A different swing altogether

The explanation isn’t any more complicated than this:

When Han Solo was about to be placed in carbonite, he told Chewie to take care of Princess Leia. What happened after that was almost a love story for the ages. Almost.

Um, yeah. Almost:

If there’s anything I love as much as my favorite songs, it’s my favorite songs as filtered through Star Wars. And these are the same folks who did this one:

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A measure of attentiveness

As I mentioned earlier, I went to the movies yesterday, and was favorably impressed. As a rule, I shy away from Rotten Tomatoes-style numbers or Entertainment Weekly’s letter grades, but I think I may have hit upon something, based on one known repeated behavior: I always buy exactly one candy item from the concession stand.

The grade, as you may have guessed, is derived from how long I still have candy left, on the basis that if I’m bored with what I’m seeing on screen, I eat more. (This is definitely true outside the theater.) For Rainbow Rocks, I purchased one bag of Twizzlers Bites ($4.25). The film started at 10 am and ran until 11:20. The last of the Bites were polished off at — wait for it — 7:45 pm. Yes, folks, I took them home with me. It’s been a long time since I did anything like that.

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Faster than my ballot

My fellow Americans, meet your candidates for the foreseeable future:

“Senator X said so-and so! President Y smoked the dope! Mr. Justice Z is a mean ol’ poopyhead!” The media does it. Opposition politicians do it. You do it. Hey, guess what? They’re flawed. It’s no surprise when they have a skeleton or ten in the closet. Nobody wants those jobs without being deeply flawed — workaholics, people with so much to hide they figure they’d better help write themselves clear of the laws, attorneys with no knack for wills, contracts or litigation, weirdos who have never really felt loved or secure, philosophical whackos with an ax to grind: our government is mostly made up of people who couldn’t function in a real job. Some of them are plenty bright, plenty useful when kept on task; others help keep the chairs warm. The actually functional ones only do it as a part-time job.

Emphasis added. Yes, there are idealists; I give them about three months into their first term, and then the toxins seep into their brains and their hearts, not necessarily in that order.

And there’s this:

Nearly all of them think of the Bill of Rights as something to be read closely and weaseled around. It will not surprise you that most of them have law degrees.

Well, it’s the easiest part of the Constitution to misquote.

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I think she was needling us

While looking for something else entirely, I happened upon this Shaggs-y one-off single by Diva Zappa, Frank’s youngest (she’s 35 now). “When the Ball Drops” is a seriously wacky tale of trying to find a date for New Year’s Eve — and worse, New Year’s Eve 1999, before the New Millennium does, or doesn’t, begin. (You want Year Zero, talk to Trent Reznor.) Diva’s vocals are archly awful, which I assume is intentional; the backing vocals by Tipper and Kristen Gore — well, I prefer to believe that this is the one time in history when anyone in the Gore household did something amusing. Tipper also plays drums, for what that’s worth.

I’d heard Diva’s middle name was Muffin; according to discography site Discogs.com, her full name is Diva Thin Muffin Pigeen Zappa. She’s done some acting, and that one record, but her main interest is knitting:

I knit and make one of a kind wearable pieces of art. I blend color and magic, whimsy and love into every piece.

And I admit to smiling at this:

All pieces are inspired by light, faeries, magic, gunfire, Bruce Willis, tea and animals (to name a few).

Sounds like Frank. Except for the faeries, anyway.

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Symphony, seated

First, the context:

During a Thursday appearance on The View, Viola Davis fired back at the New York Times writer who recently said she was “less classically beautiful.” Last week, in an article that received plenty of backlash, Times writer Alessandra Stanley not only critiqued Davis’ looks but also referred to Shonda Rhimes as an angry black woman.

There was enough backlash, in fact, to provoke Times “public editor” Margaret Sullivan into an admission:

The readers and commentators are correct to protest this story. Intended to be in praise of Ms. Rhimes, it delivered that message in a condescending way that was — at best — astonishingly tone-deaf and out of touch.

For those of us for whom most of the Times is tone-deaf and out of touch, though seldom astonishingly so anymore, this wasn’t exactly news. And “less classically beautiful” inevitably implies a comparison: less than whom? Says the Times writer: Kerry Washington and Halle Berry. The question that remains: “But who isn’t?” Someone once asked me who, in my opinion, was the single most gorgeous woman on the planet. At the time, I said: “Either Halle Berry, or — who’s that woman who looks almost like Halle Berry?”

About the time I finished digesting the backlash articles, this appeared in the tweetstream:

Dayum.

Mr Dollar, sir, you speak truth.

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Mean Equestria girls

When the first Equestria Girls feature arrived last year, I noted that “I’ve already seen Mean Girls.” Nothing in that frothy little film, however, prepares you for the blackened hearts and overwrought costumes of the Dazzlings, whose origin is not from around Canterlot High, but from an Equestrian adaptation of Greek mythology, and whose song can turn anyone’s soul to the Dark Side.

Inasmuch as they didn’t have to spend half the running time explaining things, Rainbow Rocks is a far better film than its predecessor, and while there is the usual wagonload of sight gags and unexpected cameos and fanservice, there’s a nicely unfolded plot (so to speak) paced with precision, and packed with more (and better!) songs. But the best thing here, I think, is the redemption of Sunset Shimmer, once a villain, still working on being accepted as a friend; Sunset is the one character in the humanized-pony universe that is proving to have staying power. (Flash Sentry, maybe not so much.) If they’re going to keep turning out EqG stories at this level and on this budget — apparently Rainbow Rocks was distributed on Blu-ray disk — Hasbro and DHX will have pulled off a remarkable double play with a single set of characters.

We got only the one showing in town; it sold out some time before last night. (I’d ordered an online ticket on Wednesday.) About 10 percent of the crowd was doing some level of cosplay. And everyone duly hung around through all the credits, as they should have. There is, of course, a hashtag: #Ready2RainbowRock.

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Having your engine chipped?

It should not look like this when they’re finished:

Intake repair using a Pringles can

This is, I submit, the one advantage of Pringles over, say, Wavy Lay’s.

(From the BG Products Facebook page.)

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Toll you so

Surely somebody could have seen this coming:

In 2006, then-Governor Mitch Daniels (R) leased the 157-mile Indiana Toll Road to Cintra and Macquarie Bank, operating as the ITR Concession Company, in return for an up-front payment of $3.8 billion. Daniels promised to use that money to build new roads over ten years under a program he called “Major Moves,” while the consortium was allowed to charge motorists steadily rising tolls until the year 2081.

The consortium came up with the cash by borrowing $4.1 billion off the prospect of a “guaranteed” stream of future toll returns.

And both sides of this deal got squat:

Motorists paid $196 million to use the road last year while the consortium owed $193 million in debt service payments. This left just $3 million to cover the cost of 244 employees, maintenance, capital upgrades and related expenses. Reserves were exhausted in December, and the consortium missed a $102 million interest payment in June. With interest, the consortium’s total debt obligation now stands at $6 billion.

The promise of the Major Moves Fund also failed to deliver. The $2.6 billion fund was supposed to have been set aside from the $3.8 billion payment to the state government. It was to grow by 5.25 percent annually from investments. That did not happen, and the money ran dry in 2013, though tolling will continue for at least another 69 years.

If Daniels still has a wisp of presidential ambition, this should kill it once and for all: I got 99 candidates, and Mitch ain’t one.

(Via Fark.)

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One hundred K

The Jalops take on a question that never would have occurred to me:

Today, we’re going to cover a topic that has been plaguing neurotic car owners for decades: what do you do when your car reaches 100,000 miles?

To the most neurotic of car owners, the answer to this question is simple: your car won’t reach 100,000 miles. That’s because these people think a car with 100,000 miles is garbage; trash; refuse; the automotive equivalent to a toaster that won’t toast, which is really just a place to store your slices of bread every morning.

Blame the Less-Than-Greatest Generation for this:

I’m not sure where this 100,000-mile fear came from, but it’s certainly a commonly-held belief among virtually everyone from the Baby Boomer era. “Why would you want THAT car?” they’ll ask, revolted, as if they’ve just bitten into a sandwich that tastes like envelope glue. “THAT car has more than 100,000 miles on it. It’s the automotive equivalent to a blender that won’t blend.”

Allow me to exclude myself from “virtually everyone”: all but one of my cars survived for a decent interval after 100k, and the one that didn’t probably would have were it not for some damn deer. Gwendolyn is sporting 153k these days, and while her body isn’t quite what it used to be — she is, after all, fifteen, which puts her right up there with Helen Mirren if Helen Mirren were a car — she’s showing almost no signs of slowing down. (Yes, the brakes work. Don’t be a ninny.) And at the time she hit 100k, I was 3500 miles into a road trip.

Still, the yahoos continue to ask: “How many miles is too many miles?” I usually tell them to go down several price classes and buy new, because otherwise it will take them just about an hour and a half to jack up a major system to the point where the cost-benefit ratio fails to make that left turn at Albuquerque. The worst, perhaps, are the overenthusiastic guys who found a ten-year-old BMW for under ten grand and don’t comprehend the concept of a $99 oil-change special, and the ones who you just know came this close to being scammed by somebody on Craigslist who claimed to have their dream car for half Kelley Blue Book. (And, of course, the chronic masturbators who want Nissan Skylines, but that’s a whole ‘nother set of neuroses.)

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Land of the almost-free

Governments being overly fond of hiring people from other sections of government, rather than deal with those difficult individuals from the private sector, the fees charged by governments, almost always purely arbitrary, have a tendency to raise eyebrows. Sometimes they’re absurdly high, but sometimes they’re absurdly low:

On Tuesday we went into Yellowstone and met with the Superintendent there, who had also run the whole agency for about a year. A lot of the discussion was about sustainability — financially. The [National Park Service] raises less than 10% of its revenue from visitors, and so must constantly fight with Congress for cash. One problem is that Yellowstone (perhaps their premier park) charges just $25 per vehicle for a one week admission. This is insane. We have tiny state parks in Arizona with one millionth of the appeal that fill the park despite a $20 a day entrance fee. And the NPS (or really Congress) takes every opportunity to discount this already absurdly low rate even further. You can get into all the parks for the rest of your life for a single $10 payment with the Senior pass. This essentially gives free entry to their largest visitor demographic.

Then again, I also tend to think that postage stamps ought to be closer to a buck. (Canada Post is ahead of us there, though they’re also ahead of us in cutting services.)

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Quote of the week

Most of us, at one time or another, will encounter someone who is Clearly Inferior, and we won’t say a word because, well, we’re just not that way.

Which is a shame, because being that way leaves open the possibility of a denunciation like this:

Let me tell you why. I’m not in WalMars wearing what looks like a drag-queen’s best curtains turned into yoga pants and basted with neon. I’m not testing the tensile strength of those pants by sausaging a 10 pound rump roast into a 2 pound sack. I’m not wearing a t-shirt with what I can only imagine are strategically placed holes designed to let all eligible males know you are open for business and your nipples, even though they’re at approximate knee level, are fantastic as far as you and your pimp go. I don’t smell like I rolled in a puddle made of wet dog and Old Thunderholt and then sprinkled my seven-acre cleavage with glitter and cheap cigarillo ashes. I speak normal, understandable English. I haven’t spent my entire net worth on acrylic talons the length of Godzilla’s dick so I have to try to con the cashier into letting me get my generic cigarettes on the food stamp card. But you know the main reason, the absolute main reason I’m better than you?

I’m not you. Put that in your crack pipe, which I see sticking out of your oversized, stuffed with thongs you just shoplifted, purse, and smoke it.

Invertebrates like me will simply shop somewhere else and pay the extra $6.19 a week.

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Justice much as ever

Balladeer says goodbye to Eric Holder:

Holder will be remembered as the most corrupt Attorney General in history and as the man who did the most to violate the civil rights of American citizens since the late FBI Director J Edgar Hoover. Despite his misconduct Hoover got a building named after him so at some future date I guess we’ll see the “Eric Holder Sewage Plant” or some such construct. The Democratic and Republican crime gangs afford each other these little courtesies, after all.

There once was a referendum to name a San Francisco sewage plant — um, “water pollution control plant” — after George W. Bush. The measure was somehow rejected.

Also, because we must, Fark reports on Holder’s departure this way: “US Attorney General Eric Holder to resign, presumably to take care of unfinished business at Coruscant”.

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There’s never been a drought like this

Well, it’s pretty dire in California. But this is nothing compared to, oh, eighty years ago:

Mr Mitchell, meteorologist for channel 5 in Dallas/Fort Worth, used to be meteorologist for channel 5 in Oklahoma City.

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Brightness control

The Internet, says Bark M., has changed everything:

We used to think people who had vast memories and the ability to devour, and later recall, great bits of knowledge were “smart.” Who needs to do that anymore? Each one of us has a device with the entirety of the knowledge of mankind in our pockets at all time. And, largely because of this, everybody seems to have an opinion on everything, because it’s easy to do a Google search and instantly find out what your position on virtually anything should be. I can’t write a column on TTAC without commenters disputing everything I say, claiming to have all knowledge of all types of cars, despite the fact that they own a 2003 Altima and have never competed in any sort of autosport. The latest C&D review of the new Mustang GT was the best example I’ve seen of this recently — about halfway through the article, I already knew that the commenters would be screaming “45k FOR A RUSTANG LOL YA RITE.” None of them can afford a $45k car of any type, of course, but that doesn’t matter. The internet and social media have mistakenly made all of us think our opinions are equal and valid, when, in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The Mustang will sell as fast as dealers can get them.

In my capacity as a person who supposedly easily once qualified as Smart v1.0, I have to admit to a growing level of complacency: if I don’t have The Answer, surely someone else out there has, and that should take the pressure off me. Opinions are still worth about as much as they always were — one of them and $7.99 will get you a combo meal for a limited time only at participating locations, tax not included — but the sheer quantity of them insures that no one is waiting with bated breath for mine.

In a lower-quality automotive environment, such as Yahoo! Answers, most of the loudmouth participants would be lucky to have a 2003 Altima; among the worst ones are the characters who are “temporarily” living at home, “paying no bills,” making $50-60k a year, and wanting to know how close they are to owning a Gallardo. I usually tell them that the reasonable upper limit of their aspirations is a ’99 Corolla. They resent the hell out of that; the only people who are consistently more hostile than this are the ones who can’t understand why they can’t have a Nissan Skyline, and the ones who go on for several paragraphs about how much this crapmobile they bought from a buy-here-pay-here dealer for only 200 percent of list keeps breaking down every other week, and demand to know “What are my rights?” (The answer to that, of course, is “If it breaks in half going down the road, you get to keep both halves.”)

And besides, we’re all smart. The Ed Biz says so:

Now, in modern schools, every kid is “smart.” They have something like seventy-four different types of “intelligence,” and all the kids are intelligent in some way — they even have “physical intelligence” for the kids who are athletically gifted. All the tests that we used to think determined some sort of intelligence are now deemed in some way or another to be “biased.” I used to endlessly mock my brother because I scored about 200 points higher than he did on the SAT (granted, I took it when I was 17 and he took it when he was 13 or something, but still). He claimed that they made the test easier in the eight years between our respective testing dates — now it’s not even up for debate. The college entrance exams are much, much easier than they used to be. I don’t even think they give IQ tests to kids now.

I mention this because (1) his brother reads this stuff occasionally and (2) my brother, the one who was four years younger than I and passed away in 2010, scored about 200 points lower than I did on the SAT. Then again, he was the grounded one; I was the neurotic. (And yet he’s gone, and somehow I’m still here.) And had he been turned loose on those nimrods on Y!A, or even the Best & Brightest at TTAC, he’d have torn them enough new ones to cause a worldwide gauze shortage, while I barely draw blood.

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Currently comestible

This is enough to make me reject the theory that “You are what you tweet” all by itself:

Some of those I can actually believe: sauerkraut in Wisconsin, cod in Massachusetts, grits wherever there are grits. But this is Twitter, and Twitter is part of the Internet, and the Internet is ruled by bacon, dammit.

Personal note: I have family in Missouri (two children, six grandchildren). If they’ve ever mentioned succotash, I missed it — and yes, at least some of them are cluttering up social media the way I do.

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Taking stalk

I have long suspected this, but actually doing the experiment myself was simply out of the question. Now, though, there is corroboration:

When something sounds too good to be true, well, it probably is. Take “negative-calorie foods” as an example. The notion is that digesting certain foods burns more calories than those foods provide. The faulty logic of this urban legend is based on the scientifically proven thermic effect of food (TEF), which simply means the amount of energy the body uses to digest a food. The thinking goes, if you were to eat a very low-calorie food — common examples include celery, apples, and limes — then you’d actually create a calorie deficit. In other words, these foods would end up costing less-than-zero calories.

Sadly, there are no negative-calorie foods. The TEF generally ranges from 10 percent to 20 percent of the calories in a food. So let’s say a celery stalk has seven calories. Even if you assume a 20 percent TEF, that means you’re still left with about five and a half calories.

In the specific case of celery, chewing the stalk is supposed to expend some smallish number of calories, though 5½ seems a bit high unless you’re one of those people who counts every chew up to N, where N = 32, probably.

Still, that isn’t the biggest problem with celery:

Which is almost certainly true.

(Via Violins and Starships.)

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