What with this being Friday and all

Rebecca Black, interviewed at VidCon this past week, on what’s next and why you don’t ever read the comments:

How to keep your water bottle from sliding off your lap was apparently not part of the discussion.

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Hello, Ottawa

This idea from Roberta X gets thumbs up from me:

I’ll be excoriated for this, but the inhabitants of U.S. and Canada ought to celebrate July 2 and 3, the days between Canada Day and Independence Day, as “Co-dependence Days,” in which we consider all that we love and loathe about our neighbor. We share the longest border in the world without armies watching one another over it, about 2/3 of a common language and all manner of customs, habits and entertainments — and we share them about the same way fraternal twins between the ages of seven and twelve share the back seat of [a] car over the course of a day-long excursion.

Forced proximity does that to people.

And no, we probably won’t be doing this with the Mexicans, whose Independence Day doesn’t come until the 16th of September.

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Jenny sets the lineup

How could this possibly go wrong?

It is, of course, right and proper that the Designated Hitter, an abomination unto the Lord, is assigned the number zero.

The Tigers were not amused, however, and blasted Rays pitcher Erik Bedard for six runs on eight hits in two innings, pocketing an 8-1 win at home and dropping Tampa Bay further into the cellar. (Weirdly, the Rays have identical road and home records: they’re 19-25 either way.)

And no, that Squeeze song wouldn’t work: you’d have to send two players into the order twice.

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Quote of the week

Your humble narrator, having previously contemplated continuing shortfalls in the Highway Trust Fund, has recommended an increase in the fuel tax, one of the less intrusive options available.

Congressmen don’t think like that. Jack Baruth quotes one, and gets at the heart of the matter:

“If all we did was set this up to collect the road fee, that’s actually a more expensive way to collect the fee. The gas tax is actually a very inexpensive tax to collect. But if we are able to have a platform that does all these other things, to share the costs, and give people a richer transportation experience, I think people will voluntarily make that transition.”

We’re missing all the air quotes, I think, let’s put them back in:

I “think” people will “voluntarily” make that “transition”

When you read “voluntarily” in modern wonk-speak, you can take that to mean “Any amount of resistance short of facing down the Bureau of Land Management with the local redneck militia,” and that’s what it means here as well. The motorists of America will be given a single option: GPS-based usage tracking tied to a central payment account that will also be debited for parking and traffic tickets. It’s perfectly easy to imagine a speed camera just sitting by the site of the road dinging every motorist who goes by at 1mph over the limit a nice, round five hundred bucks. And why not?

Naturally, the same government that manages to lose all the incriminating IRS emails will keep solid-gold-permanent records of your travels until the end of time. If they do it with the justly-reviled public-private partnership, those records will be sold to Equifax and your insurance company as well. With your travel and your Carnivore records, the government knows exactly who and what you are. In real time, they’ll be able to understand your entire life. Imagine the day when driving to an oncology clinic results in a sit-down with your company’s HR representative to discuss your future with the company. Or the day when your employer can simply buy a list of your whereabouts sorted to its particular interest. Or the day when parking your car outside a gun store every Sunday and walking across the street for ice cream results in the ATF visiting your house to discuss your gun-nut tendencies. Or the day when driving through known drug-sales areas results in a SWAT team tossing a flashbang into your child’s crib.

Note the ludicrous phrase “richer transportation experience.” Any “richer” experience, as defined in DC-speak, makes you poorer by definition: not only are the results not favorable to you, but you have to pay for them in the first place.

“Oh, Jack, you teatard anarchist commie libertarian,” you’re sighing. “How else are they supposed to address the Highway Fund problem?” Well, I would suggest that destroying the last vestiges of privacy and liberty in this country are not any less meaningful than keeping up the pace of road construction. I would also suggest that it’s not my job to come up with ideas as to how the government can easily accomplish its goals without trampling its citizens underfoot. But since you asked, I’ll come up with one: A ten percent tariff on cheap goods imported from China would add 50% to the existing Highway Fund tax level, enough to address all concerns for the foreseeable future.

Assuming, of course, you could get the idiots in Washington to spend it on that, as opposed to any of the useless crap they’d want to spend it on.

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Meanwhile in Widgetville

Twitter has rolled out a new font for its Web site and for the widget down there on the sidebar, which I first saw yesterday since I seldom have any reason to go to the Web site. The dread details:

The new font is Gotham Narrow SSm. Gotham tends to be a popular font across the Internet and was used in Barack Obama’s campaign. The new logo for One World Trade Center also uses a Gotham variant.

The major selling point — for the non-Narrow version anyway — appears to be the circular capital O.

I like it, but I don’t think I like it enough to write a large check for it.

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Buy here, pay forever

About six months ago, I said something about the “opening” of the Cuban new-car market, which at the time seemed less like an actual market opening and more like the introduction of new sources of graft for the regime. Halfway through Year One, it’s been, let us say, less than a roaring success:

Reuters reports that because of the markup, only 50 cars and four motorcycles left the 11 nationalized lots in Cuba during the first six months of 2014, netting a total of $1.28 million USD in new car sales.

You remember the markup, don’t you?

In one example cited by the news organization, a Havana Peugeot dealership wanted $91,000 for a 2013 206, and $262,000 for a 506 of similar vintage, which makes the government’s goal of investing 75 percent of all new-car sales into public transportation easier said than done; most state workers make the equivalent of $20 USD per month.

“But Cuba has free health care!” I hear you cry. Enjoy your walk to the emergency room.

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Turn it up

California singer/songwriter Sabrina Lentini, last mentioned here, put out a very nice EP, a stripped-down girl-and-her-guitar set called No Price for Love. She took gigs wherever she could get them, and eventually tried out for American Idol; 212 performers were offered tickets to Hollywood, and she made it to the top 48 before being culled. And she got an idea for a second EP to be somewhat unlike the first:

This time, I want to breathe even more life into my songs. I’m ready to be “AMPLIFIED!” I’m so excited to add amazing musicians, producers, and creativity. I have so many songs that I’ve written since the last EP, and I just cannot wait to share them with you all!

But this takes money, which she calculated as $1500 for each of five tracks — and started up an IndieGoGo campaign that ended Tuesday with $7620 in the kitty, 101.6 percent of the goal.

In the meantime, it’s summer, she’s out of school, and she’s working, with eight appearances in July alone, all within a couple of hours of her Orange County home. (Two, in fact, are on the same day: the fifth, around noon on the Huntington Beach pier, followed by an early-evening show up in Ojai. I hope the traffic is bearable.) Here’s a clip from a Long Beach appearance, in which she performs the Pistol Annies’ “Hell on Heels”:

Amps, schmamps: there’s a lot of life left in the girl-with-her-guitar scene.

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Dried-up spring

Some minor objections to the text here, from some bogus individual identified as “Lourdes” (!) linking back to some questionable Facebook profile:

The very heart of your writing while apipraeng reasonable at first, did not settle perfectly with me after some time. Somewhere throughout the sentences you actually managed to make me a believer but only for a while. I still have a problem with your leaps in logic and one might do well to help fill in those breaks. In the event that you can accomplish that, I will undoubtedly end up being fascinated.

I’m guessing that “praeng” is the name of the API that produced this boilerplate, because no actual human with any knowledge of the language would spell “appearing” that way.

IP is 159.255.2.137. Feel free to ban it, because nothing useful is ever going to come from there.

Update: The next spammer was kinder:

What a data of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious experience concerning unexpected emotions.

Exactly the kind of preserveness I’d like to preserve.

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Fark blurb of the week

Rolf Harris convicted of having young girls tie his kangaroo down.

(Linked to this. Check the shed for suspiciously tanned hides.)

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Generation landslide

Bringing up a brood might not be as much fun as they said it was:

Children are a major disappointment in most cases, which is why I say that the modern ideology of parenting is baloney. People who don’t have them aren’t missing anything they really need. They’re not helping keep the race in business, no, but they’re not suffering for it either.

I didn’t mind it so much, but I did a lot of it at a distance, the result of a fragged marriage. Still, this seems true:

I used to wonder why my parents, especially my mother, kept bugging me to have children. Now I know. They were getting even.

The slope goes ever downward.

(Title courtesy of Alice Cooper.)

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It’s easier than it looks

Thoughts on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby by Warren Meyer:

It seems that a huge number of Americans, even nominally intelligent ones, cannot parse the difference between banning an activity and some third party simply refusing to pay for you to engage in that activity. This really does not seem to be a complicated distinction, but yesterday I watched something like 40% of America fail to make it. How is it possible to make any progress on liberty and individual rights if people’s thinking is so sloppy?

It’s not. Although in some cases, based on my own observations, it’s less “thinking” than simple reflex.

I am minded of Justice Scalia’s concurrence in NEA v. Finley, 1998:

“Those who wish to create indecent and disrespectful art are as unconstrained now as they were before the enactment of this statute. Avant-garde artistes such as respondents remain entirely free to epater les bourgeois; they are merely deprived of the additional satisfaction of having the bourgeoisie taxed to pay for it.”

Some people didn’t comprehend that either.

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The new kids

Mitch McGary, the Thunder’s draft pick at #21, is as close as we have to a Known Factor in this year’s round of Prestidigitation: he’s basically Nick Collison, Jr. (He even wore #4 at Michigan, though he’s wearing #33 for Oklahoma City.) With Collison, Sr. now, um, 33 years old, the need for a new glue guy may have seemed pressing.

This may also explain Josh Huestis, taken at #29: NBA.com’s draft-prospect analysis considers him to be the second coming of Thabo Sefolosha, what with the original version now a free agent.

And I have to figure that they wanted Semaj Christon pretty badly: Miami picked him at #55, traded him to Charlotte, and the Bobcats Hornets dealt him to the Thunder for a wad of cash of unknown size. Is Christon destined to be the third-string point guard? All I know about him, other than the fact that he played two years for Xavier, is that his first name is “James” spelled backwards.

What everyone really wants to know, of course, is whether Sam Presti has trades on his mind. I was thinking he’d go after the Cavs’ C. J. Miles again. (The Thunder signed Miles to an offer sheet when he was a restricted free agent at Utah; the Jazz, however, matched the offer and kept him.) Miles, however, has been embraced by the Pacers.

Note: Several edits as events got ahead of text.

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Hindmost being taken

Tickets for a Civic Center Music Hall presentation of a Black Mass go on sale today, and, well, the event is not going unnoticed:

A group called Dakhma of Angra Mainyu is holding a Black Mass at the Oklahoma City Civic Center on September 21. The permittee for the event is Adam Daniels, a registered sex offender. The Civic Center is owned by the city and funded by a foundation that includes a city government official and the head of a Catholic hospital on its board. The event has been condemned by the Archbishop of Oklahoma City. (I first read about this on Fr. Z’s Blog.)

The group itself seems to be sort of anti-Zoroastrian:

Dakhma of Angra Mainyu is about freedom from any religion that chooses to bind you to some type of dogma the forces you to restrain your natural animal instincts. They say desire and “sin” move you away from the ultimate consumer of souls through fire. Ahura Mazda is the slave driver that forces laws onto mankind that completely against man’s nature. Only through spiritual and chaotic destruction of this enslavement, will one become spiritually free from not only mortal/ethical enslavement, include freedom from Atar which is the Holy Fire that will consume your soul to recharge Ahura Mazda. The truest form of freedom is brought about by evil speech (blaspheme). 3 ways define the human existence: thought, speech, and action. Knowing that mankind is judge off this paradigm, does it make sense to inhibit your animal desires because some “God” said they were evil? No, the inhibition is to build internal pressure, like a teapot without a valve. Upon death this gives the Ahuras (angels) that much more energy to consume as they live off of pain and blood. Thus requiring sacrifice and becoming a mayrter.

Which I suppose is being (accidentally?) like a martyr, only with bells on.

I note here for record that I do follow the BaphometOKC Twitter account, though this is mostly for amusement purposes.

If you object to this sort of thing, Dawn Eden suggests some ways to make your objections heard. Attendance will not be high regardless, simply because the event is booked for the downstairs City Space Theatre, which is geared to Equity Waiver/Showcase Code-sized audiences: fewer than 100. Last time, apparently, they drew zero.

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Niner zero

The old-timers among you will remember the Joan Claybrook Memorial Speedometer, inflicted on American car buyers during the Malaise Era: it drew Special Attention to the much-derided 55-mph speed limit, and topped out at a meager 85 mph. Both the regulation and the double-nickel itself are gone, but there’s only a single road in the nation where you can do 85 legally: a toll road in Texas.

With a nod to the late Jimi Hendrix — “Ninety miles an hour, girl, is the speed I drive” — there’s apparently an internal pool at Car and Driver on, well, just about anything, and one of the developments under discussion is “First state to set a highway speed limit at 90 mph or higher.” (They disclosed rather a lot of these in the August issue.) Here are the current odds:

    Texas: 1-1
    Utah: 2-1
    Wyoming: 3-1
    Idaho: 4-1
    Montana: 20-1

Of course, Montana got burned, despite an enviable safety record, during a period when there was no numerical speed limit at all; you can blame the appeal of State of Montana v. Rudy Stanko, Mr Stanko being the recipient of three tickets, all at triple-digit speeds, to which he objected on the grounds of vagueness. The State Supreme Court agreed about the vagueness while upholding two of his three busts.

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The flowers of despair

I have always been wary of the Lost Ogle’s Monday Morning Tweets feature, and I became more so when their @TLOMMT account started following me. After several weeks of being ignored, I began to breathe a little easier.

Then they picked up on this one:

I can only conclude that it was chosen for double-entendre potential:

I don’t know about your esthetician, but when you’re having your rosebush pruned, you should really have her wear gloves. Especially if the wax is hot!

Or were you really talking about flowers?

For some reason, I felt compelled to set the record straight:

In retrospect, this may not have been the wisest move.

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Don’t go home with the armadillo

In days of old, when knights were bold, et cetera, leprosy was thought to be highly contagious, justifying warehousing its sufferers as far away from the rest of the world as possible. This, of course, was wrong:

The illness can now readily be cured through a sustained course of antibiotics, yet the basic nature of the microbial culprit, a waxy, rod-shaped character called Mycobacterium leprae, is still being sketched out. New research suggests that the leprosy parasite is a paradox encapsulated — at once rugged and feeble, exacting and inept.

One research group recently proposed that leprosy may be the oldest infectious disease to go specifically for human beings, with origins dating back millions of years, certainly suggesting a pathogen of formidable persistence.

Yet scientists have also found that the leprosy bacillus is remarkably poor at migrating between human hosts. It dies quickly outside the body — a couple of hours on a lab slide, and that’s it — and about 95 percent of people appear immune to it.

One less thing to worry about — for nineteen of you, anyway.

Wikipedia yielded up this gem:

Leprosy was once believed to be highly contagious and was treated with mercury — all of which applied to syphilis, which was first described in 1530. It is possible that many early cases thought to be leprosy could actually have been syphilis. Effective treatment first appeared in the late 1940s.

This, though, is the bit that worries me:

Armadillos are now a reservoir for the disease, and in coastal marsh habitats where population densities of the animal can be high, 20 percent or more of the armadillos are thought to be infected with M. leprae and capable of passing it on to susceptible people. Of the 200 cases of leprosy diagnosed annually in the United States, most are thought to stem from contact with armadillos, although the precise route of transmission remains unclear.

I can only hope that it’s not the same route of transmission one usually finds with syphilis.

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