Lines having been drawn

Brian J. included this historical tidbit on his Facebook page:

[T]oday’s fun fact: There are almost as many incorporated municipalities in St. Louis County, Missouri (91) as there are in the entire state of Wyoming (99).

And as a note to those people out of the area, the total number of municipalities in St. Louis County does not include the city of St. Louis because the city fathers decided in the latter part of the 19th century that they were tired of spending their tax revenue in the tax hinterlands, so they got a divorce. Now that the county’s population is triple that of the city, it shows the same level of foresight we get from the city leaders even today. Unsurprisingly, the city is more and more receptive to a reconciliation these days to get the county residents to pay for its services.

The county, I suspect, is perhaps less enthusiastic about the prospects for reunion.

A similar situation prevails in Baltimore: the city and county were legally separated back in 1851, though the city, supported by a statewide referendum, managed to annex about 40 square miles from both Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties in 1918. From Baltimore magazine, an historical note:

A civic organization called the Greater Baltimore League took the lead in campaigning for that annexation. One of its spokesmen, retired judge Henry D. Harlan, made folks who moved to the outskirts of the city and then fought against annexation sound like the equivalent of those modern-day folks who move next door to an airport and then complain about the noise.

“Those who locate near the city limits are bound to know that the time may come when the legislature will extend the limits and take them in,” Harlan is quoted as saying in the Sun. “No principle of right or justice or fairness places in their hands the power to stop the progress and development of the city, especially in view of the fact that a large majority of them have located near the city for the purpose of getting the benefit of transacting business or securing employment … in the city.”

Marylanders bought this idea in 1918. By 1948, they’d changed their minds, approving a state question which would require any future annexation proposals to be ratified by voters in the areas to be annexed. Baltimore City today remains within its 1948 borders.

And how many municipalities are there in Baltimore County? Zero. All they have is “census-designated places.” The county government runs the whole show.

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That’s not what I said

“The trouble with quotes on the Internet,” Abraham Lincoln once observed, “is that you can never know if they are genuine.”

Okay, maybe he didn’t say it. But there’s an awful lot of misquoting and misattribution going on out here in Pixelvania, and some of it may be due to the brain wanting to take the easy way out:

Have you noticed how incorrect quotes often just sound right — sometimes, more right than actual quotations? There’s a reason for that. Our brains really like fluency, or the experience of cognitive ease (as opposed to cognitive strain) in taking in and retrieving information. The more fluent the experience of reading a quote — or the easier it is to grasp, the smoother it sounds, the more readily it comes to mind — the less likely we are to question the actual quotation. Those right-sounding misquotes are just taking that tendency to the next step: cleaning up, so to speak, quotations so that they are more mellifluous, more all-around quotable, easier to store and recall at a later point. We might not even be misquoting on purpose, but once we do, the result tends to be catchier than the original.

On the other hand, in contemporary political discourse, it is probably wise to assume that any misquotation is deliberate.

A personal note: Since the old Movable Type days, I’ve had a sidebar feature called “It is written,” which yanks a quotation out of a text file. For some reason, most WordPress widgets offering rotating quotes expect you to store all that material in the database; the plugin used here does not, which is exactly why it is used here, inasmuch as that file has grown to about 160 kilobytes and roughly 2,000 quotes. Of those two thousand, I’ve had to go back and correct about 50, although the problem is more often misattribution than misquotation. I mention this because the piece to which I’ve linked contains one quotation I’d semi-improperly attributed: correct speaker, but incorrect rendering of his name. Of course, it’s since been fixed.

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Systolica dramatica

How high is “high” blood pressure? A thought from a physician:

I’m old enough to remember when we first got good blood pressure medicines, and debated whether we should treat those whose BP was “only” 150-160 … the study that convinced us was one that took some veterans and treated them to keep their pressure under 140 and others they left untreated at 160. Short term, no problem. Long term: More heart attacks and strokes.

I explained to my patients that severe high blood pressure was like running your car at 80 mph in first gear: you will burn out your engine quickly. But mild to moderate high blood pressure was like running your car in second gear: your engine will work fine, but wear out faster than if you used 3 or 4th gear when you went fast.

Then again, if your car is always parked … but never mind, this simile can stretch only so far.

I posted a 160/98 at my last physical, which was deemed a Cause For Alarm, since this is generally 25/15 points above my average. It took me a while to figure out what the hell had happened: I’d baked a ham earlier in the week, which made for lots of leftovers, and hams generally are cured with something like eleven times my usual sodium consumption. (Usually the only thing to which I add salt is the water I boil for cooking pasta, though of course I’m going to pick up greater-than-trace amounts in all manner of foods.) Inscrutably, blood sugar was down markedly that day.

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Tanks for the idea

From an earlier reader comment:

Is there a My Little Abrams M1A2 MBT? Kinda like Thomas the train, but bad@$$ier? :)

Is this close enough?

Ponies in a tank

(Snitched from the Military Bronies Facebook page.)

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Wildwood days

Rebecca Black has been in Philadelphia of late, rehearsing for that Sunday (!) concert date in Wildwood, New Jersey, so there’s nothing in the way of actual news to report.

A personal observation: While RB still has plenty of detractors, there are a few folks willing to speak up in her behalf, or at least assert that she’s not so bad. I found this today at Y!A:

Last year everyone made fun of Rebecca Black and constantly made nasty comments about “Friday” and her voice. I honestly don’t see the big deal. It wasn’t her fault, it’s that ARK music company. They wrote the song and edited her voice way too much. I honestly feel really bad for her, and I saw a video of her singing the Star Spangled Banner live on a talk show, and she really wasn’t that bad. Am I the only one who thinks this? Thanks! :) xx

I assured her that no, she wasn’t the only one who thinks this. And in so doing, I made a possibly rash prediction:

“Friday,” for all its technical flaws, is positively anthemic; fifteen years from now they’ll be singing it during the seventh-inning stretch at baseball games. Even on Tuesdays.

If it happens that way, I have an I Told You So image macro tucked away somewhere.

(Title swiped from Bobby Rydell.)

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Quote of the week

Bryan Jay Ibeas of The Barnstormer, on yet another reboot of the purple and gold:

I have absolutely no problem with the Lakers assembling yet another stacked team. There’s something in it for everyone. Those of us who still love Steve Nash get to watch our hero play for a very legitimate title contender. Those of us who hate the Miami Heat can now rest our repeat-spoiling hopes on a team that actually has a decent chance (because let’s face it, OKC is never going to cut it unless they get significant front court help). And speaking of OKC: all those sanctimonious Thunder fans who like to go on ad infinitum about how their team was built the right way and cures AIDS and has a negative carbon imprint and so on (finger pointed squarely at Forbes) get yet another bogeyman to favourably compare Presti’s Angels to. Because the only thing better than a high horse is a higher horse.

That last sentence, incidentally, applies to many human endeavors, not just roundball.

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At lagerheads (again)

Does the man in the White House prefer Brown Ale? What possible difference could it make?

A scold writing for National Review here wonders if the president has broken laws by transporting his home brew across state lines on Air Force One, or if the brewing project is costing taxpayer money. As to the second: Since the president gets paid with taxpayer money I think that’s a given, plus this doesn’t strike me as the worst thing he’s spent that money on. As to the first: Lighten up, Francis.

At this rate, we’ll be running out of gnats at which to strain.

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The belle of the ball

Megan McArdle has never quite been able to fade into inconspicuousness, and from the looks of this tweet yesterday, I think she’s okay with that:

In my latest fantasy, the Monique Lhuillier fairy drops this off at my house as a reward for some good deed I’ve done.

I do hope she’s been really, really good:

Monique Lhuillier embroidered tulle ball gown

“No Lhuillier collection,” says Fashionologie, “would be complete without some utterly breathtaking gowns.” I do believe this meets the standard for breathtaking.

And so does the price: $10,990 from Neiman Marcus. On the upside, they do offer free shipping.

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Life as a series of small thwartings

My ex-wife’s younger sister died yesterday.

It was no surprise to anyone: she’d been ailing for some time, and checked into a hospice for her few remaining days. This bothered me a great deal, not so much for the tenuous familial connection to me, but for the fact that she was the youngest of three. (I was married to the middle child. More than that I shall not say.)

It tears me up when someone younger than I am checks out of this plane of existence. (I know, I know: “better place.” Well, that’s the way I’ve always heard it should be.) Given that I had four younger siblings, three of whom are gone, this too is no surprise.

This is not a family that dawdles. They’d already made the funeral arrangements, so it was a simple matter of picking a date, and the date they picked is tomorrow, the 18th. I can’t do fourteen hours of driving in eighteen hours, so I can’t go.

At least I can send flowers, right? No, wait: in lieu of, they request a donation to the hospice. Okay, I can do that. As it happens, an actual American Express gift card landed on my doorstep yesterday; instead of agonizing over what to do with it, I’ll just run it through the donation box. The Lord worketh in mysterious ways, and all that.

However, no ways are more mysterious than those of online storefronts. I got through their donation page well enough, until the bottom: “Expiration date.” I didn’t even chuckle. Card expires: June 2021. I pulled down the year-selection box, and it quits at 2020.

And come to think of it, does Amex really think it’s going to take nine years to burn off a two-digit balance?

Fare thee well, lovely lady. Even if it’s not a better world, it’s surely better organized.

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Pick a circle, any circle

Further evidence that anything — anything at all — can be ponified:

This, mind you, from a chap who wrote a story called Sweetie Crush.

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Hello, Dalí

Even surrealists have to pay the bills now and then, which may explain why Salvador Dalí, arguably past his artistic prime, did a series of illustrations for the Bryans line of hosiery. This particular example is dated 1947:

Salvador Dali for Bryans

I’ve seen most of the series, and this one is perhaps a tad less disturbing than most. Bryan Hosiery Mills, out of Chattanooga, was still around in the Sixties to renew their trademark registration, but they’ve since faded away.

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It never occurred to us

I’m not on Medicare, but I must admit to having toed the Official Line on this matter before:

My mother called me this morning to tell me that a 76-year-old friend of hers had gone to her doctor to get a B-12 shot. She was told her insurance (Medicare) didn’t cover that any more. Her friend was incensed and left without getting the shot… So many people are conditioned to follow the “orders” of the third parties, including government payers.

“The pharmacist will only fill 30 days at a time of my medicine because that’s all Medicare will pay for.” I don’t know how many times I have heard that.

“How much would it be for you to pay for a 6 month supply out of your pocket?” I ask.

“Didn’t think about asking.”

Just for the record, six months’ worth of the stuff I take runs from $24 to $552 (the one drug still on patent, for which I currently pay $150). I have no idea if I’d be able to get quantity discounts for any of them, though it would hardly seem to matter for something that costs a mere four bucks a month.

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Justice metered out

James Lileks tries out the new parking meters in Dinkytown:

Parked at one of the new meters, which is a really nifty thing. You don’t pay at your car. You memorize a five-digit number, walk to the middle of the block, put in your money, then walk back past your car, realize you got one of the numbers wrong because your short-term memory is what was I talking about? or because you read the wrong pole. Then you go back and feed the meter again. The amusing thing, in a bitterly unfunny sort of way, is that the terminal accepted a number that did not exist on the street. It’s programmed to take anything. Or, I paid for half an hour for someone downtown. In which case you’re welcome.

The New World Order, Malparkage Division, thanks you for your support.

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All those laboring fans

Mark Alger, who knows something about putting words together, argues the case for fanfiction:

I would argue that a great deal of what is discouraged by copyright holders as infringement is not. But they generally have the deep pockets and big guns and can, to a certain extent, muscle the smaller fish out of commercial exploitation of “their” ideas. But, by all reports, 50 Shades is “thinly-veiled.” If so, the veil covers a multitude of sins, and the weight of the fabric is of no moment — it is a new work and, morally at least, must be judged as wholly original.

And, I suspect, that Stephenie Meyer knows that it hasn’t really done Twilight any harm, and, indeed, may enhance the brand.

I wonder how many Fifty Shades of Grey readers are even aware of the book’s origin as a serial Twilight fanfic. Meyer, for her part, has not been complaining:

“Good on [E. L. James] — she’s doing well. That’s great!”

Without Meyer’s novel, Fifty Shades might not exist. “It might not exist in the exact form that it’s in,” Meyer said. “Obviously, [she] had a story in her, and so it would’ve come out in some other way.”

I must note here that the title Fifty Shades of Hay has shown up on several items, including, yes, a My Little Pony fanfic. Thus the alleged ripoff is itself ripped off. In contemporary remix culture, this is the rule, not the exception, and we should probably get used to it already.

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Twin-spin of the week

The iTunes Shuffle served up this yummy combo yesterday: “I Took a Chance” by the Vinyl Kings, a dead ringer for the Beatles’ cover of Buddy Holly’s “Words of Love,” followed by Jessica Lea Mayfield’s version of, yes, “Words of Love,” off one of those Starbucks Sweetheart discs.

Okay, we can’t call it iTuring yet, but we’re getting close.

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Sparkle in shrine

A common complaint from bronydom is having to keep one’s My Little Pony obsession under wraps, lest there be unpleasant feedback from relatives, coworkers, or soon-to-be-former friends. As some of you have discerned, I tend toward the Better Blatant Than Latent side of the spectrum, especially in pony matters. I did not, however, expect what happened yesterday.

I have mentioned before, not necessarily in jest, that my Inner Child is probably a nine-year-old girl. Toward the very end of yesterday’s shift, an actual nine-year-old girl — I didn’t ask her to verify, but she wasn’t trying to look like a teenager, so nine is plausible enough, though I’m willing to believe ten or even eleven — wandered into my department and offered me some hand-drawn pictures of Twilight Sparkle, since I’m such a big fan and all.

Drawings of Twilight Sparkle

And we proceeded to run down everything we knew about all things Equestria, including the inevitable Best Pony discussion (she holds out for Fluttershy), whether Rainbow Dash was originally intended to be a stallion instead of a mare (no, it’s just the way she wears her mane), and why pegasi shouldn’t wear dresses. Were it not for my basso not-so-profundo, you might have thought it was a couple of nine-year-old girls chatting.

Yes, I’m okay with that. Now if I could just persuade Twilight to decipher the instructions on that ridiculous sort-of-programmable thermostat.

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