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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Catheters to the sky

Few organizations can build, build, build like big hospitals, especially big “non-profit” hospitals. Jack Baruth has damned near financed one himself:

The hospital in Upper Arlington that handled my trauma case in 1988 handled my trauma case in 2014. It’s quintupled in size, the original tower where I entertained my visitors now an embarrassing old relic surrounded by monstrous, architecturally-complex structures with the sheen and swagger of Las Vegas casino hotels. The population it serves has remained more or less static since ’88, so why have the buildings multiplied? The same thing hasn’t happened to my local fast-food restaurants or auto-parts stores.

Part of it’s the aging and sickening of the Boomers, but most of it is simply the fact that healthcare costs and profits are soaring in this country at a rate typically reserved for college tuition, and for the same reason: there’s a disconnect between the people who receive the service and the people who pay for it. Healthcare is the new oil boom or gold rush, but the resource we’re mining is a resource called ourselves. There’s no limit to the amount of money you can make.

Unless, of course, you’re a doctor. Doctors and nurses aren’t clocking all this crazy cash. It’s going to massive billion-dollar corporations that provide medical supplies, devices, tests, and all the junk that surrounds you when you enter a hospital. Cotton swabs made in a Mexican factory for fractions of a cent and sold to you like they were solid gold. Drugs that cost pennies to produce and thousands of dollars to buy. Patented tests and procedures that you’ll demand because they offer you a one-percent chance of living longer at the cost of your entire retirement savings. Because what’s the balance sheet of your employer or your insurance provider or even your own family against the prospect of life or death?

Just don’t tell Zeke Emanuel how old you are.

(Semi-amusingly, someone edited Emanuel’s Wikipedia page yesterday to show him as having died yesterday. I’m pretty sure he’s not dead.)

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Not to show off or anything

I found this buried in the comment section at TTAC, and I thought it deserved some kind of expansion:

The [Volkswagen] Phaeton sold just fine, just not in the US or Canada. There’s a sizable demand for a full-on luxury car that doesn’t scream “douchebag.”

In the US, Oldsmobile and Buick have traditionally filled that role. I guess now Hyundai will be the go-to for business people who don’t want to send the wrong message in the company lot. I know a few business owners who don’t drive their nice cars to work, simply because it would upset their employees and maybe show their customers that they are overcharging.

Our own company lot is filled with middle-market stuff: there is a single Cadillac, one Infiniti (mine), and a wide array of standard-price brands and/or beaters, though someone did buy a gently-used Prius this month. And no, the Caddy doesn’t belong to El Jefe. At any given moment, perhaps a third of the corporate spaces are occupied by trucks.

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Political branding

Most campaign signs are boring as hell, perhaps because the people running campaigns are mortally afraid of doing anything to which J. Random Independent can possibly object. In this century, I’ve seen only two I thought were memorable: the simple blue square used on some George W. Bush stickers in ’04 that said simply “W” and across the bottom “The President,” and Barack Obama’s O device, which has now been beaten to death and beyond. State and local candidates don’t even get that much.

Connie Johnson for Senate emblemConnie Johnson — “Constance N.” Johnson just sounds too severe — is the Democratic candidate for the US Senate seat being vacated by Tom Coburn. All her campaign material contains this little emblem, which strikes me as having all sorts of subtleties to it.

For one, few as those dots are, they make for a plausible representation of the state of Oklahoma, which, well, kind of looks like that, though the Panhandle is of necessity exaggerated, inasmuch as it’s only 34 miles north to south.

For another, there are two blue dots and three red ones; this hints at the actual electorate, where the Republicans hold a plurality, albeit not close to 60 percent. And the blue occupies the leftmost portion of the grid, the red on the right, with both colors in the middle.

This is pretty impressive stuff for a Senate campaign, especially one for a two-year seat — although truth be told, what I really want to know is how the campaign managed to make a woman older than I am look younger than my daughter, a task which should require, I would think, more than mere Photoshop proficiency.

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This is Spinal Tape

Says so right on the package, in fact:

Spinal Tape by Copernicus

Otherwise, it’s a fairly standard two-inch-wide packing tape, on a 25-meter roll (kinda Smalls), but it’s suitable for packing jobs of typical Tufnelity.

Copernicus, the manufacturer thereof, also offers DNA and Botany versions of the same tape, all at around $13 list.

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Damned near blinded

If you’re Magnus Pyke, you get to yell “Science!” at regular intervals. Most of the rest of you can stick a sock in it:

[F]or all our bleating about “science” we live in an astonishingly unscientific and anti-scientific society. We have plenty of anti-science people, but most of our “pro-science” people are really pro-magic (and therefore anti-science).

This bizarre misunderstanding of science yields the paradox that even as we expect the impossible from science (“Please, Mr Economist, peer into your crystal ball and tell us what will happen if Obama raises/cuts taxes”), we also have a very anti-scientific mindset in many areas.

For example, our approach to education is positively obscurantist. Nobody uses rigorous experimentation to determine better methods of education, and someone who would dare to do so would be laughed out of the room. The first and most momentous scientist of education, Maria Montessori, produced an experimentally based, scientific education method that has been largely ignored by our supposedly science-enamored society. We have departments of education at very prestigious universities, and absolutely no science happens at any of them.

Not to mention the Department of Education in Washington, which is utterly consumed with magical thinking.

Our approach to public policy is also astonishingly pre-scientific. There have been almost no large-scale truly scientific experiments on public policy since the welfare randomized field trials of the 1990s, and nobody seems to realize how barbaric this is. We have people at Brookings who can run spreadsheets, and Ezra Klein can write about it and say it proves things, we have all the science we need, thank you very much. But that is not science.

Ezra Klein couldn’t prove that shit smells funny if you spotted him half a dozen turds and a URL to be named later; he is the absolute slave of the magicians.

And, of course, there’s a simple reason for this:

Modern science is one of the most important inventions of human civilization. But the reason it took us so long to invent it and the reason we still haven’t quite understood what it is 500 years later is it is very hard to be scientific. Not because science is “expensive” but because it requires a fundamental epistemic humility, and humility is the hardest thing to wring out of the bombastic animals we are.

At the very heart of science is the possibility that holy crap, we might be wrong; if your worldview holds that you can’t be wrong, you know nothing of science and have no right to invoke it.

(Via Rand Simberg.)

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Goodness in precise units

Gansito, a sort of Mexican Twinkie with a layer of raspberry, has been available here in some merely-Anglo stores for a couple of years; I pick up a box now and then. (Fillyjonk mentioned them here.) They’re quite tasty, and not appreciably pricier than their distant American relatives. (Grupo Bimbo, the Mexican bakery conglomerate that owns Marinela, producer of Gansito, has substantial American holdings, including, yes, Sara Lee’s baked-goods line.)

A box of Gansito contains eight of the little cakes and weighs precisely 14.11 ounces, a number which seemed awfully specific to me until I read the metric equivalent: 400g. Fifty grams per cake. Sounds almost elegant when you put it that way.

In Mexico, Marinela has a whole line of stuff, including Dálmata, a sort of chocolate-ish Twinkie with white frosting embedded with chocolate chips, and Pingüinos, a knockoff of the classic Hostess CupCake. I trust — and a glance at the Gansito box assures me — that these south-of-the-border treats are just as delightfully horrible for you as the junk we buy here. There’s a Mexican supermarket half a mile from Crest; perhaps I ought to look for some of them there.

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Rack and a half

We’ve dealt with fictional or Photoshopped triple-breasted women before. The idea that someone might actually aspire to this state — well, see for yourself:

Jasmine Tridevil

We are not making this up:

An American woman has claimed to have had a third breast surgically added to her chest.

The 21-year-old, who calls herself Jasmine Tridevil, wants to be a reality star.

She posts videos of her daily life in Tampa, Florida, on Facebook to “show the struggles she faces because of her surgery.”

“Reality star” jumped the shark years ago; it appears to have doubled back and taken another spring. And hey, how many of those struggles would you be facing if you hadn’t added extra bewbage?

Oh, it gets better:

Tridevil has also claimed she had the surgery because she didn’t want to appear as attractive to men.

In one of the videos, she said: “I got the surgery because I wanted to turn off guys. I know it sounds crazy but I don’t want to date again ever. I still like to feel pretty.”

Now we’ve had this discussion before:

Question: would a man be more turned on or weirded out by a third mammary?

Answer: I suspect most would be squicked out, though you may be assured that a certain number would be utterly delighted with the prospect. (Rule 34 would seem to support this premise.)

That said, some of the latter group, were they presented with the genuine article, as distinguished from mere fanfiction and photo manips, might well flee in terror.

And three in a row is more appealing, I’m inclined to think, than any triangular arrangement. Then again, that may be just me.

I watched her video, which runs a little under a minute; I might have dealt with it better if she hadn’t used Radiohead’s “Creep” for background music. And unfortunately for my particular worldview, she has fairly nice legs.

Now to sit back and wait for the “Hoax!” announcements. Please tell me there will be “Hoax!” announcements.

Update: Snopes is on the case.

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The lightbearers of Fog City

In an Automobile magazine (October ’14) multi-page article about driving the BMW i3 through Silicon Valley, tucked into a sidebar, I found a little chart: “2013 Vehicle Sales by Fuel Type, San Francisco vs. U.S.” This oughta be good, I thought, and noted that ordinary, garden-variety gasoline-engined cars made up 76.41 percent of the total American market. In San Francisco? 76.88. How unspeakably, improbably … normal.

How is this even possible? SF buys three times as many hybrids (11.39 vs 3.66 percent), four times as many CNG cars (0.04 vs 0.01, no big deal) and nine times as many pure electrics (3.16 vs 0.37). Diesels are about even: 2.69 in SF, 2.98 for the nation as a whole. What they refuse to buy in the City by the Bay, apparently, is so-called “flex-fuel,” gasoline-powered cars that can run on up to 85 percent ethanol: only 5.83 percent of SF buyers opted for flex-fuel in ’13, versus 16.57 percent nationwide. I surmise that on this issue, if perhaps on no other, San Franciscans agree with me: the proper place for ethanol is not your fuel tank, but your shot glass.

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Strange search-engine queries (451)

Or, in Celsius, (233), give or take a smidgen. This week’s search strings:

domo arigato visage:  Bet you a dollar it’s really Kilroy.

kaos wife forced to strip:  Max would never allow that to happen to 99.

William saroyan and ross bagdasarian became the brains behind which novelty act:  What some people won’t do to improve their score on some worthless Internet quiz. (And it was the Chipmunks, who have now been together longer than you’ve been alive, for most values of “you.”)

how to fix FN4A-EL:  You’ll need a pen and a checkbook. No chance you can do this on your own.

antediluvian carbon dioxide levels:  What we’re expected to aspire to by the fat cats with the private jets.

jailarity:  What the fat cats with the private jets want to threaten you with for your insufficient deference to their Better Judgment.

2001 mazda 626 auto trans slips is the trans a sealed unit or does it have a dipstick:  If you didn’t find the dipstick, this tells me that you never even tried to open the hood, since it’s pretty damned obvious from above the engine.

swap mazda 6 transmission with 626:  You’ll have to pass the Dipstick Location Test before you can even think about this. (Which, by the way, won’t work.)

tuba Buyukustun and onur saylak in divorce?  Gee, I hope not.

Blogger at Tales From Under the Moonroof:  Her name is Louise. The rest is none of your beeswax.

scrotum flapping:  A noise you might hear in the Capitol if anyone in Congress actually possessed cojones.  So that’s why everyone’s wanting that bigger iPhone.

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Doing it from Pole to Pole

When’s the last time that happened?

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Fourth among many

George Hamilton IV — yes, that was his real name, and no, he’s not related to the guy with the preternatural tan — was one of the guys who taught me how to rewrite songs on the fly for satirical (I hoped) purposes. Of course, neither Hamilton nor the writers of his biggest hit song (Bob Gibson and John D. Loudermilk) ever intended such a thing: it just happened.

This was that biggest chart hit, hitting #15 on the pop chart and #1 country in 1963:

Which I promptly turned into an auto-parts advertisement:

Slipperiest oil that I’ve ever seen;
All my engines run real clean
With Valvoline —
Try Valvoline.

Hamilton himself made mockery of “Abilene” in the four-dollar-a-gallon days:

Hamilton’s other big hit, “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” — well, let’s not get too blatant here.

George, a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1960, died last week of a heart attack in Nashville at seventy-seven.

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They said “meh”

In June of 2010, Amazon moved one step closer to Total World Domination by buying Woot from founder Matt Rutledge for somewhere in the low nine figures. Rutledge eventually wearied of being a cog in the Bezos machine, and decamped in 2012 to found Mediocre Laboratories, floating several ideas, one of which was code-named “Pavlov”: “The simple fun of a single daily event store went downhill with the added clutter of selection — is a rebirth possible?”

It is. Rutledge shelled out moderately big bucks for meh.comwe said “meh” — and resumed doing what he presumably loved best. If anything, it’s even more barebones than the original Woot. From the FAQ:

Q: Ok, got it, simplicity and focus, one thing for sale each day, no hype, a community. So where do I follow you, like you and sign up for daily emails?

A: You don’t. If you want to find out what’s for sale, come to the site. Shit, is a 3-character domain, just type it in already.

Shipping remains $5, but new products now come on at midnight Eastern time instead of Central. And Mediocre is “concocting other experiments to rid you of excess cash,” perhaps as elegant as Rutledge’s Kickstarter for the site, which raised $14,000 in four days.

What you want to know, though, is this: Do they still have the infamous, um, Bags? Yes, they do.

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Filling in the blanks

While I’m Clark Kenting around here doing the bloggy stuff, my (not all that) secret identity is churning out pony stories. (They’re on the sidebar, in case you’d somehow missed them.) Turns out, there is historical — and religious — precedent for this sort of thing.

(A tip of the tiara to Fillyjonk, who sent me this idea four days ago and probably wondered if I was going to do anything with it.)

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You can never plant enough trees

Nicole goes digging into deepest tax lore, and comes away annoyed:

[T]hat whole “Paperwork Reduction Act” that is cited on all IRS paperwork? That’s just insulting. The only thing the IRS is good at (besides being used as a tool of political vengeance) is killing trees. If all of this is reduced paperwork, I truly shudder to think of what it would be like prior to reduction.

The problem here is that it’s called the Paperwork Reduction Act, but nothing in the Act actually mandates the reduction of paperwork:

The Paperwork Reduction Act mandates that all federal government agencies receive approval from OMB — in the form of a “control number” — before promulgating a paper form, website, survey or electronic submission that will impose an information collection burden on the general public. The term “burden” is defined as anything beyond “that necessary to identify the respondent, the date, the respondent’s address, and the nature of the instrument.” No one may [be] penalized for refusing an information collection request that does not display a control number. Once obtained, approval must be renewed every three years.

The process created by the Paperwork Reduction Act makes OIRA into a centralized clearinghouse for all government forms.

And of course, OIRA generates paperwork of its own.

Consider: were this Act actually going to reduce a burden imposed by government, there wasn’t a chance in hell that Jimmy Carter would ever have signed it — especially since it was December 1980 and he knew he’d be out of work in a month’s time.

“The man whose life is devoted to paperwork has lost the initiative. He is dealing with things that are brought to his notice, having ceased to notice anything for himself.” — C. Northcote Parkinson

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Cookie grail

I remember reading this for some now-forgotten reason:

In the United States, Mallomars are produced by Nabisco. A graham cracker circle is covered with a puff of extruded marshmallow, then enrobed in dark chocolate, which forms a hard shell. Mallomars were introduced to the public in 1913, the same year as the Moon Pie (a confection which has similar ingredients). The first box of Mallomars was sold in West Hoboken, New Jersey (now Union City, New Jersey).

Mallomars are generally available from early October through to April. They are not distributed during the summer months, supposedly because they melt easily in summer temperatures, though this is as much for marketing reasons as for practical ones. Devoted eaters of the cookie have been known to stock up during winter months and keep them refrigerated over the summer, although Nabisco markets other fudge-coated cookie brands year-round. Eighty-seven percent of all Mallomars are sold in the New York metropolitan area. They are produced entirely within Canada, at a factory in Scarborough, Ontario. The issue of Nabisco’s choice to release Mallomars seasonally became a parodied topic on a sketch delivered by graphic artist Pierre Bernard on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

I do remember my reaction, though: “Yeah, like I’ll ever see any of those here, in the land of nine-month summers.”

Today, I have a box of Mallomars, courtesy of Crest Foods. Now Crest usually discounts Nabisco stuff fairly heavily: the standard bag of Oreos is typically $2.50, occasionally as low as $1.99. I paid $4.50 for this. I’m wondering if I should keep them in the fridge — or in a safety-deposit box.

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