As real as it may seem

Former teen dream Debbie Gibson turns 44 this Sunday, and since I’ve been paying attention all along, I’m in a position to toss you a few not-entirely-random factoids regarding the Debster:

Oh, and she still dresses up nicely:

Debbie Gibson at Madison Square Garden

Of course, the main event for the evening was Rockets vs. Knicks, but hey: it’s exposure, and it’s New York exposure.

And because I think highly of this song, here’s Deb’s last official Billboard Hot 100 chart item: “Losin’ Myself,” a seriously moody number written by DG with Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers (Rythm Syndicate), which peaked at #86 in early 1993.

Too much too soon, maybe?

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Underbanks of the Ohio

“Unbanked” now has its own entry in Wikipedia, with the following unfuzzed definition:

The unbanked are adults who do not have their own bank accounts. Along with the underbanked, they may rely on alternative financial services for their financial needs, where these are available.

I have had a tendency to conflate “unbanked” and “underbanked,” which I suppose I should quit doing. If you’re underbanked, this is what your life is like:

The underbanked are people or businesses that have poor access to mainstream financial services normally offered by retail banks. The underbanked can be characterized by a strong reliance on non-traditional forms of finance and micro-finance often associated with disadvantaged and the poor, such as cheque cashers, loan sharks and pawnbrokers.

I demur on one count: loan sharks are hardly “non-traditional.” (Neither are pawnbrokers, come to think of it.)

And one possible reason to remain unbanked, underbanked, debanked, or whatever, is the continuing increase in retail bank fees. Since the end of 2013:

  • The average monthly maintenance fee has risen by 15 cents, to $12.69. This means that it costs the average customer more than $150 a year just to keep a checking account.
  • There are fewer free checking accounts, defined as those with no monthly maintenance fees. The percentage of checking accounts with no such fees dropped by about 1.5 percentage points, to 28 percent. This is the lowest percentage of free checking accounts measured by the survey since it began in 2009.
  • The average minimum balance required to qualify for a waiver of the monthly maintenance fee rose by $724.69, to $5,440.

And then we wonder why people are dealing with the likes of Green Dot. Of course, we also look down our noses at these folks, mostly because their demand for services means that, holy Hannah, they’ve opened up a check-cashing place where the florist used to be.

My monthly maintenance fee, I am told — I had to look it up — is $15. (It’s waived for the foreseeable future.) If I had to deal with that kind of fee, I’d be sorely tempted to move everything to an unbank (underbank?) like American Express Serve. Then again, I do a little more (but not much more) research than J. Random Consumer; if I’d done much more, you’d probably have seen the words “credit union” in here somewhere.

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The Element of Pasta

The British have long feasted on things like stodge and spotted dick, so I figure Pinkie Pie is a step in the right direction:

You should probably keep cans of this stuff all over town, in case of food emergency.

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The latest dish

Nicole’s dishwasher has gone south, or some other dysfunctional direction, and the results have been twofold:

I’ve been doing dishes by hand for the last several nights. And because we have a tiny ant infestation that is not being eradicated by Terro, my normal ant scourge, I’ve been having to do them every night after dinner. First bad thing.

Second bad thing — doing the dishes every night means that I have it put in my face every night that we really don’t need more than 2 plates. Which is bad because my regular grocery store is next to Pier One.

Disclosures:

  • Last time I had a dishwasher was when I was living in the CrappiFlats™, eleven years ago.
  • At the time, I had four plates; I have since broken one.

Pier One is pretty close to my bank, but I try to avoid going to the bank.

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Still a person of interest

MTV actually put Rebecca Black to work at this year’s Video Music Awards, since arguably she does more in the way of music video than they do.

I did like this photo she tucked away on her Facebook page:

Rebecca Black on the red carpet

Still holding on to that exuberance, I see.

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From the baud old days

If thine broadband be broader than mine, then do say it:

But there are a lot of those old steam-powered modems still in service.

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More than just a weird trick

Actual subject line from yesterday’s mail: “This Simple Action Poisons Your Organs (On National TV)”.

Inevitably, there’s a questionable link, with this text: “Why Eating Salad Makes You Old.” I rather suspect that I’d be old even if I’d never had a salad in my life. (Last actual salad: last night.)

And the sender, it says, is “Reverse Disease.” Um, what about all that organ poisoning?

There are, say the experts, people who respond to these things. How? Surely they’re dead by now.

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Taking the full upright position

Otherwise known as “Hey, you’re lucky we even let you on the plane”:

Next time you buy an airplane ticket check the fine print. What you probably won’t find: language to the effect of “the purchase of this ticket fully and without restraint entitles the ticketholder to the recline function of his seat for the duration of the flight”. That doesn’t mean one can’t recline. (It also doesn’t say you can breathe while on the flight…) It does mean however that claims like “I paid for the right to recline!” are made-up. No, you paid for an airplane ticket. There are some things explicit (we’ll take you from point A to point B, at such-and-such time, we kinda-sorta promise) and many things implicit. It didn’t specify a “right” to recline just like it didn’t specify a “right’ to occupy such-and-such volumetric cylinder of space extending from the tip of your seat up to the ceiling, and along the bisecting midpoints of the armrests on either side of you.

Ultimately, this is a good argument for taking the train, assuming there’s a train to take.

And my lowly 1970s Toyota would allow me to recline almost 90 degrees, useless for driving but wonderful for grabbing a nap in the Scenic Turnout.

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Stay out of my inbox

Nothing makes you dread the New Mail notifier more than, well, new mail, especially if it’s wholly unnecessary, as most of it is, and I have to admit, I’m not as badly squeezed for time as, say, your friendly neighborhood college professor:

“For years, student emails have been an assault on professors, sometimes with inappropriate informality, sometimes just simply not understanding that professors should not have to respond immediately,” Spring-Serenity Duvall, assistant professor of communications at Salem College, wrote in a blog post last week. “In a fit of self-preservation, I decided: no more. This is where I make my stand!”

And that stand was elegantly simple:

Screen shot of Professor Duvall's email policy

Which, I concede, is much kinder than RTFS (the last word is “syllabus”), and you can’t argue with these results:

It’s difficult to convey just how wonderful it was for students to stop by office hours more often, to ask questions about assignments in the class periods leading up to due dates, and to have students rise to the expectation that they know the syllabus. Their papers were better, they were more prepared for class time than I’ve ever experienced.

It is also difficult to tally the time I saved by not answering hundreds of brief, inconsequential emails throughout the semester. I can say that the difference in my inbox traffic was noticeable and welcome.

(Via the Instant Man.)

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This was briefly a thing

One thousand followers

Of course, this could not be permitted to stand:

Within three hours, someone had obliged me — as I knew someone would.

Addendum: Someone new has been lured into the fold.

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How many more times?

I didn’t really warm to Led Zeppelin until their second album, the legendary Brown Bomber, so I must yield to Jack Baruth on the matter of the latest incarnation of the first:

The Super Deluxe Edition of the first Zep album is obviously the most commercialized, crass, regrettable, anti-rock, boomer-focused, rich-ass-yuppie piece of stupid bullshit to ever disgrace the name of the band that once bestrode the earth like a Colossus. Except it isn’t. To begin with, it comes with stuff you really want: rare photographs, perfect letterhead facsimiles of press releases, and additional historical information that will be familiar to those of us who have read all the Zep biographies but is presented in compelling fashion nonetheless.

The music itself — well, I had concerns. Page is an old man now and who knows how good his ears are when it comes to remastering and mixing forty-five-year-old tracks? No need to worry. He did a good job, at least by my standards.

And for your $118.98 (at this writing), Amazon semi-generously throws in an MP3 copy (regularly $13.49).

Not that I’m going to complain, having spent $60 or so for the four-disc Pet Sounds box set, and we know how Brian Wilson’s ears are, especially the right one.

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Semi-useful household advice

I’m not sure why this was stuck onto a My Little Pony-related post, but what the heck:

Watch for chewing, especially around items such as electric cords. Ferrets are also prone to certain illnesses — and injuries — and may also require emergency services. Don’t make any sudden movements as you don’t want your boa constrictor to bite you as boas are sensitive to humans and can easily feel threatened.

And sometimes they’re hungry.

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Helping make an indifference

Jumping off from last week’s QOTW, mushroom observes:

If you look at most of what drives the discussions about political parties it often revolves around whether or not politicians care. Bill Clinton was elected because he could feel our pain, not to mention feeling up our interns. George Bush campaigned as a compassionate conservative and suffered because he was supposedly uncaring with regard to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Obama has taken a hit recently because he was yucking it up on the golf course with his celebrity partners moments after a press conference in which he expressed outrage and grief over the beheading of journalist James Foley.

Democrats and Republicans, all successful politicians are good at pretending to care about the concerns of their constituencies. The truth is that most of them really only care about themselves, their own financial and professional success, and the pursuit of power. Most are lawyers. Lawyers are people who make a living by pretending to be a friend speaking for whomever is paying them.

If we’re going to play Maximum Cynic here — and really, why shouldn’t we? — this could benefit Hillary Clinton in 2016, since nobody is likely to be emotionally invested in the idea that she cares.

On t’other hand, there’s such a thing as Constituent Service, when you have to ask a favor of a pol even though you’re not in a position to add to the contents of his wallet or the cash flow of his PAC. This state’s delegation is mostly pretty good at it, I am told, though it’s been many years since I had to call on a member. (How long ago? There were Democrats elected from this state.)

And I have to wonder if the mavericks in Congress — our own Tom Coburn is a prime example — are that way because they’re not lawyers. (Coburn, lest we forget, is an OB/GYN.)

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Let the stars of Twilight thereof be dark

It has never been any particular secret that you can sing “Amazing Grace” over the theme from Gilligan’s Island. (Or, for that matter, the other way around.) As the phrase goes, four chords, no waiting.

Presumably, though, a line must be drawn somewhere:

In February, I asked if anyone else was uncomfortable with Dan Schutte’s Mass of Christ the Savior (2010) — which appears to be written in a secular style.

Some other Dan should be mentioned: Daniel Ingram, who’s responsible for the theme song to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which a passage in Schutte’s Mass resembles more than slightly.

No, seriously. Listen for yourself.

We have to assume that this was unintentional. Still, it clearly has the power to unsettle.

(Roger Green sent me this. The title is from Job 3:9.)

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None of which explains Goofy

Okay, I’m willing to accept Taylor Swift as an information-security specialist, but this is a bridge too far:

I (along with every other woman who was once in third grade in the early 1990′s) was shocked, absolutely SHOCKED to recently learn that Hello Kitty is not, in fact, actually a cat.

“Wait, WHAT?” you say. “But the ears … and the whiskers … and her last name is Kitty … wait, are you punking me, because if you’re not, wait WHAT?”

Well, actually, her last name is White. But still:

Christine R. Yano, an anthropologist from the University of Hawaii (who is curating an upcoming Hello Kitty retrospective for the Japanese American National Museum), told the L.A. Times that she had referred to Hello Kitty as a cat in her written text for the exhibition, and Sanrio was like “Actually … no.”

“I was corrected — very firmly,” Yano said. “That’s one correction Sanrio made for my script for the show. Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a cartoon character. She is a little girl. She is a friend. But she is not a cat. She’s never depicted on all fours. She walks and sits like a two-legged creature. She does have a pet cat of her own, however, and it’s called Charmmy Kitty.”

You have to figure that Sanrio would know these things, but I keep wondering what else they haven’t told us about Kitty, like that facial expression right out of Harlan Ellison.

I suppose I need to ask Twilight Sparkle if she is in fact a pony.

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Odium at the podium

We are now a week and a half into the new school year in the Little Rock School District, and there’s nothing yet floating around about possible violations of the new dress code for teachers [pdf], enacted last year and now in effect. Some of the highlights:

“Foundational garments shall be worn and not visible with respect to color, style, and/or fabric,” the letter reads. “No see-through or sheer clothing shall be allowed, and no skin shall be visible between pants/trousers, skirts, and shirts/blouses at any time.”

T-shirts, patches and other clothing containing slogans for beer, alcohol, drugs, gangs or sex will also be prohibited. Other verboten garments will include cut-off jeans with ragged edges, cut-out dresses and spaghetti-straps if teachers aren’t wearing at least two layers.

Flip-flops will be banned. “Tattoos must be covered if at all possible.” No jogging suits, either (though gym and dance teachers do get a pass on this one).

And the very worst of all: No spandex.

I know of only one teacher — not in that district, or even in that state — who’s admitted to wearing flip-flops; if she ever went commando, I don’t know about it.

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