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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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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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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