Where ice seems redundant

Now and then things just jump out at you, or at least at me. The opening paragraph here is definitely a grabber:

397 km (247 mi) off the north coast of Norway and 235 km (146 mi) south of Svalbard lies an isolated, lonely 178 km² (68.7 sq mi) chunk of land known in English as Bear Island and in Norwegian as Bjørnøya (we’ll use both terms in this article, as the names are interchangeable in most parlance). Why is such a randomly isolated chunk of land present in this part of the Arctic Ocean and, perhaps more importantly, why is this remote island with a population of nine home to the world’s most northerly skinny-dippers association (one with over 2000 members, at that)?

I looked at a map, and came up with the dubious notion that “Maybe it’s not that cold.” Wikipedia bears me out, so to speak:

A branch of the North Atlantic current carries warm water to Svalbard, creating a climate much warmer than that of other regions at similar latitude. Bear Island’s climate is maritime-polar with relatively mild temperatures during the winter. January is the coldest month, with a mean temperature of -8.1°C (17.4°F) (base period 1961-1990). July and August are the warmest months, with mean temperatures of 4.4°C (39.9°F).

So it’s not exactly ice-cold, but certainly cold enough. About those skinny-dippers:

It wasn’t until 1947 that a radio meteorological station was at Herlighanna. It is this 20-building post that hosts the nine permanent residents of the island; a crew that changes over twice per year (and which maintains an entertaining blog). It is these brave (and occasionally bored) souls who inaugurated the Bjørnøya nakenbadeforening — the Bear Island Naked Beach Club. The only way to enter the club and obtain your membership diploma is to take it all off (in the presence of a member of the opposite gender, they’ll remind you) and brave a dip in the cold Arctic water. Thanks to the twice-per-year staff turnover, visits from the occasional Arctic cruise ship en route to Svalbard, and visits from Norwegian cabinet ministers and government personnel, the membership is well over 2100 people at this point. Even at this latitude, water temperatures can reach 10°C (50°F), but that’s only sometimes; when Minster of Justice and Police Knut Storberget was inducted into the club, his dip was taken at a bonechilling 3.8°C (39°F), which is likely more typical. Keep in mind, this was in August at the height of summer.

Go ahead and shiver. I certainly will.

Comments off




Non sum dingleberry

There are times in these pages when I sound like I think of myself as lower than a fish fart in a flash flood, and readers have occasionally (gently) chastised me for saying so. I assure them, though, that I’ve got nothing on Robert Stacy McCain:

When I publicly blame myself for my failures, when I advertise to the world my inglorious humiliation, it is not in a bid for anyone’s pity, nor is it evidence of a “chemical imbalance,” but simply because to do the opposite — to give in to the temptation to seek scapegoats for my own failures — would be more harmful to me than any unfair dishonor that others might heap upon my name.

Not that anyone’s seeking to heap dishonor upon my name of late, but I figure that if anyone is going to mock me, it might as well be me, since I’m demonstrably good at it, even if I flout a law of grammar in so doing.

Given the opportunities I’ve had, and mindful of the unmerited blessings bestowed upon me, if I fall short of achieving any goal within my boundless ambition, no one else is to blame but me. If others do not recommend or praise me, this is my fault and not theirs, and it would be great folly indeed to think that I deserve any more praise — or any less criticism — than I get. Others more praiseworthy have been ignored, and others less blameworthy have been rejected and condemned.

Here is where we diverge. I chose to impose an upper boundary on my ambition, a far-simpler task: it earns about the same number of difficulty points as, say, trying to teach a dog to appreciate steak.

Everyone thinks they deserve more praise, and no one is so truly modest as to mean it when they dismiss as undeserved such praise as they get.

In my own case, it’s not so much modesty as it is suspicion: why would somebody say a thing like that?

Comments (3)




Dyslexia without being dissed

Over the years, the existence of dyslexia has given us much confusion, several bad jokes, and at least one typeface. What we have not been getting is a compelling reason to prevent ourselves, patronizing as we often are, from looking down on those who suffer from it. Yet they have advantages over the rest of us:

Dyslexic brains are organized in a way that maximizes strength in making big picture connections at the expense of weaknesses in processing fine details.

It’s a huge mistake to regard a dyslexic child as if his or her brain is trying to follow the same pathway of development as all the other kids but is simply doing a bad job of it. In reality, the brains of kids with dyslexic processing styles are actually developing in a very different way. They establish a different pattern of connections and circuitry, creating a different kind of problem-solving apparatus. The difference is global, not just in certain areas of the brain.

As Steve Jobs might have said in a non-necessarily-unrelated context: “Think different.”

Most dyslexics tend to remember facts as experiences, examples or stories, rather than abstractions… These kids have a very strong ability to learn from experience. It’s very common for their families to describe these kids as the family elephant. They’ll be the go-to person when someone wants to remember who gave what to sister for her birthday two years ago. They might be the family historian, but they can’t remember the times tables or which direction the three goes.

These individuals excel in fields where telling and understanding stories are important, like sales, counseling, trial law or even teaching. In addition, a large number of professional writers are dyslexic.

This assumes, of course, that we don’t allow them to get trapped on the short bus on the way to those fields. There are times when I wonder if that’s too much to assume.

(Via I Speak of Dreams.)

Comments (1)




Most. Overused. Ever.

Whiny McWhinerson Gladstone complains at Cracked.com about seeing the same old rhetorical devices all over the Interwebz. Um, thanks for sharing, Gladdy.

Comments (8)




Strange search-engine queries (297)

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree
Travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody’s looking for something…

“Danish Drivers Association”:  Their task is made more difficult by the fact that a lot of the places you’ll stop for your morning coffee don’t have really good Danish.

bud bundy with a tail:  Apparently Al was the first in a series of atavistic genetic throwbacks.

“Strategic leveragability”:  Contemporary synonym for “We have no farging clue what we’re doing, but we’re doing it just the same.”

marginal enhancement:  Contemporary synonym for “totally new.”

carly foulkes “not pretty”:  None so blind as those who will not see.

proper way to wild open twoddle:  I suspect a twoddle that’s open enough is pretty wild already.

exactly the same but totally different shirt:  Congratulations, you’ve decoded the American Apparel business model.

help valleybrook suspended my license because they say i didn’t pay:  Didn’t pay whom? The cop on the beat? The girl at the titty bar? (Come to think of it, that’s all there is in Valley Brook.)

how expensive was your trench coat:  I had to crawl through two trenches in driving rain to get it.

what does the 1 2 3 by the shifter mean in my car:  It means that you’re probably too dumb to own a car.

Comments off




Mighty morphing

Comments (5)




Hoping others will follow

I can understand, sort of, why Blogger went to that “follower” model: these days, it’s mandatory to pay obeisance to the Gods of Social Media, and I have to figure that Google wanted to implement something without causing a massive upheaval. (Rival Tumblr is almost entirely follower-based, and WordPress.com can’t be far behind.)

Still, something about the little Followers widget in the Blogger sidebar has always bugged me, and apparently I’m not the only one:

I’ve always disliked that button, because it seriously changed the world of blogging when they added it. What used to be more of a community turned into kind of a popularity contest, and I dragged my feet even putting it up to begin with. But I wanted people to be able to follow if they wanted, so I relented. Now I’m thinking it’s time to get rid of the number.

Which she did. This does not mean I’m considering getting rid of SiteMeter, but there’s a difference, at least to me: the meter merely counts up visitors, and it would take a fair amount of analytical work to associate any entry in the database with a particular reader — and some readers may not want to be identified thusly. Blogger’s widget didn’t give you much choice: if you followed, your icon appeared in the list, and that was that. Worse, if the number fluctuated, you knew about it every time you looked at your front page. I once had the bad idea of installing a desktop widget that monitored SiteMeter in realtime, but killed it once I realized the dire effect it had on my sense of well-being. And the gizmo that counts the feed subscribers tells me only how many there are and which individual posts, if any, have separate subscriptions: no identities or IPs are disclosed, and I can’t necessarily cross-reference with SiteMeter, because SiteMeter can’t pick up feed readers who don’t actually stop in at the site.

And no, I’m not thinking about dropping the meter, even though it would save me a (fairly small) sum each year, simply because it’s essential to compiling the Monday-morning search-engine roundup, and I’d hate to give that up. Besides, there’s something vaguely reassuring about having had 2.18 million visitors, even if it did take a decade and a half.

Comments (3)




A ripping yarn

Actually, several of them, it appears:

Pelephone, advises Peter, from whom I poached the link, is an Israeli mobile-phone company.

Comments (3)




Really, it’s different

Manufacturers of prescription drugs really hate it when those drugs go off-patent and generic competitors spring up. To avoid this, they’ll often change the original product just a hair: for instance, you can get zolpidem tartrate from any of several generic houses, but only Sanofi-Aventis can produce controlled-release Ambien CR. For now, anyway.

Then again, hairs can be split:

Generic versions of Doryx (doxycycline hyclate), an antibiotic used to treat severe acne and produced by Irish company Warner Chilcott, were slated to hit the market at the end of September. But, argues Warner, its recent addition of a second score to the pill — making it easier for users to divide the pill into three pieces — means that generic versions must also have the same number of scores.

Interestingly, Watson, a major maker of generics, has been selling doxycycline hyclate tablets — and capsules — for several years; only they list it as a generic for Vibramycin, originally developed by Pfizer, and approved by the FDA way back in 1967. Warner Chilcott’s Doryx, it turns out, is indeed a delayed-release version, and according to their current Vermont disclosure form [pdf], it wholesales for upwards of $10 per tab, which puts it in a league with the “industrial-strength” antibiotic I took for pneumonia a couple of years ago.

Comments (2)




Somebody thought this was a swell idea

Funeral invoice in an insensitive font

Restraints to prevent the deceased from rotation about his now-horizontal axis, had he learned that his funeral bill was going to be rendered in Comic Sans: priceless.

(From The Daily What, via this JennQPublic tweet.)

Comments off




Your basic battery bus

The bane of your existence, should you choose an electric vehicle, is waiting for the wee beastie to charge up already fercrissake. It’s almost enough to get you to take the bus.

And if you’re in Tallahassee, some time next year you’ll get the opportunity to take an electric bus. These big boxes have even less range than your car — about thirty miles — but they have one thing you don’t:

Proterra’s system allows a battery electric bus to pull into a transit center terminal or on-route stop and automatically connect to an overhead system that links the bus to a high capacity charger without driver involvement. The bus is then rapidly charged in 5-10 minutes while passengers load and unload. The charging station technology includes advanced wireless controls that facilitate the docking process and eliminate any intervention from the driver. The driver merely pulls into the transit terminal as they normally would, the wireless controls identify that this is the right type of bus and automatically guides and connects the bus with the charging station.

Says Proterra, you get 92 percent of full charge in six minutes. From the looks of things, the charging unit is guided into place by a couple of roof rails. Simple enough. This probably wouldn’t work for cars without some complicated height adjustment, but then again, the car wash seems to be able to figure out automotive width just fine.

Comments (2)




Fourteen fortysomething and counting

Just when I start to think that my approved-by-Andy-Warhol fifteen minutes of fame have expired, they tell me that I’ve been mentioned in a book.

And by “they,” I mean Adam Gurri, who sent this into the stream yesterday:

Tweet by Adam Gurri

Having blithered my way through eighteen thousand or so snippets of tweet text so far, I couldn’t possibly identify anything I said which might be of interest to Mr Jarvis, whose book Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011) was published a couple weeks ago. Mr Gurri, however, could:

Tweet by me at Jeff Jarvis

It’s referenced on page three, albeit just by the Twitter ID — but then, anyone who looks up that Twitter ID is going to find me. (As regular readers know, I have vanishingly few secrets.)

Of course, this means I’ll have to buy the book, as I did with the two previous books that make some reference to me. And over in the corner, Andy is looking at his watch.

Comments (2)




Next of kin to be notified

Zooey Deschanel flies with “The Wayward Wind”:

(Snipped from HelloGiggles, in which ZD is a partner.)

Comments (1)




Meanwhile, across the way

The passing of Steve Jobs has inspired Stuart Brown and the WordPress gang to assemble a Retro Mac theme, which I have installed on the backup site because — well, why the heck not? (I briefly entertained the idea of dropping it here, but decided against it out of, um, brand-management considerations. Yeah. That’ll work.)

I must point out here that not everyone is inclined to mourn the fellow, who by all accounts was, let us say, a bit difficult. Then again, so am I, to far less effect.

Comments (3)




Scullyer than thou

Once upon a time, readers of FHM selected Gillian Anderson as the Sexiest Woman in the World. And that time, you’ll want to know, was 1996. How does she look today? (By “today,” I mean “earlier this week on a British talk show.”)

Gillian Anderson

I’d say, certainly better than FHM, which wound up withdrawing from American newsstands in 2006. And besides, when’s the last time I showed you anything this orange?

Comments (11)




The name of this scam is talking heads

Bill Quick’s take on campaign debates is pretty much the same as mine:

Actually, if it were up to me, I’d ban debates entirely. Too much is at stake to hang a primary nomination on a mis-statement or an unimpressive makeup job.

Or, for that matter, an uninformed, possibly even hostile, moderator.

A lot of candidates complain about not getting their message out. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that these 90-second driblets don’t constitute much of a message. Right now, about the only value I see to the debates is the marked increase in snark I notice in my tweetstream.

Comments (3)




Advice from a spammer

Dropped into the Akismet queue yesterday:

You must master the artwork and technology of traffic for your website. Is the web site without site visitors is like having an ice cream store within the desert, located one hundred km from the nearest highway. It has the most efficient ice cream on this planet, but when anyone enters your retailer, you are going to be defeated.

About three hours later, from the same IP:

Personally, I will positioned the squeeze on my web site and use it to get an inventory that I will marketplace many times.

I hate it when my squeeze is unpositioned.

Comments (3)




Several hundred Fridays from now

Tiffani Azani writes in Business 2 Community:

I think Rebecca Black has well established that her current fame is more important than whatever else should happen in the future. But that begs the question, will her fame actually last? And in 20 years, when she looks back on her teenage fame, how will she feel? Her teenage brain has chosen fame over pride, which is understandable for someone in their youth. However, I doubt that she will feel the same, in five, ten, twenty, or even fifty years. Like many one-hit wonders before her, people will forget and she will have a minimal level of fame.

Will we still need her, will we still feed her, when she’s sixty-four? Hard to say. However, rather a lot of one-hit wonders have managed to sustain lengthy careers under the radar. Bruce Channel, who gave us the iconic “Hey! Baby,” used to quip at his live performances: “And now, I’d like to do a medley of my hit.” He’s still singing it.

There is, of course, the obligatory Future Projection:

Just imagine what archaeologists would think in three hundred years if they uncovered a video from the 21st Century, and instead of some incredibly talented artist like Yo-Yo Ma, they found a video of Rebecca Black instead?

But who the hell knows? In 2311, “music” may consist of the amplified resonance obtained by cutting bosons in two with nanochainsaws. They may not know Yo-Yo Ma from yo’ mama.

Comments (5)




The song is ended, but the malady lingers on

“As it turned out, Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. What are the chances of that?”

This one-liner has been kicking around in the back of my head for several decades now. I seem to remember hearing it in George Carlin’s voice. Then again, “Weird Al” Yankovic has warned against misattribution of this sort, so I’m not going to declare it a Carlinism.

And I wouldn’t bring it up here except for Lynn’s piece about Nellie Melba:

She was highly regarded in her day and now she’s only remembered as the name of a dessert, and hardly anyone knows why it’s named that. But, on the other hand, there are worse ways that one’s name can go down in history. As the name of a deadly disease, is the first thing that comes to mind.

John Montagu, fourth earl of Sandwich, was not available for comment; I suspect he may have been out to lunch.

And besides, there’s at least the possibility that Lou Gehrig might actually have died of something else, though there’s really no way to know for sure.

Comments (5)




The wages of speed

Oklahoma City wants a new police HQ/municipal court — no surprise there, the old one is way past its prime — and one proposed scheme to pay for it is to jack up the court costs for speeding tickets:

Speeding tickets have a lower court cost associated with them than other moving violations, and the cost hasn’t risen in eight years… The bump by $11 would bring in an extra $500,000 a year and save the city interest payments that would be associated with some of the other payment options.

Not that I have a problem with this, particularly, inasmuch as the amount they’ve made from my (lack of) moving violations in the past three decades is right at $0, but half a million dollars from an eleven-buck bump? Is it possible that the city hands out 45,000 speeding tickets a year?

Comments (4)