Quote of the week

Promoters of the Affordable Care Act avoid using the word “rationing.” But, as Roxeanne de Luca reminds us, that’s exactly what’s going to happen:

We’ll eventually all have “free” doctor’s visits but be denied life-saving treatment, which is the exact opposite result that you want for insurance, which is supposed to cover the really expensive things you can’t pay for yourself. It would be like homeowner’s insurance that covers a leaky faucet for free but doesn’t give you a cent if your house burns down.

Although I must note that my own homeowner’s insurance has doubled in price in three years, and I haven’t figured out a way to blame that on Congress. Yet. (Yes, there was that nearly-five-digit claim, but as one might expect from a shared-risk scenario, people who didn’t have those claims got their premiums hiked as well.) Doesn’t cover leaky faucets, unless they do something like leak into the wall. I’ve replaced one in eight and a half years; it wasn’t doing anything other than wasting water.

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Eighty-eight is enough

Well, no, not really: if it’s your life, you might hope for that 90th year, and no one could blame you.

Then again, no one could blame you for putting up the bravest possible face otherwise:

I do NOT want to be non compos mentis and immobile at that age. I have advised everyone to wheel me out into the forest preserve, turn around with a finger to the corner of their mouths and say, “Oops! She was JUST there! Really. Where did she go?”

And the feral hogs or bobcats can have their way with me.

She’s kidding. She said so:

For those aghast, no, I do not think suicide or assisted suicide is right. IT WAS A JOKE.

Now if you want to be aghast at something, my first thought on reading this was “How old is Frank Lautenberg?” But no: nothing feral in New Jersey, except other politicians.

Me, I’m three decades away from 88. Either I’ll make it, or I won’t. Too soon to tell either way, really.

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Taco Bell was not mentioned

This was a different sort of cramming altogether:

The last question on my Beginners Spanish final exam was: “How did you prepare for this exam?” The students had to answer the question in the past.

Some of them went over the grammar to prepare, some read the textbook, other looked at their notes. One student, however, wrote the following, “I didn’t really prepare. I just watched Latin American soap operas and El sabado gigante. And on my way to class, I listened to some Spanish music.”

Don Francisco would be pleased.

Now: tres conjeturas who got the top grade in the class? (Hint: you won’t need the second, let alone the third.)

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Careful aim

I sighed and grabbed the Glass Plus, and then came to what seemed an inescapable conclusion: birds have evolved sufficiently to be able to target an area on one’s windshield squarely within the driver’s line of sight just about every time. (There’s just as much glass on the passenger side, but they don’t bother to drop anything over there.)

And they do all that without frickin’ lasers, unlike this shark:

Marine biologist-cum-TV personality Luke Tipple attached a 50-milliwatt green laser to a lemon shark off the coast of the Bahamas in late April. The escapade was sponsored by Wicked Lasers, a consumer-focused laser manufacturer based in Hong Kong that produces some of the most brilliant — and potentially dangerous — handheld lasers in the world.

I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of coupling “consumer-focused” and “potentially dangerous.”

The lemon shark, Negaprion brevirostris, was chosen for its comparative docility. Not that you personally need to worry:

Steve Liu, Wicked Lasers CEO, told Wired: “If there was a way the shark could operate the laser on its own accord and use it against humans, we wouldn’t even attempt this.”

“Shut up and take my money!” shrieks Dr Evil.

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That new Black magic

Rebecca Black’s single “Sing It” drops Tuesday; however, thirty-second lo-fi previews — does “preview” make any sense for audio? — abound, and Thursday RB dropped in on Radio Disney’s Candice to cohost the Dot Com Top 3, and not incidentally to play the whole song. (Which may explain the lo-fi nature of the previews, since your local Radio Disney affiliate is very likely on AM radio; certainly mine is.)

A full review will have to wait until I can hear this thing in some semblance of high fidelity. (RD’s satellite feed comes through here in stunningly bad sound.) It is, as I would expect, catchy, a bit repetitious, and while I didn’t hold a stopwatch on it, I’m thinking 3:15, on the dubious basis that her three previous singles ran 3:30, 3:25, and 3:20. At this rate, by the time she reaches her twenties, she’ll be doing songs on the Wire scale. (Pink Flag, with twenty-one tracks, runs less than 36 minutes.)

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The endochronic

While Isaac Asimov was working on his doctorate, he was also fiddling with writing science fiction. In 1947, he sent a piece to John W. Campbell at Astounding, and Campbell promised to honor his request for a pseudonym, inasmuch as this sort of dalliance in pulp might jeopardize his progress toward his Ph.D.

The story, “The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline,” published in 1948, was a hit, even though Campbell claimed to have forgotten Asimov’s request and put his real name on it. The concept was audacious: a substance that dissolved in water before actually contacting the water — up to 1.12 seconds, said the spurious research. The explanation was no less, um, astounding: carbon atoms routinely have four bonds, but in thiotimoline, one of those bonds extends into the future, another into the past. There is, of course, an equally spurious source of this compound: the so-far-undiscovered shrub Rosacea Karlsbadensis rufo.

(Asimov later noted with some delight that not only were the university examiners not upset with his digression, one of them threw in a question about it toward the end of his appearance before them.)

Three more thiotimoline stories appeared, the last in 1973. I have to wonder what Asimov, who died in 1992, might have thought had he known that twenty years later, a My Little Pony fanfic writer would give his mystery substance a shoutout:

“Twilight Sparkle, in recognition of your superior intellect, I have a particularly interesting harmonic challenge for you. You will link stars to both Friendship and Magic. Can you do that, flaemmchen?”

“Yes I can, Professor!”

“Now wait just one apple-bucking minute,” [Applejack] said. “What’s with giving her the special challenges?”

“I think I’ll need a special challenge!” said Twilight. “Otherwise, this contest will be over before it starts! Just like when you dissolve thiotimoline in water!”

People ask why I bother with stuff like this. It’s for moments like that.

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Late at the orifice

A plaintive tweet from danah boyd:

In an academic essay, I ref a blog post w/ ‘asshole’ in the title. Publisher wants diff cite. Where is George Carlin when you need him?

I’ve asked that a few times myself.

Brian Reich, suspecting that it might be this post of his, volunteered:

was it my post? If yes, I will tell the publisher it’s totally cool to keep it in there (smile).

It certainly looks like something pertinent to danah’s ongoing research.

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See here, now

I wandered over to Shoebunny’s place, because I knew she’d have scores of shots of celebrities in fabulous — and fabulously expensive — footwear to see, throwing in the occasional Birkenstock to see if we’re paying attention, and for a moment there I was wondering if maybe I’d been thrown a curve: a shoe I could not see without a lot of graphic filters.

Okay, I have less-than-stellar vision. And a scroll-down showed the shoe, in another shade, without a background. (Louboutins; sold out at Neiman’s at the moment; priced, well, like Louboutins.) But the shoe by itself doesn’t do the fadeaway effect quite so well, so I went looking for another picture. Beyoncé to the rescue:

Beyonce and Jay-Z at courtside

Yes, it’s Sasha Fierce herself at courtside, watching the Knicks put up token resistance to the Heat. (Jay-Z’s kicks are no slouches themselves.) I don’t think these pants — apparently Elson by A. L. C. — are all that wonderful, but it’s not like she has to take advice from the likes of me; cameras love Beyoncé, and I don’t blame them in the least.

(And yes, I do know that she cut a track called “Disappear,” on the Sasha Fierce album. Things are already meta enough.)

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Cranky old men

Jeweler and social-network maven (90,000 tweets!) Dan Gordon was asking how come this game started at 8:30, there being no West Coast teams involved; I explained that it was all a matter of television, and the desire to fit most of a doubleheader into prime time. The following interchange ensued:

Dan: oh, but what about us getting to bed at an acceptable hour? #oldmanquestions

Yours truly: The NBA doesn’t care about keeping old men up late. #notsayinganythingaboutthemavs

Maybe I could have said something about the Mavericks, who alternated between arthritic and argumentative for just over 43 minutes, after which Rick Carlisle hoisted the home-white flag. At the time, it was 95-69 OKC, and, said radio guy Matt Pinto, the building was just about empty. The Dallas benchwarmers went on a 10-0 run to finish the thing, but 95-79 still counts as a rout, especially since Oklahoma City did a superior job of shutting down the Maverick offense: Dallas shot 34 percent and turned the ball over 15 times. Oh, and “argumentative”: four techs, including one against Carlisle; Brian Cardinal got one mere seconds after leaving the scorer’s table.

As is often the case, there’s a telltale statistic: the Thunder turned the ball over only eight times, and two of those were in the five-minute temps des ordures. Kevin Durant, who had been merely a factor in the first two games, became the major playmaker in the third, with 31 points, six assists, two steals and three rebounds. This took some of the pressure off Russell Westbrook, who turned in a 20-point line with four assists versus only three turnovers. Serge Ibaka blocked four shots, scored 10, rebounded 11, for the night’s only double-double. And both Derek Fisher and James Harden kicked in ten from the bench.

Okay, maybe one more of those statistics: in the second and third quarters, the Mavs scored a total of 31 points. I’m guessing the rest of the time, they were scrambling for Aspercreme. And Dirk — oh, my heaven, Dirk — went 6-15 from the floor and worse, missed three free throws. That’s a season’s worth of clang for Nowitzki. Nor did anyone else generate much offense: after Dirk’s 17, you have the Jason and Jason combine, with 23 between them, and — well, you’ve seen enough collapses to know which way this is going.

So it’s for all the marbles Saturday night at Probably Broke Airline Fieldhouse, or whatever that damn place is called. Were I going, I’d be bringing brooms, because … well, just because. And hey, at least it’s not at 8:30.

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You may need this some day

The Comprehensive Guide to International Insults” lists (in a slideshow, alas) many common gestures, and what they mean in various zones of the world. Do not, for instance, high-five a Greek.

(Via Fark.)

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Half of the human race, it is to be presumed, is below average in intelligence. And that 50th-percentile bar isn’t all that darned high:

I just can’t believe how stupid people seem to be, how willing they are to be conned, how resistant to reason and rationality, how ready they are to deny the nose on their face and ignore the evidence of their lying eyes.

It’s always seemed to me that we’re born that way, and some manage to learn their way out of it. (“Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” — Will Rogers) My concern is that Darwin isn’t getting his due. Used to be, if you were mind-bogglingly dumb, you perished quickly, and that was that. Nowadays it’s a prerequisite for political office: voters, we are told, want “someone like them” at the helm, and to the horror of the rest of us, they quite often get their wish. (“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” — H. L. Mencken)

Which is not to say I’ve never done anything dumb. (If you’ve read this stuff for more than ten minutes, you know better.) But I do try to learn from my mistakes. Sometimes I even succeed.

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The last of the wildcatters

It couldn’t last, of course, and it didn’t: high-rolling Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon will be replaced as chairman, presumably by someone with slightly less ego — which could be just about anyone, really. There was some grumbling about the deal that gave McClendon a personal piece of every well CHK dug, but the last straw, evidently, was the revelation by Reuters that McClendon, with old partner (and now SandRidge boss) Tom Ward, was running a $200-million hedge fund out of his office on Western Avenue, and while no one is pointing to examples of legally-defined securities fraud just yet, you have to figure that the board thought McClendon, as the guy in the big chair, ought to be tending to things other than the care and feeding of McClendon.

We’ve seen this type before. Bill P. “Beep” Jennings built Penn Square Bank from a shoebox out in the parking lot of a shopping center to a national powerhouse. How big an ego? Jennings’ ATM was branded “The Beep Machine.” (Local ad tagline that won’t go away: “At Penn Square Bank, you can beep for bucks.”) Still, even Jennings might seem modest compared to the head of his oil-and-gas loan department, Bill Patterson, perhaps the world’s oldest frat boy at the time. That couldn’t last, and it didn’t: in 1982, Penn Square Bank went bust, so bust that FDIC couldn’t find anyone willing to take it off their hands. For a while, one of the most popular garments in town was the “I Survived FDIC” T-shirt, which said on the back “Fly Braniff,” the airline (founded in OKC in 1930) having failed a few weeks earlier.

So we’ll survive this demotion of Aubrey McClendon, probably because the guy who takes big risks looms large in the abbreviated history of this state.

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Darn near down home

“It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…”

And if your fondest wish should be to be in my neighborhood, here’s a 1946 two-story just down the road going for a mere $139k. (I’ll vouch for the listing agent: she used to live in these parts.)

I admit that I have no idea what a “flex room” is, but you should know that this house has two of them.

Addendum: I learn something every day:

Basically, when a room doesn’t have a closet it cannot legally be classified as a bedroom, so builders label these rooms “flex rooms” and let the residents decide how it should be used.

One of those is presumably what used to be the garage.

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It’s been about a year since the last time we got around to “Should you wear socks with sandals?” Lynn, a major contributor to that debate, has identified one person who definitely should:

Last week at Walmart I saw the the world’s ugliest toes. They hardly even looked like human toes. They were shaped all wrong and the nails were a yellow-brown color and looked like driftwood was starting to grow out of this guy’s toes. These were science fiction toes. If you have toes like that, my sympathies, but please cover them up with some socks — any kind of socks!

If you’re reading this at breakfast, my apologies.

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Over there, in a box

Did you ever read a story, then discover that it was going to be turned into a film? The trepidation has been doubled. Still, I must see this, if it comes off:

The filmmaker has already said that he plans to reshoot the trailer — and there are other similar projects out there, so this one might not actually materialize. Still, I must see it.

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Places where I should not let me go

Nicole gives James Taylor’s Greatest Hits a spin, and the tears began to flow:

I made it through “Fire & Rain” and “Carolina In My Mind” but “Something In the Way She Moves” tripped the lock on the floodgates and I found myself bawling my eyes out.

Sadness? Well, maybe a little:

Then I felt bad because then it made the OAM feel bad like he’d brought music up that ruined my night. Hard to explain but it wasn’t all sadness. A lot was just remembering how good it all felt back then. And then sadness, yes, for letting that feeling get pushed to the back.

I am perhaps the poster boy for this syndrome: there’s no shortage of songs from my past that will bring on the tears. Usually they weren’t my favorites at the time, but today they push exactly the right buttons to mess with my head.

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