Strange search-engine queries (345)

In this weekly feature, we examine the search strings found in URLs referring to this site, and hope we find some worthy of snark, because otherwise I’ve just read four thousand log entries without finding anything usable as content. The only other phenomenon that comes close to this degree of disgruntlement is watching political coverage on television.

adverb litter:  Now pick up those adverbs, and I mean immediately.

surrealist meme dimension dada you offer a hot dog:  The raccoons have already eaten the corn. Where were you?

she-had-polio, floppy:  Making fun of her won’t help.

effects of krispy kreme:  A broadening of your experiences, particularly those in the general vicinity of your waistline.

pry me a river:  Pried the whole night through, did you?

gary lord hydrogen:  His second cousin, once removed, is the Duke of Boron.

what’s going in at 150th and Penn in Oklahoma City?  Hint: it’s not an improved traffic-control system.

sell 2007 ford mercy hail damage:  Body shops are legendarily merciless. No wonder you’re selling.

how is climate change detected:  In hindsight, when someone says “Jebus, it’s hot,” and then inexplicably continues to breathe.

did barack obama say if people break their hips they can just die:  He did not say that. Though he might make an exception for Paul Ryan.

dixie whatley husker du:  Dü-dah, dü-dah; Dixie Whatley Hüsker Dü, all the dü-dah day.

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Cutting one’s losses

When does it become cheaper to buy a new car than to fix an old one? Right about the time Satan starts banging on the pipes to demand more heat.

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Meanwhile, far from Cremona

What makes a Strad a Strad? The short answer: it takes Antonio Stradivari to make a true Stradivarius instrument, and, well, he died in 1737. But it’s now speculated that he may have had a little help from a couple of fungi and the Maunder Minimum:

Low density, high speed of sound and a high modulus of elasticity — these qualities are essential for ideal violin tone wood. In the late 17th and early 18th century the famous violin maker Antonio Stradivari used a special wood that had grown in the cold period between 1645 and 1715. In the long winters and the cool summers, the wood grew especially slowly and evenly, creating low density and a high modulus of elasticity. Until now, modern violin makers could only dream of wood with such tonal qualities.

Professor [Francis W. M. R.] Schwarze’s developments could soon make similarly good wood available for violin making. He discovered two species of fungi (Physisporinus vitreus and Xylaria longipes), which decay Norway spruce and sycamore — the two important kinds of wood used for violin making — to such an extent that their tonal quality is improved. “Normally fungi reduce the density of the wood, but at the same time they unfortunately reduce the speed with which the sound waves travel through the wood,” the researcher explained. “The unique feature of these fungi is that they gradually degrade the cell walls, thus inducing a thinning of the walls. But even in the late stages of the wood decomposition, a stiff scaffold structure remains via which the sound waves can still travel directly.” Even the modulus of elasticity is not compromised; the wood remains just as resistant to strain as before the fungal treatment — an important criterion for violin making.

Dr Schwarze, in fact, has put this theory to the test:

At the 27th [2009] “Osnabrücker Baumpflegetagen,” one of Germany’s most important annual conferences on all aspects of forest husbandry, Empa researcher Francis Schwarze’s “biotech violin” dared to go head to head in a blind test against a Stradivarius — and won. A brilliant outcome for the Empa violin, which is made of wood treated with fungus, against the instrument made by the great master himself in 1711.

Assuming that the government allows it to survive, Gibson should have some pretty amazing Les Paul guitars in a few decades.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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The very model of a modern minor miracle

Herewith, Daniel Radcliffe does his best Tom Lehrer:

And there’s a pretty girl in an orange dress, whom I didn’t notice at all. (Looks sort of like Rihanna.)

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Well, yeah, I can understand this:

The Big East is taking steps to “tweak” its name now that it includes schools from California, Idaho, Texas, Tennessee and Florida, according to Joe Bailey, the conference’s former interim commissioner.

The Big East has commissioned a study to consider alternative names, Bailey said [Thursday] at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit hosted by Bloomberg Link in New York. He wouldn’t say when the names would be presented to conference presidents for their consideration.

And who better to make such an announcement than the former interim commissioner?

I offer a cautionary tale from the world of lodging:

In 1964, Best Western launched an expansion effort of its own operations east of the Mississippi using the moniker “Best Eastern” for those properties with the same typestyle and Gold Crown logo as “Best Western.” By 1967, the “Best Eastern” name was dropped and all motels from coast-to-coast got the “Best Western” name and Gold Crown.

Representatives from neither the Big Ten (12 schools) nor the Big 12 (ten schools) were available for comment.

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Putting the “rank” in PageRank

This is not how you do search-engine optimization:

A man who terrified his customers with threats of death and rape so his business would appear higher up on Google searches has been sentenced to four years in jail.

Vitaly Borker, 36, from New York, was also ordered to pay almost $100,000 in restitution and fines when he was was handed down his sentence.

Then again, it worked, for a while anyway:

Mr. Borker was the subject of a November 2010 article in The New York Times in which he claimed that frightening consumers was a way to generate Internet publicity about his business, which purportedly elevated his profile in Google searches, generating more traffic and revenue.

Google, sensing the presence of evil, promptly tweaked their algorithm.

(Via Fark.)

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Quote of the week

The redoubtable Gagdad Bob, in a piece charmingly titled “The Satanic Fecundity of Envy”:

In America, we have the freedom to try to rise to the level of our abilities and ambitions. You’d think this would be a good thing, but it cuts both ways, at least. This is because it bakes hierarchy into the cake, and necessarily results in some people being at the top, others at the bottom. Way it is. The only way to avoid this outcome is via some form of injustice and tyranny that forces lions to dine on lettuce because that’s what rabbits eat.

Until relatively recently, Americans understood and tolerated this. And in order to tolerate it, they must tolerate their own envy, not indulge in it.

Or, if the person is excessively envious, he must at least try to put it to good use, and not just use it to tear down someone else in order to appease a frustrated sense of entitlement. The person who is truly motivated by envy won’t actually be happy once he achieves his persecutory dream, but at least this is preferable to attacking and parasitizing someone else’s.

Tolerance of envy is a marker of emotional maturity. For the same reason, indulgence in envy is a prime characteristic of immaturity. And envy flourishes when there is an absence of gratitude. Thus, the cultivation of gratitude is critical to both personal happiness and a functional society.

It’s a thankless age, one I failed to anticipate:

As deadly sins go, envy strikes me as one of the less lethal of the bunch. Certainly it’s as counterproductive as any of the others, but seldom does it drive anyone to graver matters; its most obvious Biblical warning serves mostly to remind me that it’s been a long time since a neighbor of mine had an ass worth coveting.

But that was almost a decade ago, before envy became a political platform.

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Bait and rebate

CFI Care (not its real initials) sent me a form letter to tell me that they would not be sending me a check:

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers in the individual and small group market to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they receive on health care services and activities to improve health care quality (in the large group market, this amount is 85 percent). This is referred to at the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rule or the 80/20 rule. If a health insurer does not spend at least 80 percent of the premiums it receives on health care services and activities to improve health care quality, the insurer must rebate the difference.

It would be nice if, the Federal site that details some of these factoids, had actually posted a list of insurers and the MLR for each. (If in fact they do, I apologize, but they need to do a better job of spelling out where it is.) Still, it was no particular trick to find the pertinent number for my own carrier: 86.

Inasmuch as the line before the quoted text says flatly “You will not be receiving a rebate,” I suspect some people heard about this on “the news” (as distinguished from the news) and just naturally assumed they’d be getting a check, which presumably they could use to buy a free lunch. did provide a breakdown at the state level. Apparently nobody at all in New Mexico will be receiving a rebate.

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Mark Alger is temporarily blogless. From his Facebook page:

BabyTrollBlog is down and will be until I finish kicking the crap out of GoDaddy for hijacking my domain (which was transferred away from them a month ago). Once that mission is accomplished, normal services will resume.

Given some of the horror stories I’ve heard about GoDaddy, there is much crap to be kicked.

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Anyone seen my handset cradle?

While reading Bruce Sterling, Roberta X tosses in this historical note:

Is there anything quite as dead as dial-up BBSes? I can still use a 1920s dial telephone; but a 300 baud modem (heck, even a superfast 2400-baud) isn’t even a good doorstop. No, I’m being unfair: the landline telegraph guys use them (plus a custom interface) to telegraph one another, via a nifty hub and The TelCo, in a very clever mash-up of time-spanning technologies.

I may as well mention here that until we ripped out the shop’s T1 and replaced it with sweet, sweet fiber — sweet, sweet, farging expensive fiber — our Monster Tower called home to its Big Blue overlords over what used to be a luxury: ISDN. Far as I know, it’s still supported in the hardware.

Oh, and I still own a USRobotics V.90 modem. Just in case.

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Disk cussing

A new film from the UK chronicles the near-extinction of a cultural icon:

And this claim made therein deserves some attention:

Independent retailers have claimed that record labels deliberately lowered the quality of vinyl records they produced in the Eighties in order to accelerate the popularity of CD.

As distinguished from the practice at American labels, which was deliberately lowering the quality of vinyl records they produced in the Seventies in order to accelerate profits. See, for instance, Dynawarp Dynaflex.

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Which theme can I take?

Not that I was particularly worried about it, but apparently Rebecca Black does not pirate software. From her current blog FAQ:

Where’d you get your theme?

Narnia by Blink and It’s Over. I don’t give out the code to anyone so to get it, you should buy it, like I did.

Then again, why would anyone pirate software that costs a meager $3.49? (Don’t answer that. Unless, of course, you really want to.)

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Miss Watson, if you’re Nast-y

Emma Watson made the cover of Glamour for October — both the US and UK editions. And looking at those two covers side by side, I’m finding it just a little hard to believe that it’s the same person in both shots:

Emma Watson in Glamour

Then again, I haven’t understood much of anything Condé Nast has done since they bought Wired.

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Love — is anterior to Life

Back in Vent #717, I ventured the opinion that Emily Dickinson “looked pretty good in black” — based on the single surviving daguerreotype.

Except “single” may not be the appropriate word anymore. The History Blog reports:

But now there’s a new contender for the title of only picture of Emily Dickinson as an adult poet, and the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections thinks it may just be the real deal. The image is a daguerreotype taken around 1859 of two women sitting next to each other, one with her arm around the other. It belongs to a daguerreotype collector who bought it in a group of items from a Springfield junk dealer in 1995.

“Adult” is specified because Dickinson was still in her teens in 1847, when that previous shot was taken. Here’s a comparison of the two portraits, through the magic of Photoshop:

And here’s a report by the magicians in question.


Addendum: Fark headline: “Second photo of Emily Dickinson found. She appears small, like the wren, and her hair is bold, like the chestnut bur”.

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I knew him when

This Dave Marsh description of Joe South has stuck with me for more than twenty years: “He played [guitar] like a country boy who’d gotten his first instrument as a Christmas present when he was eleven years old, which he was and did.” But I remember him best as a songwriter, starting with “Untie Me,” the Tams’ first hit, fifty (!) years ago. All of Billy Joe Royal’s best pop/rock tunes — in other words, almost everything before the execrable “Cherry Hill Park” — were Joe South creations, starting with class-warfare favorite “Down in the Boondocks” and peaking (on the same LP, yet) with “I’ve Got to Be Somebody,” which contains the following verse:

But then one day she came my way
And I heard a voice within me say
Don’t let her get away
Whatever you do
But I never thought
That this could be
That she would ever
Look at me seriously

Almost everything even remotely romantic I’ve ever written, said or done is informed by those very words.

Still, what people will remember Joe South for is his single “Games People Play,” or perhaps the alternate take released as an LP track. It’s worth it, especially for the line “And furthermore, to hell with hate!” Marsh again: “You think that wasn’t a big deal coming from a Southerner in 1969?” I was there. I know.

That big heart of Joe’s gave out Wednesday at his home in Buford, Georgia. He was 72.

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Quantitative sleazing

I’m sure this requires no explanation:

From the desk of Ben Bernanke Of Federal Reserve Bank,
33 Liberty St New York
NY 10045-0001.

Attn: Esteemed Beneficiary,

This is officially to notify you that We have received a payment credit instruction from the World Bank Swiss to credit your account with your full Inheritance fund of US$4.5Million from the Nigerian reserve account With our Bank because they are having problem with International Monetary Fund (IMF). We the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has taken up the mantle to advocate on your interest for the release of your fund over delayed payment.

I hereby acquaint you with the procedure for the release and transfer of this approved payment fund to you. You are required to furnish to us the under mentioned statutory requisites to enable my office commence actions.

{1}. Your Full Name and Address:
{2}. Your Confidential Tell, Cell and Fax Number for easier and
faster communication:
{3). Your Bank name and address:
{4). Your A/c Name and Numbers:
(5). Your Swift Code / Routing Numbers:
(6) Occupation / Marital Status:

You probably should also send your passport and your car keys.

Incidentally, I seriously doubt that Ben Bernanke is using Outlook Express. (Email headers, how do they work?)

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