The interminable Cute Factor

Conventional wisdom has it that men grow distinguished, while women merely grow older, and at least one contemporary doctrine contends that this is an inevitable consequence of patriarchal privilege; I tend to believe that we guys simply give less of a damn. But this may be changing:

I think the historical discrepancy between men and women’s level of concern for their own attractiveness may be shrinking. A woman with money and power and a life she enjoys may be interested in her appearance, but less so than if everything in her life depended on being attractive to men, particularly after a certain age. No highly experienced professional woman really gives much of a hoot whether she can look like Eva Longoria, any more than a successful man wastes much time wishing he were a young Brad Pitt. A powerful woman in public life just hopes her looks are respectable enough that we can change the subject and consider something else; Elizabeth Warren easily passes this test, while Hillary Clinton, unluckily for her, does not.

Of course, if actual physical appearance mattered all that much in politics, Sarah Palin would be starting her second term right about now, and she’d surely have a wardrobe consultant at taxpayer expense. I suspect that a substantial portion of the electorate — maybe half, maybe more — doesn’t care.

Update/Disclosure: After I first read the passage quoted above, my first thought was “Yeah, but look how much younger Warren is.” Eight, ten years? Two. Which proves, I suppose, that I can jump to conclusions at least as well as someone half my age.

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Just south of Twenty-Fecund

Odd little story in yesterday’s Oklahoman:

One particular two-story house in the 200 block of NW 17 has two sets of porch steps. They call it “The Twin House.”

Who calls it that? The last three families to live there. These families either moved into the house with twins, found out they were expecting twins while living there, or found out and had twins born while living at 209 NW 17.

Of course, what we’re all dying to know is this: How will that affect resale value? Quips a former resident (and father of twins): “I have buddies that won’t even drive down that block anymore.”

Addendum: Fishersville Mike recalls:

Reminds me of my family’s first house.
We had three boys.
In 1977, we sold to a family with three boys.
They sold to a family with two boys.
The wife said — no more kids.

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Feel the steak

This particular utterance by Francis W. Porretto seems unusually pertinent to me and to the fictional realm in which I’ve been working:

A sound story will illuminate one or more of the eternal verities. It’s an element as necessary as a cast of characters: the “steak” of the fictional product. But the entertainment value of the story will arise from how cleverly and imaginatively the writer casts the conflicts that envelop his protagonists: the “sizzle” that will draw the reader into the tale, and will cause him to seek out that writer’s works in the future. Though he would spurn a writer who failed to provide a goodly portion of “steak,” the intelligent reader becomes a fan of a particular writer almost entirely because of the “sizzle.”

And we who write are fully aware of it.

Over in the ponyverse, a subset of said sizzle is referred to, perhaps ungrammatically, as “feels”: the implication is that we respond robotically in the absence of same. Forty percent of the way through The way she used to be, I drew this reader comment:

Even at this stage in the proceedings, the feels are starting to flutter. Not full, tear-jerking feels, but I have a feeling that they’ll be getting there.

Even though due attention was paid to certain eternal verities — kindness is eventually rewarded, sex for the sake of sex is not necessarily a bargain, and broken hearts are at least somewhat mendable — I’d likely have lost this reader, and undoubtedly several others, were it not for regular tugs at the heartstrings. (No, not you, Lyra.) And this isn’t purely a function of the romance genre, either: Dead Pony Flying, which opens after the funeral of one of the Mane Six, seems like it ought to be immeasurably sad, yet the ending is downright triumphant, and sometimes I think I actually hear the smiles.

And the more I think about it, the happier I am about it. I’m sure, given proper instruction and a metric ton of reference materials, I could construct an intricate plot involving characters who’d rather be doing something else but are needed to impart a Great Moral Lesson — but who’d want to read it?

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Trefoiled again

Jonesing for some Girl Scout Cookies? There’s an app for that:

The Girl Scouts of the USA has just relaunched its Cookie Finder app, a tool that can help you locate the sweet treats in your area.

The Cookie Finder app uses your location to help you find where and when Girl Scout cookies are being sold in your area. The app also includes lots of details about the various cookies available and users are encouraged to vote on their favorites. The app encourages sharing and lets you post your favorite cookies and where they are being sold to Facebook and Twitter.

Like I’m going to admit to eating three boxes of Samoas.

Apparently the Android version lags the iOS version in features, for now.

And this filly showed up in this past weekend’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:

Girl Scout pony

No name yet, though reddit is working on it. (Via Derpibooru.)

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#interdit

Le Commission Générale de Terminologie et de Néologie has now taken l’umbrage over the word “hashtag,” and while French Twitter users will not necessarily have Le Commission looking over their shoulders as they type or text, the government-approved term is now “mot-dièse”: “sharp word.”

This doesn’t sound so sharp to me, but hey, it’s France; they’ve got a language to preserve, after all, and un-French terms like “email” and “Quarter Pounder with Cheese” are just so déclassé.

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No accounting for Word

Not too long ago, I tossed up a remark about Microsoft Word’s word-count feature, which I admittedly have never used. I assure you, I had no idea it was this bad:

If you go through File | Properties and choose the Statistics tab, you get a word count, but it omits all of the footnotes (or endnotes). As far as I can see, there is no way to customize it to make it count the notes.

There is, of course, an alternative:

There is another way to get a wordcount, which is to go through Tools | Word Count, and this has the stupid behavior as its default: it will omit footnotes and endnotes unless you check a box.

But wait:

Although checking that box makes the latter wordcount include the notes, this makes it incompatible with the other way of getting a wordcount, so that the two give different numbers.

It’s a sad day when the premier (supposedly) word processor is more concerned with the process than with the words.

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In future America, car drives you

Some of the way, maybe. James Lileks finds instances when this might not be such a good idea:

GPS and sensible routes cannot take into account Strategy. For example: When I come out of Trader Joe’s and head north on France, there’s four lanes. Just about everyone is heading for Target. Just about everyone gets into the right lane six or seven blocks ahead of their destination. The most efficient way to get to Target is to get in the left lane, cruise ahead of everyone, and make a series of safe, signaled turns that take me into the right lane ahead of everyone who’s starting and stopping and poking along. I never have to make a cruel merge and wedge in — something that would require The Wave of Thanks — because there’s space. If there isn’t, I stick to the left lane, turn left — the opposite direction I wish to go — and swing around a parking lot so I come at the street from the other direction. Computers cannot make that sort of decision. It’s illogical.

But driving is illogical, because it’s intuitive. You get a feel for the streets. You read the traffic; you forecast behavior.

And is Google going to pony up because their algorithms decided you didn’t really need to make a Cruel Merge some morning and you wound up with a garland of guardrail? Hold not thy breath, O Future Driver.

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Strange search-engine queries (365)

It’s Monday morning, so it’s time to dance our way through the system logs, picking up search strings as we go. Does it make any difference? What if it does?

“too picky” “men to work out”:  Given the widely reported current state of American health, perhaps we should be grateful they’re working out at all.

she turns invisible when in water:  Which made her attempt to make the Olympic tryouts somewhat anticlimactic.

how to vanish hello kitty from the face of the earth:  Immerse her in water, maybe?

diane lane sex:  I think it’s a fairly safe bet that she’s had it.

“matt pinto” “creepy”:  Well, maybe, if you’re dreaming of Diane Lane and suddenly you hear “Cha-ching, a Thunder money ball!”

nifty perforce not working in 2101:  I suspect very little of what we have now will be working in 2101.

“it’s friday, friday” “b major”:  And b looking forward to the weekend.

salty iguana gay receipt:  As a rule, if someone sends me an iguana, my first concern is not going to be its sexual orientation.

waste of oxygen joke:  And yet people do go on about carbon dioxide.

did the political fools hear rachel bull from boston lincs tell the rotten truth of their dam handy work:  It was a dam site worse than they said it was.

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And a star to steer it by

“It,” in this case, being a ball of dung:

Once a beetle (Scarabaeus satyrus) has constructed its dung ball, it moves off in a straight line in order to escape from rival beetles as quickly as possible, lest they try and steal its carefully crafted ball. This behaviour doesn’t sound complicated, but several years ago, Marie Dacke of Lund University in Sweden and colleagues showed that polarised light from the moon is important for dung beetles to keep to a straight line.

Take away the moon, and the beetles should careen wildly down the trail, right? Wrong. It’s not the moon at all:

By switching stars on and off, Dacke discovered that the glowing strip of the whole Milky Way was what guided the beetles’ movement. “Before it was assumed insects could not use the stars because their eyes don’t have the resolution to see them,” she says. Navigating using the whole of the Milky Way does away with the need to see individual stars.

There’s something sort of enchanting about this, as though the stars were going out of their way to make life easier for bugs.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Lakers apparently refreshed

You think the Lakers have learned that they do better when it’s not a one-man show? The new-look Los Angeles offense — let Kobe run things, but insist that he pass if he’s double-teamed — worked almost to perfection today, and it doomed the Thunder, who’d played the Lakers more or less even through three and a half quarters but could not keep up the rest of the way. The final was 105-96, and it would have been much worse if Dwight Howard could actually hit free throws.

Seriously. The Lakers actually shot better from the floor (55.4 percent) than they did from the stripe (55.2). Still, D12 came up with eight points and ten rebounds, and half a dozen of his teammates hit double figures. Kobe Bryant was downright three-dimensional, coming up one rebound short of a triple-double (21 points, 14 assists, nine boards). What was most remarkable, though, was that Pau Gasol’s recent demotion to the bench — Earl Clark has been starting at power forward — didn’t make any difference to Gasol’s line: 16 points in 35 minutes. (Clark scored 11 in slightly less than 23.)

For a moment there, I thought Russell Westbrook was going to land a double-double without ever hitting any shots: he went one-for-everything early on and couldn’t buy a bucket to save his life, despite getting some good looks. He wound up, like Kobe, a board short of a triple-double; unlike Kobe, Westbrook shot a feeble 6-22 for 17 points. Kevin Durant did what he could to take up the slack, snagging a solid 35 for the day, but there was entirely too much “If all else fails, hoist a trey,” since those treys were falling everywhere except through the net. OKC did manage to hold on to the ball most of the time, logging only nine turnovers, but too often they didn’t do anything with it after not losing it.

It will take a few days to live this down, and guess who’s coming to town on Thursday? Yep: the Grizzlies. There’s a distinct lack of gimmes in this part of the schedule.

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Jeepening the memory

Murilee Martin at The Truth About Cars currently does the Junkyard Find series, presenting old, abandoned vehicles awaiting either final oxidation or a trip to China to come back as Harbor Freight Tools. This week Martin turned up a 1968 Jeep DJ-5A “Dispatcher Jeep” with a General Motors powertrain — four-cylinder Chevy 153 with two-speed Powerglide.

Given my own lingering interest in speed and how it is displayed, I took a look at the dash. Not being a safety regulator by trade, I did not cry out “Those knobs are dangerous!” However, my attention was distracted by a business card stuck to the dash:

Dashboard of 1968 Jeep

Dashboard of 1968 Jeep

Two possibilities present themselves:

  1. This could have been the insurance agent’s Jeep, once upon a time;
  2. This Jeep could have been owned by someone who needed to contact an insurance agent on a regular basis.

Noting that there’s just something about women in Jeeps, I of course lean toward the first alternative. Not that I’m going to write her and ask if this Jeep was hers, of course: there may be unpleasant memories involved.

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Hizzoner makes the pitch

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, somewhere between pragmatist and evangelist, in an interview with Streetsblog:

I will say that one secret to our success is that we’ve been able to convince the suburbanite that their quality of life is directly related to the intensity of the core. And so they have continually passed initiatives to support inner-city projects, sometimes at the expense of the suburbs.

It helps that a lot of us outside the core remember what it was like thirty years ago, and don’t want to see it like that ever again.

I try to win an intellectual argument. I stand toe-to-toe with a lot of retired suburbanites who don’t like downtown, don’t like me, are tired of funding taxation. I’m serious, they have more negativity than you could possibly imagine.

And when I’ve lost on every turn and every argument in this debate that takes place in neighborhood after neighborhood I close with this: “We’re creating a city where your kid and grandkid are going to choose to live.”

My own neighborhood, just outside the I-40/I-44/I-235 loop, has skewed much younger in the ten years I’ve been here: the empty-nesters (like, um, me) are still around, but the influx of young families has transformed the area. They don’t necessarily like taxation any more than the folks out on 199th Street do, but they’re seeing things get done, and they like that.

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Déjà views

Begging for Web traffic is one thing. This, however, is something else:

Yahoo! Answers screen shot: How do I view a webpage repeatedly but make it so the website thinks its my first time?

I wonder if this is one of those guys who F5s himself into apoplexy trying to snag a Woot Bag O’ Crap.

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Oyez, oyez

The traditional Town Crier delivers the material he’s been given; he does not make it up on his own. If he did, they’d have him drawn and quartered, or maybe eighthed or sixteenthed, once they found out.

Then there’s the Dubuque Town Crier. We grant him no link, on the basis that the stuff he posts has often been lifted from elsewhere, yet he gives the impression that he made it up on his own:

Several months ago, I wrote this blog post about the inherent coercion of government. It’s good, you should read it.

It was posted in full (with a pingback link, but no text clearly crediting me at the bottom of the post) at The Dubuque Town Crier, a website administered by one William K. Hammel of Jaeger Drive, Dubuque, Iowa.

Now part of that original post was an image macro with a statement by Penn Jillette; it didn’t contain his name, but it did feature a picture of him, so I would consider that to be more or less properly attributed. If Hammel had just lifted the image … but no, he decided to scoop up the entire post. And pingbacks, I submit, do not qualify as proper attribution, since all they contain is a URL and maybe a scrap of text.

To qualify the word “often,” in the context in which I used it, I point you to the aggrieved author’s post, which cites several other instances; one might reasonably describe him, based on these cites, as a serial plagiarist. It’s a heck of a production model, I suppose, but it runs counter to that whole “integrity” business.

I should note here that in a couple of incidents in which I myself apparently had run afoul of “fair use” standards, the owners and/or their legal representatives registered complaints, and I duly removed the material in question.

(Via this Gabriel Malor tweet.)

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Strings from eternity

Jacqueline du Pré would have been sixty-eight today, and of course the saddest words are “would have been”: the great British cellist was struck down in her prime by multiple sclerosis — she gave up performing at twenty-eight — and her musical achievements were gradually obscured by a memoir written by her estranged sister, which later spawned a film.

Jacqueline du Pré with her cello

Jacqueline du Pré in her wheelchair

The cheerful fellow behind the chair is du Pré’s husband, conductor Daniel Barenboim, who here conducts the London Philarmonic, circa 1967, in the first movement of her signature piece: the Cello Concerto in E minor of Sir Edward Elgar.

(With thanks to Tom Shakespeare.)

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In which I am not mentioned

Buzzfeed has compiled a somewhat-subjective list of The 35 Dumbest Things Ever Said On The Internet. Surprisingly, no politicians were involved, despite the prodigious bounty of exploitable stupidity that was the 2012 election.

Side issue: In general, the names of the participants are obscured to protect their privacy. I can’t help but wonder if this practice might actually be disservice to the species, inasmuch as it prevents the embarrassment of its dumber members, who end up with no incentive to be Less Stupid. To the extent that stupidity goes unpunished, the evolution of the species is thwarted, is it not?

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