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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Let’s beat those Romulans

I may actually see this come to pass in my lifetime.

Or, more precisely, not see this:

Invisibility cloaks have been getting a lot of press over the years. That’s not only because Harry Potter put his fictional cloak to such good use, but also because researchers have been using high-tech metamaterials to create structures capable of bending light around an object to keep it hidden.

The invisibility device developed by researchers at the University of Rochester bends light as well, but not in the ways that magical cloaks or metamaterials do.

“We just figured a very simple way of doing that can just be using standard lenses, and things that we normally find in the lab,” physics professor John Howell said in a video explaining the setup.

Which you can see, so to speak, at that first link. The gobsmacking aspect of it is that I can almost comprehend it with my limited knowledge of optics — which suggests that it’s not too far away from some sort of real-life (so to speak) implementation.

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Fescue me

The general belief these days is that the smell you get from mowing the lawn is a distress signal from the poor beheaded plants. What hadn’t been determined up to now is the intended recipient of that signal:

The smell of cut grass in recent years has been identified as the plant’s way of signalling distress, but new research says the aroma also summons beneficial insects to the rescue.

“When there is need for protection, the plant signals the environment via the emission of volatile organic compounds, which are recognized as a feeding queue for parasitic wasps to come to the plant that is being eaten and lay eggs in the pest insect,” said Dr. Michael Kolomiets, Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist in College Station.

The research stems from a look at the function of a large family of lipid-derived molecular signals that regulate differential processes in humans, animals and plants, according to Kolomiets, whose research was published in The Plant Journal.

So cutting the grass invites wasps?

Suddenly Lisa’s Lawn Be Gone project makes a whole lot more sense.

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Choosing your battles poorly

Not that their track record is good, exactly, but this seemed a bit more quixotic than usual:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) first shot at religious activism — a call to Muslims to observe a vegetarian Eid this October — has misfired. It met with violent protests [in Bhopal] on Monday.

“Misfired” may be a trifle generous:

PRTA woman volunteer Benazir Suraiya attempted to make an appeal to Muslims to go vegetarian at the legendary Taj-ul-Masajid, said to be one of Asia’s largest mosques.

Camouflaged in a green hijab, to highlight the importance of vegetarianism, she walked towards the mosque gates with a couple of PETA volunteers holding a placard in Urdu and English which read: “Make Eid Happy for All. Try Vegan.”

With less than a dozen policemen deployed, locals took the opportunity and shouted slogans asking her to turn back. She was forced to take cover along with another PETA volunteer in the market outside the mosque.

Besides, there are vegetable products that fail to qualify as halal:

[M]ost observant Muslims refrain from consuming food products that contain pure vanilla extract or soy sauce if these food products contain alcohol; there is some debate about whether the prohibition extends to dishes in which the alcohol would be cooked off or if it would be practically impossible to consume enough of the food to become intoxicated.

Tim Blair described the scene as “a clash of civilisations involving no actual civilisations.”

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Götterdenimerung

Roberta X, not being made of money, is actually mending a worn pair of jeans:

I’ve got to mend them, Carhartt having discontinued women’s double-fronts because they’re fools, or maybe too few of us do the kind of work that calls for ‘em, and “so there” to all those lady geologists, archeologists, paleontologists, zoologists, botanists, electricians, plumbers and heavy-equipment operators. Sure, us distaff types may only spin up to ten or twenty percent of the total number of “persons who need heavy work trousers,” but let’s see, everyone times, oh, 0.2 for number of workers-needing-this-workwear, times 0.2 for female workers: 0.276 billion, subtract ten percent for the “can’t wear slacks” wimmens not counterbalanced by fellers who don’t wear trews and we’re left with, roughly, a quarter of a billion. You’d think even just the Western Civilization part of that’d be enough of a market but no.

I’m betting I could put on Eddie Fisher’s “Dungaree Doll” and get blank looks from almost every direction.

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You can’t spell “crisis” without ISIS

The Pergelator response to last week’s coverage of an anti-ISIS demonstration in Oklahoma City:

This is very nice, but it’s not what we’re really looking for. Being blood-thirsty American Imperialist running-dogs (to use our full third world title), we want to hear something more like “DEATH TO ISIS” or “KILL ALL THE JIHADISTS”. Oh wait, that’s kind of what being a Jihadist is all about isn’t it? How do you tell the good Jihadists from the bad Jihadists? Especially when the only good Jihadist is a dead one? So I can sort of see why they went with their milder slogan.

Wasn’t “imperialist running dogs” more of a Maoist sort of denunciation? Although I can see why jihadi might like it, given their avowed dislike of canines, running or otherwise.

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64-bit ambition, two-bit laziness

Evidently this chap was hoping to be told that there would be no math:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Which computer major doesn't have Maths in it and makes a lot of money?

Five will get you ten that a year from now he’s doing WordPress installs for cheap.

Note: The original title of this was “The blind fashion designer says hi,” but as I was doing the draft save it occurred to me that, well, what if there is a blind fashion designer? And of course there is.

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Rhymes with “yell”

Danielle Dax, according to Allmusic, just turned 56. I wouldn’t have guessed: the music she played seldom seemed to belong to any era, no matter when it came out. She did, however, look fetching behind a guitar-like object:

Danielle Dax tuning up

“Cat-House,” the single — it was eventually put out on a compilation album called Dark Adapted Eye — dates from around 1988.

In 1995, she released, on her own Biter of Thorpe (!) label, a compilation called Comatose Non-Reaction: The Thwarted Pop Career of Danielle Dax, which goes on my One Of These Days list.

After the jump, a still from Neil Jordan’s 1984 fantasy film The Company of Wolves, in which Dax plays the Wolfgirl. She has no lines, but she will not be ignored:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking those streams

Sometimes a paragraph just jumps out at you from the front page:

Oklahoma City Public Schools is the only district of comparable size in the state without an employee drug-testing policy in place, said Rod McKinley, the district’s chief human resources officer. “I don’t know why things didn’t happen in the past,” McKinley said.

Okay, that was technically about a paragraph and a third. Work with me here.

Now what I want to know is this: which of these two justifications will be invoked?

  • “Hey, all the other districts of comparable size have this, why don’t we?”
  • “Our schools are getting failing grades! Do you think it could be — drugs?”

Samuel L. Clemens was technically not available for comment.

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