the 1936 Hair and Beauty Fair in London, featured a series of heat-radiating rods to completely cover the head.

If your stylist should resemble Ithaqua the Wind Walker, you perhaps should try another salon.


A sort of hands-off policy

Robert Stacy McCain, who was once a college-age lad himself, offers advice to the present-day generation:

It is easier for many young women nowadays to express craven sexual lust than to admit their actual desire to be loved, and I think a lot of young guys are confused by these mixed messages. As religious morality has waned, and as the “script” of romantic custom has been dissolved by an acidic postmodern cynicism, many youth simply don’t know how to negotiate their male-female relationships in what we adults would consider a reasonable manner.

Therefore, I’d tell a young guy who is “on the hunt,” so to speak, to consider that it is better to lose out on an opportunity to “score,” if he cannot “score” on a basis of honesty. Don’t get yourself into a situation where there is confusion as to whether it’s friendship, romance or just straight-out carnal lust. If you think a girl is getting the wrong idea about the transaction, better to tell her the blunt truth and risk scaring her off, than to “lead her on” (to use an old-fashioned phrase) with romantic dreams you must eventually shatter.

Love is a contact sport. Severe emotional injuries occur routinely. If you can’t play the game by fair rules, you’d be better off staying on the sidelines.

Having never really been on the receiving end of “craven sexual lust,” at least not to the extent that I developed any reliable means of recognizing it in the first place, I can’t really just sit here and nod; but I can agree — indeed, I must agree — that it’s better to forgo that extra notch on the headboard if you’re not absolutely certain of the mental states, both yours and hers, involved. Dealing with a brief period of cornflower hue in the scrotal region is far better than dealing with legal briefs.

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Dole it out

It’s hard to imagine — though, unfortunately, not hard enough — how someone could come up with an idea like this:

A dollar bill is a special kind of thing. You can keep it as long as you like. You can pay for things with it. No one will ever charge you a fee. No one will ask any questions about your credit history. And other people won’t try to tell you that they know how to spend that dollar better than you do.

For these reasons, cash is one of the most valuable resources a poor person in the United States can possess. Yet legislators in Kansas, not trusting the poor to use their money wisely, have voted to limit how much cash that welfare beneficiaries can receive, effectively reducing their overall benefits, as well.

The legislature placed a daily cap of $25 on cash withdrawals beginning July 1, which will force beneficiaries to make more frequent trips to the ATM to withdraw money from the debit cards used to pay public assistance benefits.

Since there’s a fee for every withdrawal, the limit means that some families will get substantially less money.

It’s even worse if the machine only dispenses twenties: you won’t be able to get even $25 at a time.

There were, of course, justifications offered:

“There are actual reports posted as to where the ATMs were that cards were used by Kansas residents,” said state Sen. Caryn Tyson (R), the Ottawa Herald reported. She said that beneficiaries were using their cards “at liquor stores, cigarette shops, strip joints. Casinos was another. There was a $102 [withdrawal] from a person in Colorado at a Rockies baseball game. We don’t know that they spent it on the game, we don’t know what they spent it on, but the ATM was at the Rockies facility. Another one was on a cruise.”

I am less inclined to grumble about the profligacy of some Kansans than I am about the assumption that We Gotta Teach These People A Lesson. Believe me, I know what happens when the money runs out before the end of the month, and by no means am I extraordinarily bright.

Let’s see if Governor Brownback ups the ante by setting up, say, a Meals On Wheels-like gruel dispensary.

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Digging those deep cuts

So Russell Westbrook puts up a brief (well, it would have to be) Instagram video in which he’s singing along with Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.”

Swift, who seemingly never misses anything, was quick to respond:

Life is good, right, Russ?


Out to pasture

Maggie Gyllenhaal wore this Dolce & Gabbana gown to the 2014 Tonys:

Maggie Gyllenhaal at the 2014 Tonys in Dolce & Gabbana

Perhaps not the most flattering look for her. Let’s try something a little less formal:

Maggie Gyllenhaal in a 2014 photoshoot

Now this is the point at which things get weird:

Maggie Gyllenhaal, an Oscar nominee getting Emmy buzz for her work on the Sundance miniseries The Honourable Woman, revealed that she was recently turned down for a role in a movie because she was too old to play the love interest for a 55-year-old man.

No kidding.

“There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time,” she said during an interview for an upcoming issue of The Wrap Magazine. “I’m 37 and I was told recently I was too old to play the lover of a man who was 55. It was astonishing to me. It made me feel bad, and then it made me feel angry, and then it made me laugh.”

As a man who was 55 seven years ago, I think this is ridiculous.

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Yowusupwidat by cc:DivaThis album came out twenty-seven years ago, and about every 27 months or so I remember that I have it and give it a spin. Nobody I know seems to have heard a note of it, which seems to justify giving it some space here, especially since it’s not entirely unknown on YouTube.

First, to explain “cc”: it apparently stands for “coat check,” a job once held by singer Natalie Bonelli; she and multi-instrumentalist NAYAN (officially styled in all caps) were the two members of the group, and they cut yowusupwidat? in 1988 for EMI-Manhattan. The leadoff track actually has a video:

EMI put out four singles by Natalie and NAYAN, including the one cover song on the album: a version of “Grazing in the Grass” which seems actually even more upbeat and cheerful than the Friends of Distinction’s big hit or even Hugh Masekela’s trumpet instrumental. (Philemon Hou, I am told, devised the melody while hearing an early Masekela backing track; Friend of Distinction Harry Elston wrote the words.)

And after that, cc:Diva vanished. NAYAN’s name appears as a credit on a couple of latter-day Tiffany tracks; Bonelli contributed “Letting Go” to the soundtrack album from the TV series Dawson’s Creek, sung by Kim Sozzi, and released a solo album, Natalie Bonelli, this year, which includes her own recording of “Letting Go.”


Insufficient squeeze

One of the nice things about this site is knowing that I have as much space as I want to do basically whatever I please. One thing that’s not so nice is the fact that having all that space and all that freedom doesn’t make me the slightest bit more creative:

Vine gives you six seconds, Instagram a square frame, Snapchat a fleeting window to make your point. And who could forget Twitter, a platform built on the idea that 140 characters is enough to say anything?

Every one of these services launched to a chorus of disdain. Famed linguist Noam Chomsky dismissed Twitter by declaring that it’s “not a medium of a serious interchange” (the vital role it played in historic events like the Arab Spring would suggest otherwise).

And I suspect that Chomsky was not pleased with Twitter’s seeming lack of a Formal Grammar.

Instagram was hounded by sneering comments about “showing people what you had for breakfast,” in spite of the proliferation of serious artists using it as a medium. And Snapchat still carries a reputation for being a naked selfie exchange program, despite only 2% of university students using it for sexting.

All of these services are now household names, the catalysts for an unprecedented amount of creativity — and in every case, that creativity is fuelled by the limitation the service imposes. Why?

Because it provides something to push against.

Blank verse seems much more “liberated” than, say, the sonnet, which has a fixed number of lines, a standard meter and a predictable rhyme scheme. Yet the sonnet, now nearly 800 years old, easily adapts to contemporary concerns.

Look at the golden years of Motown. Some of the greatest records of our time were made in an effort to satisfy Berry Gordy’s singular vision of The Sound of Young America, which called for high levels of tunefulness, speedy production, and fitting it into three minutes or less. (For instance: the mono and stereo edits of “Heat Wave” differ markedly, but both run about 2:40; I was startled to find out that the original master take ran to nearly four minutes, which Gordy wasn’t about to permit in those days.)

And truth be told, I’ve flourished on Twitter, if only because I am practiced in the art of the one-liner.

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The real Central Scrutinizer

In my semiannual review of my auto-insurance bill, I have occasionally evoked Frank Zappa’s Central Scrutinizer, ubiquitous yet inaccessible, a decent metaphor for the industry as I’ve seen it.

And, if I may say so myself, a predictive one:

Got a letter from State Farm Insurance yesterday offering me a discount. All I have to do is give up any thought of ever having any privacy. Like I have any privacy in my current digital lifestyle. They call it in-drive, it plugs into the diagnostic port on your car, the same port that DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) uses to see if your car is still spewing the recommended daily allowance of carcinogens. I think I’ll pass. I have enough entangling alliances as it is, I don’t need any more.

State Farm is hardly the only firm offering such a scheme. Still, it seems awfully Zappa-esque:

This is the CENTRAL SCRUTINIZER … it is my responsibility to enforce all the laws that haven’t been passed yet. It is also my responsibility to alert each and every one of you to the potential consequences of various ordinary everyday activities you might be performing which could eventually lead to The Death Penalty (or affect your parents’ credit rating). Our criminal institutions are full of little creeps like you who do wrong things.

We are so screwed.


Follow the bouncing lyric sheet

One might say that most popular music is not exactly cerebral. (Rush fans, please wait until we’re done.) But how much is “not exactly”? Well, not very much:

According to Andrew Powell-Morse at Seatsmart, the reading level of the top-selling chart hits has been getting lower and lower for the past 10 years. The average reading level for the lyrics of a chartbuster in 2005 was between the third and fourth grade. The average level last year was between the second and third grade, and a number of the major hits are well below that.

The reading level algorithm takes into account sentence length, word length, number of syllables and so on. This right away can show what one of the problems might be in assessing whether or not a song is really dumb. A song that repeated the word “Mississippi,” for example, could score higher than a song that repeated “Utah” just as often. The two would be equally meaningless, though, and could be described fairly as equally stupid.

Then again, one could argue that lyrics have been getting dumber ever since Cole Porter died. That was 15 October 1964; what was the #1 song in Billboard the following week? This was:

“Subdivisions,” it ain’t.