Another note from the Central Scrutinizer

I probably shouldn’t say so out loud, but for some inscrutable (at least, the Scrutinizer can’t figure it out) reason, the auto-insurance bill is unchanged this time around, meaning the only serious budget adjustments for the second half of 2013 will be due to food and energy costs, which, according to the Fed, don’t count toward the core inflation rate and therefore don’t matter to the sort of people who matter to the Fed.

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Sorry, Wong number

Nancy Kwan turns 74 tomorrow, and had things gone just a little differently for her, she might have been hailed as one of the great dancers: she attended the Royal Ballet School in London, and upon her return to Hong Kong, she decided to teach.

Enter producer Ray Stark, who was working up a stage play (later a film) called The World of Suzie Wong. Kwan auditioned, and won one of the smaller roles, Stark having found her “alluringly leggy” with an “acceptable face.” I’m not quite sure what Stark meant by this, although it may have had something to do with the fact that Kwan was only half Chinese. You make the call:

Nancy Kwan in The World of Suzie Wong

And anyway, France Nuyen was going to play the lead in the film. Then Nuyen, whose love life had gone to hell — or to Marlon Brando, which might have been the same thing — was let go, and Kwan wound up with the role of Suzie and the crew wound up with a lot of reshoots. William Holden, the love interest, didn’t seem too perturbed. (Holden wasn’t in the stage play; that was, um, William Shatner.)

In 2007, Warner Bros. executive Brian Jamieson, then contemplating a release of a Nancy Kwan video package, was moved to make a documentary about Kwan’s sudden rise to fame and her subsequent near-disappearance. His film, To Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen’s Journey, screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival in 2010, drew this response:

Nancy Kwan with Roger and Chaz Ebert

The thumbs, of course, belong to Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz.

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At least he didn’t review the carpet

“Can’t you take a joke?” Well, yes, I can, even if it borders on the offensive, if it’s funny.

This title — “Small SUV Crashopalooza: Detroit Loses, Dykes Win” — was marginal at best, and then the article descended further:

“US small SUVs scored badly,” writes [Reuters]. Top honors took a trucklet that, according to the Urban Dictionary, is “driven by post-menopausal lesbians”: The Subaru Forester.

Well, hardly exclusively. But things got worse:

The Jeep Wrangler brings up the rear with a truly mediocre showing. Boo, hiss, Detroit — pussy-whipped by a Japanese transgender crossover that is also known as a “vag-wag?”

Now one could expect this sort of thing, I suppose, from a publication that gives out an award of sorts called “Ten Worst Automobiles Today.” Still, there’s a difference between pushing the envelope and ripping it to shreds, and there’s a difference between Funny and Not Funny.

One contributor is already rethinking his status:

Yours truly was up past midnight with several other editors, past and present, on what the hell to do. Resign. Boycott. Protest. It all seems well and good until you realize that, hey, my colleagues and my audience don’t deserve any of this at all.

To the editor-in-chief, who actually wrote the piece and therefore had no trouble approving it, I pass along the advice of the Martian (or whatever he was) to Sandy Bates in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories: “Incidentally, you’re also not Superman; you’re a comedian. You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.”

What would be funnier, perhaps, would be Subaru pulling its ads from the site. Karma has its amusing aspects.

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Superluminally speaking

The speed of light is enforced, not by radar, but by the very laws of physics, so we are helpless in the face of this dire predicament:

[A] star 10 light-years away is just now receiving material that went out into space in 2003. This means that on August 1, they will encounter Gigli, and the tragic thing is that because any signal we send now would also travel at the speed of light, we have no way to warn them.

If ever there was an excuse for the development of FTL travel … but never mind, we hardly need an excuse, do we?

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Pretty typical washing instructions, at least early on:

Hand wash only. Use mild soap and soft cloth in warm water less than 30cm (11 inches) deep and less than 50°C (120°F). Do not wash in dishwasher. Do not use abrasives, alcohol, solvents or harsh detergents. Do not submerge USB cable. Follow washing instructions in the Quick Start Guide.

The eyes bug out, I suspect, at “USB cable.” This is, in fact, a washable keyboard, by Logitech, and Tam will vouch for it:

The keys are spaced a reasonable distance apart to avoid fat-fingering and give satisfying, if not exactly IBM Model M-like, tactile feedback when struck. As a bonus, there’s a little brush clipped to the bottom of the keyboard for dusting stuff out from under the keycaps, and the USB connector on the cord has a tethered cap to cover it when you’re giving it a scrub in the sink.

Costs about as much as three crappy keyboards you’ll throw away in six months.

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Spend the day your way

There exists a roundabout at the five-way crossing of Walker and Classen Drive and NW 10th, and it’s been there long enough that everyone knows how to negotiate it, right?

Um, no. I’m not even sure I’m following the correct protocols. For doofi at my level or beyond, Doug DeMuro has written up a handy list of tips for roundabout negotiation, which should prove to be invaluable — or not:

I recommend printing this out and storing it in your car. That way, when a roundabout approaches, you can take your eyes off the road and frantically search for it as you drive through, thereby becoming the best driver in the roundabout.

And really, I’m not fearful: I think Memorial and Pennsylvania could make a very good roundabout. Of course, compared to what it is now, it would also make a good barbecue pit, or a good meteor crater.

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And down was gotten

Earlier this week, Rebecca Black discovered to her horror that her dad was listening to Nickelback.

Which gives me an excuse to post this:

What can I say? It’s Friday.

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A time of disharmony

And possibly even, dare I suggest, small-d discord:

Physically brave to the point of recklessness, this leader has courage beyond any doubt. But sometimes, this hero, revered by many, makes poor decisions, largely because of the belief that the best solution to any problem is a direct, frontal attack.

Yes, I’m taking about Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony. But I’m also referring to Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood.

You might be surprised how well Civil War generals match up with ponies — especially The Great and Powerful George B. McClellan. (Okay, maybe he wasn’t that much of a surprise.)

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Quote of the week

Now that Minnesota has legalized same-sex marriage, this anguished cry sounds even more so:

I don’t know why gay people choose gayness, but I chose to be straight the day I realized “Although I never ever ever want children, I just adore the added fillip and excitement that ‘risk of pregnancy’ adds to my sex life. And when I was single and dating — which is to say, spending time alone with people I didn’t necessarily know very well — I also loved that added risk of violent death vis-a-vis sexual dimorphism: if I’m with a woman who turns out to be a violent psycho hoping to kill me with her bare hands, there’s a pretty decent chance I could successfully defend myself against her. Which is booooriiiiiing. Gimme a psycho attacker who outweighs me by at least a hundred testosterone-enriched pounds! And my chances of getting AIDS and other STDs were always a lot higher from straight sex, too. With all the kickass advantages heterohood has to offer childfree women like me, it’s obvious that only a self-hating, risk-taking, masochistic fool of a woman would choose to be a lesbian instead.”

As proposals go, this one is fairly modest; but ’tis enough, ’twill serve.

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Perón 2.0

Buenos Aires, like Washington, is bothered by tantalizing hints of funds yet untaxed. Unlike Washington, they have a Plan, kinda sorta:

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner wants tax evaders hiding about $160 billion in dollars to help finance Argentina’s oil-producing ambitions. Her offer: Buy a 4 percent bond or face the prospect of jail time.

The tax authority announced the plan May 7, highlighting its information-sharing agreements with 40 nations and warning Argentines who don’t use the three-month amnesty window that they risk fines or arrest. Evaders have two options for their cash and the only one paying interest will be a dollar bond due in 2016 to finance YPF SA, the state oil company. The 4 percent rate is a third the average 13.85 yield on Argentine debt and less than the 4.6 percent in emerging markets.

This is not, incidentally, the first time the Argentine government has gone after those wicked rich people:

Many Argentines hide assets to avoid a 35 percent income tax and a levy of as much as 1.25 percent on their personal wealth. Undeclared assets are also beyond the reach of the government, which in 1989 seized bank certificates of deposit in exchange for bonds and in 2002 converted dollar deposits into pesos.

Incidentally, if you didn’t know Argentina had a state oil company these days, that’s also a Fernandez scheme, as is fining economists who suggest that the inflation rate, claimed by Buenos Aires to be 10 percent, is actually more than twice that.

Fortunately, the US has unofficial inflation statistics, far more believable than the government’s official bumfuzzlery.

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Displeasure expressed

Some of this — though not all of it — sounds like me:

I have a bad habit of losing my temper: I yell and curse loud and long, and occasionally throw things. I like to think it happens less often now than it used to, but I don’t really know. What I have noticed is that it is more likely to happen when I am tired, and moreover there seems to be a limit below which I am more likely to go off. When I am well rested, I am well behaved. As the day goes on and/or I exert myself, I become more tired, and if I am worn down because of previous exertions or illness, I am more likely to slip over the edge.

I don’t throw things. Otherwise, this is spot on.

Although there was that one instance when they were wondering just how in blazes a footprint appeared on the side of the printer, since obviously I am old and infirm and if I could kick that high I could be a freaking Rockette fercryingoutloud. I blame adrenaline.

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Witchy woman

Bits from Massachusetts history:

In 1868, one Amos A. Lawrence founded the Ipswich Hosiery Mill beside the river; by the end of the century, it was the largest such mill in the nation.

In 1878, the last of the Salem witchcraft trials was held after an Ipswich woman made accusations of “mesmerism.”

Combine these two facts, say “Ipswich” three times out loud, and this 1927 advertisement begins to make sense:

Ipswich hosiery ad

The company hadn’t long to live at that point, but their broom-wielding flapper was kinda cute in a weird sort of way.

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But it looks official

Yours truly, several snowfalls ago:

It takes a certain warped genius to send out junk mail in an envelope that looks for all the world like it contains a W-2 form — in January, of course. Inasmuch as I already have my W-2 for 2011, I could easily have justified consigning it to the circular file, but curiosity won out. (The terrorists have won.)

Of course, I’m not the only person who gets this kind of crap:

It’s been a while since I have received a fake “check” whose cashing obligates me to a four year contract, or a deceptive yellow pages solicitation, or even my favorite, the board minutes services that masquerade as an official government form. So I will highlight Paramount Merchant Funding for this over the top message on the front of their envelope they sent me, again in an apparent bid to masquerade as some sort of official mail that must be opened.

The fakery, as you might have guessed, is a rewording of 18 USC § 1702, which a commenter identified quickly as “the generic ‘don’t mess with anybody’s mail but your own’ clause.” As though someone would tamper with this crap enroute.

Somewhere the mailer has to indicate whence it came. In this particular case, it was “ZIP CODE 11779,” the sleepy village of Ronkonkoma, Lawn Guyland, New York, not exactly a hotbed of Federal regulatory activity.

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Physician, socialize thyself

How come everywhere I look they show me risk factors?

Just as we once knew that infectious diseases killed, but didn’t know that germs spread them, we’ve known intuitively that loneliness hastens death, but haven’t been able to explain how. Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals, rejiggers the molecules on genes that govern behavior, and wrenches a slew of other systems out of whack. They have proved that long-lasting loneliness not only makes you sick; it can kill you. Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer — tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.

I plan to take this with a grain of salt. In fact, several grains, which probably won’t affect my blood pressure in the least.

(Via the staggeringly popular Pejman Yousefzadeh.)

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A story of Doomed Love

The Associated Press, of course, couldn’t believe that they were being subjected to Official Scrutiny, and inevitably they flailed about in confusion:

I think it is singularly awesome that the administration wiretapped the press. It was absolutely wrong, and I believe it is unconstitutional. What makes it so delicious is that the press is finally a victim of the administration. They are like the mistress that marries the guy after he finally leaves his wife and is shocked to find out he’s unfaithful to her too. Bu…bu…you promised to protect our rights! You said you loved us! We fawned over you! We covered for you, and now you’ve betrayed us!

Frog, meet scorpion.

So they drown together. How utterly romantic.

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And not a word about VisiCalc

If you were wondering how I put together the search-engine roundup every Monday, well, it’s actually pretty simple: grab the data in CSV format, and then dump it into Lotus 1-2-3, where I can just read down the column.

And I will continue to do that despite the fact that IBM, owner of the Lotus software line since 1995, has decided, once and for all, to kill 1-2-3 and the package-deal SmartSuite next month. (Software support will end in the fall of 2014.)

Then again, IBM didn’t buy Lotus to get 1-2-3; their goal was to make something out of Lotus Notes, the lumbering mail/collaboration tool/office suite/passenger airbag that, by order of The Powers That Be, sits on my work box. And Notes, now in version 9 and sheared of the Lotus name, will probably last forever, or at least until it’s no longer profitable for IBM to vend Domino servers.

(Via this Anil Dash tweet.)

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