Message delivered

Remember when New York was plagued with malparkage by minions on UN duty claiming diplomatic immunity? Apparently the US Postal Service thinks that this was a model worth following:

In a Jan. 22 letter sent to both the city of East Cleveland, Ohio, and the company that operates the city’s photo-enforcement program, Postal Service attorney Jennifer S. Breslin says two school-zone speeding citations and five red-light infractions by postal trucks in December should be ignored… “[A]s you are probably aware, the Postal Service enjoys federal immunity from state and local regulation.”

That company, American Traffic Solutions, shot back a letter to Breslin noting that USPS procedures and case law make postal drivers accountable for their actions, and that future failures to follow traffic laws would result in more tickets.

Slyly, ATS sent two copies of its response: one by fax, the other via FedEx.

(Via the Instant Man.)

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I’m assuming it wasn’t Tang

The original title of this piece, judging by the URL, was “Energy drink with controversial name unwelcome in neighborhood store.” And, judging by the circumlocutions, unwelcome in the news copy:

There are dozens of energy drinks on the market, but a new product has a name that’s causing a stir in a Houston neighborhood.

“I think it’s disgraceful,” said Emma Broussard, an officer with the Independence Heights Super Neighborhood Association. “I don’t want this out here.”

Other members of the association agreed.

“This is not the kind of thing we want our children to see,” said John Branch.

The drink uses a slang term that refers to part of the female anatomy.

And if you’re a normal person of an age in double digits, you might well have thought something worse than the actual name of the product.

No, really. Consider “Greenback Dollar,” a hit for the Kingston Trio in 1963. On the 45, the first line of the chorus is “And I don’t give a [guitar strum] about a greenback dollar,” leaving you to imagine what went ungiven. (If you paid five bucks for the LP, you found out.)

Mulva Dolores was not available for comment.

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Border song

Holy Moses, I think KingShamus has the Metaphor of the Month:

The only reason why you bring immigrants into the country is to make it better. Any immigration policy that doesn’t make America a more powerful nation, in observable quantifiable ways, is idiocy soaked in stupidity slathered in mendacity wrapped in a zesty bullshit crust.

Now that I think about it, that second sentence works just as well without the word “immigration.”

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One up and one down

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Bringing the beat back

Rebecca Black with Austin MahoneIt’s not quite as easy to work the Rebecca Black beat during this comparatively empty period Between Singles, especially with the After All album still shimmering in the distance; the biggest “news” item of the week was a brief meeting between RB and “old friend” Austin Mahone, a Texas lad of sixteen who’s been characterized as Bieber 2.0. (Both posted photos of the reunion on Instagram.) Like Rebecca, Austin is homeschooled; also like Rebecca, he’s played the House of Blues. Speaking of school, she did say that she’s “almost conquered this semester’s finals,” which is clearly a Good Thing.

In other news, “In Your Words,” the current single, broke 1,000,000 YouTube views this week; the Hater Index is sitting at 0.26.

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I certainly can’t argue with this

1/350 of today’s iTunes Shuffle list, sorted by artist:

iTunes screenshot: People Are Strange - The Doors and People Are People - Dope

This is about two-thirds of a philosophy seminar, all by itself.

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All-wheel drudge

Sport-utility vehicles have some advantages: they hold a lot of stuff, generally, and you probably have a neighbor or two who bursts into tears whenever she sees one. But Tam gets to the heart of what’s really wrong with these four-wheeled tanks:

The Forester is pushing the limits of the amount of sheet metal I care to herd around on a daily basis, any more than that and driving starts to get a little too close to work for me to really enjoy it. Plus, you can’t convince me that big, tall stilty vehicles don’t just tip over occasionally for no reason whatsoever, like, while they’re sitting in parking lots and stuff.

I note with no small amount of sadness that the little Screwbaru, despite all that whirry stuff to turn both sets of wheels, is about 200 lb lighter than my own oversized — but not stilty — ride.

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Lessons from life (one in a series)

Things are broken. Can you fix them? Maybe not. Should you agonize over that fact? Definitely not:

I suppose maybe I do sometimes need to get out of the one-inch picture frame of my own work some days — and when I’m frustrated with the “game” of academic publishing (which I swear is a rigged game) or when there’s some new bureaucratic thing that makes life harder — to remind myself of the times when I’ve been able to do stuff to keep the brokenness from spreading, and count that as success in life, even if I may not actually see the help they do. Or maybe to accept that it’s enough to, as I said, keep the brokenness from spreading even if nothing you does patches up any of it.

Life is a park. Improving it is a difficult task, given the limited time you have; but since it is a park, you don’t want to leave it in worse condition than it was when you entered. More than that, we cannot ask of you.

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Quote of the week

Car and Driver, in its last two issues, has offered a Most Wanted list of “enemies of automotive culture,” in John Pearley Huffman’s words. One of the offenders is Google, for pushing self-driving cars:

There’s a certain phlegmatic beauty to the idea: issue a few voice commands and your vehicle safely and efficiently whisks you off to your destination. Meanwhile, you can call up this month’s Car and Algorithm on your tablet and read the latest comparison test of floating decimal points. Driving isn’t a chore crying out to be automated: it’s the greatest spiritual transformation of the last 200 years.

I’m not entirely sure about that whole “spiritual” thing, but despite the ginormous (and growing) expense, cars have something of value to contribute to the culture, as P. J. O’Rourke once noted:

Cars confer upon us the ultimate and most important of human freedoms. We can leave.

You could argue that you can leave just as well in the self-driving car, and maybe you can, but I’m just paranoid enough to think Google will give The Authorities a back door and the ability to override your instructions.

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Formerly just a girl

The Icelandic Naming Committee lists 1,853 permissible female names. “Blær” is not one of them. Blær sued:

Blær Bjarkardóttir, the 15-year-old girl who was suing Icelandic authorities to have her name officially approved (so far she has been known as “girl” in the National Registry), won her case at Reykjavík District Court this morning, reports.

“I am very happy … Finally, I’ll have the name ‘Blær’ in my passport,” she said of the court’s verdict.

Blær was also suing the state for ISK 500,000 ($3,950, €2,900) in damages but the court rejected the request.

The Committee insisted that “Blær” was a male name.

Blair Brown was not available for comment.

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The sum of all fierce

Anyone who thought the newly depleted Memphis Grizzlies — they have new players, but they’re not through the full trade routine yet, and Rudy Gay is gone — would roll over and die tonight (you know who you are) probably pointed to the second quarter, in which the Griz scored all of twelve points, and said “Told ya so.” You were wrong, offensive-rebound breath: Memphis made up half of their 24-point deficit in the third, and the Thunder defense had to stiffen markedly in the fourth to dispatch the Griz, 106-89.

Still, here’s the real eye-roller: Oklahoma City shot a sterling 55.6 percent (40 of 72), Memphis 34.7 percent (34-98). Twenty-six more shots! Then again, the Griz collected offensive rebounds like they were Pogs, snagging 21 of them. OKC had four, or not quite half as many as Zach Randolph. In fact, Z-Bo didn’t bag a bucket until the second half, but by then he’d already had a dozen rebounds, and he finished with 19. What’s more, Jerryd Bayless had a season-high 23 points, and both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol broke into double figures. Still, with only nine players available, Lionel Hollins had to husband minutes carefully, especially since the Griz have a game tomorrow night against the Wizards, whom we do not take lightly.

And here’s another one to revolve the pupils: Memphis had twelve steals and blocked two shots; OKC pulled off only five steals, but blocked ten shots. (Serge Ibaka, who wasn’t an offensive factor tonight, got six of those blocks, a season high.) Batman and Robin were active — Kevin Durant had 27 points, Russell Westbrook 21 — but fercryingoutloud, guys, watch the temper. This may be why quiet glue guy Nick Collison (12 points, seven boards) collected the game-high +24.

This homestand lasted one whole game: there’s a trip to Cleveland Saturday, and then back home to taunt the Mavs.

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Of tellers and telling

Jennifer’s advice for those of you in the drive-thru lane at the bank:

When I got off work today, we ran by the bank to make a deposit. It is unseasonably warm in our part of the world and so we had the windows down. We generally shut off the engine when sitting in the bank drive-thru since our little car is LOUD.

So there we were minding our own business. We’d already sent our little cylinder to the teller inside and were chatting about things. I happened to hear the man in the next lane speaking to the teller. He was sending his cylinder back because he wanted his cash “in hundreds.”

And that is not the sort of statement you’d want other people to hear:

What if that person in the next lane isn’t me? What if they hear you ask for that cash back/withdrawal in hundreds? How far will the bad guy follow you for at least $200?

A bad guy once kicked in my door for a meager $3.25, so “the ends of the earth” is probably close enough.

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Where have all the readers gone?

Bayou Renaissance Man contemplates the numbers from his various stats packages:

Sitemeter … shows a dramatic drop in visitors from about June, which finds some (but not exact) correlation in declining page views recorded by Blogger’s own Stats tool. However, it’s not reflected to anything like the same extent by Google Analytics, and certainly isn’t reflected in Google Feedburner. Why it’s so marked in this measurement, but not in others, I don’t know.

My own Site Meter curve looks somewhat like his, albeit not as tall: there’s a downward slope from January through September, a small pickup in October, a decline in November/December. January 2013 is running slightly ahead of January 2012. The summer, of course, almost always means less traffic, what with people on vacation and whatnot, and there were, you may remember, issues with Site Meter last summer. As for the rest of it:

That drop correlates almost exactly with a slight but steady increase in readership through my blog’s RSS feed … suggesting that what I lose here, I’m gaining there. I suspect that regular readers are migrating to my RSS feed.

And Site Meter can’t count the feed unless someone comes to read the article. (More precisely, I have not figured out a way to embed SM’s tracker in the feed.) Still, my traffic is almost exactly what it was in 2005: 800-900 a day, though today half of that comes from the feed, which I track with a WordPress plugin.

I do log any unusually busy days — 1250 visitors or more — separately. The busiest day ever was 12 May 2009, mostly due to this: 13,636 showed up. Another 2,479 appeared the next day. (Second best: 8,379.)

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Pooch screwed

Alpha dog threatened with demiseThis little fellow, perhaps a pit/American bulldog mix, was sent to the pound by his owner for reasons of imagined moral turpitude:

According to the prior owner, the dog was seen “hunched over” another male dog, therefore, in this owner’s mind, the dog must be gay.

The former owner apparently does not know that “hunched over, aka humping behavior” is typically a sign of dominance in dogs, rather than something to signify a dog’s sexual orientation.

At this writing, rescue operations were pending: otherwise, the pound will pull the plug at 1 pm.

Update, 1:30: Adoption accomplished.

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This story’s just six words long (part deux)

From a few years back:

Ernest Hemingway, it is said, once came up with a short story — a good one, yet — that ran all of six words: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

The key phrase there is “it is said.” The Quote Investigator tracks this one down, and finds it to have been misattributed:

In 1917 William R. Kane did write an article that was thematically linked to these short-short tales. The story title Kane suggested was “Little Shoes, Never Worn”.

In April 1921 the newspaper columnist Roy K. Moulton credited “Jerry” with pointing out that the advertisement “Baby carriage for sale, never used” embodied the plot of a story. It is possible that this recognition may have been facilitated by a familiarity with Kane’s earlier article.

Further references follow. Hemingway died in 1961, so this was old news before he was.

(Originally from this tweet by Hari Kunzru; sent my way by Bill Peschel.)

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The floggings will continue

Did you know there were International Academy of Web Television Awards? Neither did I. But here’s the fiendishly clever Felicia Day on their blue (not red) carpet:

Felicia Day at the IAWTV Awards

Day won the award for Best Writing (Non-Fiction) for the Web series The Flog, which looks like this:

Be still, my heart.

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