We go through cycles

The AP put out this wacky whine last week about how the highest number on your car’s speedometer likely exceeds your car’s top speed, complete with a whimper from Dishonorary Anti-Destination League member Joan Claybrook, who once managed to persuade (in exactly the same sense that the Mob “persuades”) automakers doing business in the States to cut off the scale at 85. Inasmuch as digital displays were all the rage back in Malaise Era I, if you had such TRON-ics on your dash, the temptation was irresistible to see what happens at 86. (Never you mind what happened at 88.)

My current ride will happily display speeds up to 160 mph, though by all accounts it will not exceed 130 or so. This is consistent with the fact that it was originally equipped with H-rated tires, which are supposedly good to, yes, 130. And I admit that I’ve never tried to peg the meter, though I’m not about to claim that I’ve never driven at triple-digit speeds.

I have, however, pegged this meter, or one exactly like it, something the manufacturer probably never anticipated:

1960s Schwinn bicycle speedometer

You may have read about this already:

Screenshot from Google MapsI spent almost an entire morning this past week swirling around some of Austin’s ultra-twisty streets, including a 2.2-mile transit of Mount Bonnell Road, the very road that I, thirty-eight years ago, attacked with a bicycle in the dead of night, resulting in a personal speed record for a Schwinn 27-inch (an estimated 65 mph at one point) and the sort of adrenaline rush that would probably damn near kill me today. There’s one curve that’s posted at something like 10 mph, and — this is the scary part — there’s a good reason for it.

Feel free to key in 5100 Mount Bonnell Road, Austin, Texas 78731 at Google Maps, and see this for yourself. What it won’t tell you, however, is the fact that there’s a mile-long plunge leading into that gentle bend. (It’s called Mount Bonnell for a reason.) Incidentally, I had one of those ridiculous headlights powered by a “generator,” which meant a toothed wheel that wore down the sidewall of the tire just a little, so things were brighter than you’d probably expect on a lonely country road — which it’s not anymore, I assure you — at the stroke of midnight. If Joan Claybrook is reading this, I hope she has her cardiac medicine handy.

(Photo source. Aside from a rear basket and the paint job, this bike is pretty much the same as mine at the time.)

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Look to your dreams

Karen Carpenter would have been sixty-three today, and almost certainly she’d still be musically active. (Keith Richards, after all, is still working at — what, 118?) And I’ve always believed that her eating disorder was an inevitable consequence of having been the square peg being forced into other people’s round holes: she had at least a three-octave vocal range, but everyone said she was better off as a contralto; she was a kickass drummer, but everyone said Hal Blaine ought to play on the records. (Before you sneer: how many Byrds were actually on “Mr. Tambourine Man”?) Finding pictures in which she smiles, but in which the smile doesn’t look forced, was therefore more of a chore than it should have been, and I finally ended up with this:

Karen Carpenter sports that down-home look

It occurs to me that I probably should have looked for stills of Karen behind a drum kit, where she always seemed happier:

(“Look To Your Dreams” was the last track on Voice of the Heart, the first Carpenters album released after Karen’s death in 1983; written in 1974 — by Richard with longtime collaborator John Bettis — and recorded in 1978, everyone said it was too uncommercial for release. No other title would have fit here.)

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Smells like spirited teens

Apparently changing minor keys to major keys (as seen, for instance, here) is now becoming a Thing. Another example for your bemusement:

For some reason, this had me thinking about the Pixies’ “Dig for Fire.”

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And yet it’s not a hybrid

Jeffro’s dander is elevated by some of these goofy names they’re giving cars these days, and the most absurd of the bunch comes from der Vaterland:

[W]orst of all is the Tiguan. What in the wide wide world of sports is a Tiguan? I tell you this, I do not see the rugged Sam Elliot, all decked out in cattle drivin’ gear and wearing a pair of Colt’s finest, step up to the bar and announce “I drive a Tiguan. Anyone object???”

Sorry, don’t see that at all. Tiny Iguana is more like it. Something I’d clean from my boot heel in Central America.

Reporting from the wide wide world of sports, Nancy Friedman explains “Tiguan”:

The story Volkswagen wants us to believe is that “the people” wanted Tiguan, a blend of the German words for tiger (Tiger) and iguana (Leguan). (It’s pronounced TEE-gwan.) After all, VW is using “The people want…” as a unifying tagline for all its models, no doubt to emphasize that Volkswagen means “people’s car.” For the Tiguan, a compact SUV introduced for the 2009 model year, the tagline is “The people want to play, but they want to play nice.” (Works best when you imagine it spoken with a German accent.)

We can do that. We got used to Das Auto, didn’t we? I mean, we even survived the rebranding of the Renault 5 as “Le Car.”

And I’d prefer either of those, or even Tiguan, to the idiotic alphanumerics, or worse, the BMW hodgepodges like “X1 sDrive28i.” Were I sentenced to drive one of these — and, truth be told, if you put a gun to my head and said “Buy a Bimmer,” this would be the one — I would promptly have it professionally debadged and then relabeled “WTF,” just because.

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Fark blurb of the week

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A gentleman’s D

It’s almost like the Thunder really didn’t want to defend the ferocious Denver scoring machine until they absolutely had to. It would explain much about how OKC, up eleven at one point in the first quarter, managed to fall behind by twelve — more than once — and then suddenly turned into a lean, mean, shot-blocking machine. With 17 seconds left, it was tied at 103; Ty Lawson, who was otherwise having a fairly crummy night, dropped in a jumper at the 0.2 mark, and that was it: Denver 105, Oklahoma City 103, giving the Nuggets a 2-1 lead in the season series.

Or you could look past that porous defense in the middle quarters and note that the Thunder threw ten points away at the stripe, hitting a mediocre 71 percent. (The Nuggets took half as many free throws, hit half as many, throwing five points away, hitting a mediocre 71 percent, but I repeat myself.) But here’s the figure to frighten: Andre Miller (14 points) outscored the entire OKC bench — and he wasn’t even Denver’s top-scoring reserve. That would be Wilson Chandler, who had a season-high 35, tying his career high; Corey Brewer tacked on 14 more. Now you can look at this from the other direction: the Denver starters had 34 points, Russell Westbrook had 38 all by his lonesome. Leading the starters was Lawson, with a mere eleven — but he got the two that mattered most.

For those of you who were concerned: Derek Fisher played only five minutes, which still was time enough to hoist two bricks.

Coming up: two tests of L.A. fitness, a Sunday-afternoon battle with the Clippers, followed by the return of the Lakers to OKC on Tuesday.

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Plot complications

If this is supposed to be the story of my life, it needs a better editor or something.

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An equal and apposite reaction

We begin with the Abstract:

A two body interaction is studied over a period of time in a variety of locations, and with a multitude of additional bodies. Additional tests are conducted in the later period of the study, and a summary of the studies results are presented. Finally, the prospect of continued study is evaluated.

Okay, maybe scientific writing isn’t always all it could be. But you should probably read this anyway, because it has what I think is a happy ending.

(Via Pejman Yousefzadeh.)

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This seat’s taken

Contagious: Why Things Catch On is the title of a new book by Jonah Berger, assistant professor of marketing at the Wharton School, and one of the reasons things catch on, he says, is the presence of triggers: events or cultural phenomena that remind us of those things. This being Friday, which trigger do you think is being pulled? Right you are:

Citing Rebecca Black’s song “Friday” as an example, Berger illustrates the influence of triggers in the sharing of information.

“It’s not that the song is better on Friday — it’s equally bad every day of the week, but Fridays are a little environmental reminder, what I call a trigger … to encourage people to talk about it and share it,” he said.

And Professor Berger just might be right about that particular trigger; “Friday” video views tend to spike between Thursday (yesterday) and Saturday (tomorrow).

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An able cane

About the time I had my first knee surgery, I bought a cane: a menacing-looking black-enameled bludgeon ending in four rubberized do-lollies. (Note: Firefox spearchucker spellchecker doesn’t flinch at “do-lollies.”) With no second knee surgery in the offing, I’m afraid I can’t come up with an excuse to score one of these:

A walking stick with built-in sat-nav has been developed by Japanese technology giant Fujitsu.

The Next Generation Cane is designed to help elderly people find their way, as well as monitor things such as heart rate and temperature.

Its location can also be followed online — and can be set up to send email alerts if it thinks the user may have fallen over.

I shudder at the thought of how much this thing will cost when it goes into production. And I also shudder at the the thought of the inevitable two-minute TV ads with an 800 number and “Find out if you qualify.”

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Snow accounting for it

The last blizzard so designated by our local Weather Guys lived up to its description out towards the Northwest Passage; meanwhile, the Quarter Mile High City got basically squat. Still, we’d had just over five inches of snow this month, which is decidedly above average. (Average for a whole winter is about 8.6 inches, or about three hours’ worth of your standard garden-variety nor’easter.)

Then KOSU’s Ben Allen dropped this bombshell on Twitter:

Wow, *preliminary* total snowfall for Arnett (35 mi S of Woodward) in Feb: 42.5 inches (!!!!!!) Breaks OK record 4 any location, any month.

Gawd. That’s, like, a whole year in Saskatoon.

Previous monthly record: February 1971 in Buffalo, about 60 miles north of Arnett, 39.5 inches, 36 of which came in one fell swoop on the 20th through the 22nd.

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Derpy Day open thread

Treat yourself to a muffin. (This smiling pegasus — you can’t see her wings at this angle — has done more for muffins than anypony this side of Otis Spunkmeyer.)

In Derpy We Trust

(Original “In Derpy We Trust” by ~BattlefieldBrony on deviantArt. In color, yet.)

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Quote of the week

Several years ago, the normblog profile of yours truly disclosed the following High Truth:

I keep changing my mind on the death penalty. At the moment, I favour it, but this is subject to change at any given moment.

Now Roberta X gives me a moment:

What’s with this notion of the death penalty as “punishment,” anyway? What, so they’ll act nicer in the next world? That’s not really our department. If they are killed, they don’t learn anything. Some people are, after a fair trial, determined to be too dangerous to have around. The State kills them or locks them up forever; I favor the latter, as it is usually cheaper and if it turns out the results at trial were in error, they can be (to some degree) corrected.

And maybe I have this sense that in our new Drone Utopia, sentencing will become rather, um, detached.

Yes, yes, I know: deterrent value. At least it deters the individual who gets it. Beyond that?

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Keys to the world

From our perhaps-jaded post-Soviet perspective, we might be tempted to describe Van Cliburn, who died yesterday at his home in Fort Worth, as some sort of Cold Warrior. Not so, as this PBS news clip makes clear:

I mean, the judges at that first International Tchaikovsky Competition were faced with having to give the top prize to an American, and worse, an American who’d just gotten eight minutes’ worth of standing ovation from delighted Muscovites. What to do? They asked Khrushchev, and Khrushchev said “Is he the best? Then give him the prize.”

He earned rather a lot of prizes after that.

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Joined at the waste

The irony is strong with this one:

A Finnish anti-piracy group has copied the design of The Pirate Bay website for their latest anti-piracy campaign. The Pirate Bay is outraged by this move and says it will sue the group for breaking their site policy, which clearly states that organizations are not permitted to steal the site design for nefarious purposes. “People must understand what is right and wrong,” The Pirate Bay says.

Quick (yes!) summary by Bill Quick:

So the people aiding copyright “infringement” want it enforced for their “intellectual property”, and the people allegedly enforcing copyrights are violating it as well as, it appears, other laws.

Think of it as a pair of conjoined twins, picking each other’s pocket.

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Someone call Bernanke

A review of my bank statement turns up the unexpected news that I am now earning twice last year’s interest rate on my savings account.

I was hunting around for a suitable term, and the one that seems to fit best is “semi-meager.” I suppose I have the grim satisfaction of knowing that it’s not likely to push me into a higher tax bracket.

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