Three something

I have no idea what this is supposed to mean:

Elisabeth Hasselbeck

This is Elisabeth Hasselbeck, usually seen on the, um, right side of the sofa on The View; I’m reasonably certain she’s not reading about Osama bin Laden, but other than that, I haven’t a clue as to what’s going on.

I will, however, mention that she turns 34 this weekend.

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Ask the woman who doesn’t own one

Suzanne Schell lists some phrases she found in advertising for women’s swimwear, and while I’m not in the market for women’s swimwear, I found the effect in aggregate to be downright daunting:

Potential problem areas, Draw attention away from, Draw attention to, Slimming, Conceals, Hides, Camouflages, Minimizes, Problem areas, Trouble spots, Figure flaws, Slimming panels, Tummy control, Compresses, Flattens, Enhances, Maximizes, Deflect attention from, Doesn’t add poufiness, Smoothes out any lumps, Stay away from adding any bulk, Built in bra for support and shape, Draws attention to an area that you do want to flaunt, thus distracting from an area you don’t.

Geez. Almost, though not quite, an argument for a burqa. (Until you get it wet, and the added weight drags you into the undertow.)

(Found in the AANR E-Bulletin, which lands in members’ inboxes once a month, which fact will give away Ms Schell’s own swimwear preference. And no, they don’t have an annual Swimsuit Issue.)

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You know what it is

A bit of vandalism at Rebecca Black’s house:

Fun with chalk

Says she:

Someone wrote this on my driveway, made me laugh! There was more but it got washed off. /: Thanks to who did this! :D <3

And that’s your “Friday” update for the week.

Addendum: Question to me, posed on Facebook: “What are you, a Rebecca Black groupie?” Um, not. I figure, though, that anyone who is so cordially hated on the Net is worth some of my time.

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And it’s tricky clearing those laser beams

Proposal for discussion, found at Hatless in Hattiesburg: “When did the internet ‘jump the shark’?”

I’m thinking “when Jon Hein sold jumptheshark.com to TV Guide,” which would have been in the summer of 2006.

He Who Lacks Headgear has an idea of his own, of course, complete with nifty graphic. He does not agree with me, but I don’t expect anyone to agree with me.

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Why you must never, ever be wrong about anything

“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future,” said Niels Bohr with a straight face. Fortunately, we’re used to wrong predictions — hell, the government has made an art form out of failing to deliver — so we haven’t gotten into the habit of taking the makers of those predictions to task.

And this is what would happen if we did:

Six Italian seismologists and one government official will be tried for the manslaughter of those who died in an earthquake that struck the city of L’Aquila on 6 April 2009.

The seven are accused of misinforming the population about seismic risk in the days before the earthquakes, indirectly causing the death of the citizens they had reassured.

Among those indicted: Bernardo De Bernardinis, then VP of Italy’s Civil Protection department, and volcano expert Franco Barberi. This is apparently what happened:

[S]eismic activity had been going on in the area for more than three months, causing alarm in the population. De Bernardinis summoned the meeting and asked the scientists to assess the risk of a major earthquake and its possible consequences. The meeting was followed by a press conference by De Bernardinis and Barberi, where the two reassured the population that the seismic sequence did not necessarily hint at a major earthquake. De Bernardinis, in particular, appeared on television saying that “the scientific community tells me there is no danger, because there is an ongoing discharge of energy. The situation looks favorable”. A major earthquake did hit on April 6 though, killing 309 people. In the aftermath, many citizens quoted those statements as the reason they did not take precautionary measures, such as fleeing their homes. According to the accusation, many people who would otherwise leave the area decided to stay, and were eventually killed in the collapse of their houses.

Of course, if blowing a call were a hanging offense, Paul Ehrlich would have been decorating a cottonwood tree several decades ago. Still, if I were Gary England, I’d be watching my ass right about now, just on general principle.

(Via this Syaffolee tweet.)

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Hence the name “underwear”

Lynn definitely prefers that it be kept under your outerwear:

For a few minutes there was a woman standing in front of us who was wearing one of those tops with a large, elastic neck opening and she had it pulled wide so her bra straps showed and I had an overpowering urge to reach up and adjust her clothing for her. Fortunately she moved before the urge became absolutely irresistible. When I am dictator of the world letting any part of your underwear show in public will be, by law, indecent exposure and those found guilty of the crime will be sentenced to wear a burka for one month for the first offense, two months for the second offense, four for the third offense and so on.

I assume this applies equally to the guys who show you several inches of boxer between waistline and Actual Top of Pants. And I figure Madonna is doomed.

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Fees to meet you

Somewhere in dim memory, I recall an episode of Night Court in which some mogul is signing a check for something or other and Dan Fielding is looking over his shoulder. And suddenly Dan loses his composure: “You keep five figures in checking?”

Well, I don’t. If I did, and if I had a checking account at Chase, I could avoid the monthly service charge: all it takes is a direct deposit of $500-plus every month, or a minimum balance of $1500. If your response to that is “Yeah, right, how often do I have $1500 in checking?” you are not alone:

Are you nuts?! I mean, I keep this account TO PAY CHECKS. Of course I will have less than $1,500 daily balance on it! That’s the purpose of checking account — to be liquid and have a turnover. And I don’t have a direct deposit with anybody at the moment — btw, last I heard, businesses are not required to pay employees exclusively through direct deposit. So everybody who is not getting paychecks direct-deposited, in other words — freelancers and short-term contractors, or unemployed with less-than-$500 weekly checks, or pensioners — are getting discriminated against those with steady flow of income and get robbed, monthly!

This is, of course, consistent with everything the banking industry has said since the arrival of the CARD Act and the specter of the Durbin Amendment: “If we’re not allowed to gouge Customer A, we will be forced to gouge Customer B.”

The regional bank I use has a free-checking package still, though they operate in only three states. There is a service tier above that, which has more perks and which actually pays interest, though not much of it; it requires, however, five figures (!) in your combined accounts.

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Fuel to cry

This is a sample of the new EPA fuel-economy sticker, mandatory for model year 2013:

EPA fuel-economy label

The major advance here, if you ask me, is the gallons-per-100 miles figure. If nothing else, it highlights a bit of math that comparison shoppers either miss or disbelieve: the difference between, say, 38 mpg (2.6 gallons/100 miles) and 40 mpg (2.5 gallons/100 miles) is a lot less significant than it looks. The QR code, for the benefit of smartphone users, might be handy if it connects to useful information.

Not shown here: the vehicle which carried Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to the press conference introducing the new labels. It’s a Chevy Suburban, which uses about 8.3 gallons per 100 miles. I suppose it’s essential to his agency mission.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Tickerometer

Lots of things are built into automotive seats these days, some of them wondrous (say, a heater on a subzero day), some of them less so (Gwendolyn’s adjustable lumbar support feels rather like a two-by-four against my back). I have to admit, I wasn’t quite expecting built-in EKG:

A heart attack behind the wheel can render much of your car’s safety equipment moot despite decades of advancement. Ford Motor Company has tasked its European Research Center in Aachen, Germany with finding a way to reduce accidents caused by drivers experiencing heart trouble. According to the automaker, their prototype seat with contactless electrocardiogram technology can warn drivers to seek medical attention immediately by scanning for potential cardiovascular trouble through clothing.

The next step, I think, should be something in the headrest that scans for strokes: Tuesday afternoon’s Beat the Tornado commute seemed to render a lot of people borderline apoplectic.

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Lorissa explains it all

Lorissa by Sam EdelmanThursdays the Oklahoman runs a section called “Mood,” which basically takes the existing “Life” section, turns it from portrait to landscape orientation, and glams it up with whatever fashion news seems pertinent at the moment. Last week there was a bit about Summer Shoes, which I of course read — I have to read the section, because that’s where they move the contract-bridge column on Thursdays — and I caught a glance of “Lorissa” by Sam Edelman, worn by [insert name of anonymous model with nice legs]. At the time, I didn’t think much of it; cute pump, peep-toe, what appeared to be some random animal print out back. Certainly it wasn’t going to make it onto these pages.

The paper eventually posted a Webified slideshow of the shoes in that section, in which the quality of newsprint photos was not a factor, and holy mother of pearl, that’s not some random animal print out back, as this more-detailed photograph reveals:

Lorissa by Sam Edelman

Stones and studs, sharp edges, perhaps excellent for impromptu training of your inept dance partner, but downright dangerous in the hands of on the feet of a novice. (Just putting them on, I fear, could be hazardous.) Zappos stocks this in various colors — you’re looking at Nude Leather — for $199.95; I’m sure the “killer heels” description on site was intended to be metaphorical. For the data collectors: 4½-inch heel, ½-inch platform, weight (at size 7) 14 ounces. Maybe all that mineral weight in the back will keep you from pitching forward.

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Here endeth the lesson

“Good judgment,” Will Rogers would tell you, “comes from experience.” Oklahoma City didn’t have a lot of it, playoff-wise, and in the closing moments, you could tell. With 39 seconds left, Russell Westbrook sank two free throws to bring the Thunder to within two. Dallas worked some clock, and Dirk Nowitzki actually missed a shot, but Jason Kidd cleared, fired it back to Dirk, and Eric Maynor pretty much had to foul him. Nowitzki duly dropped in both foul shots — he’s missed only two in five games — putting Dallas up by four, 100-96, and that’s the way it ended.

The obligatory Telltale Statistic: Daequan Cook, who put up no shots and pulled in one rebound in just over four minutes, was +5, highest on the team, despite lots of OKC offense: Westbrook had 31, Kevin Durant and James Harden 23 each, Nick Collison 12 plus 12 boards. Major problem: Kidd moved the ball seemingly at will, serving up 10 assists. (The Thunder in aggregate had 16.) And he moved it to Dirk (26 points), or to Shawn Marion (also 26). Scant consolations: OKC won the battle of the boards, 49-44, and shot slightly better: 42.7 percent versus 41.

So the Mavs go to the Finals, and if they play the Heat, I suppose I’m cheering for Dallas. (Chicago, last I looked, was in a 3-1 hole.) There will be another season, perhaps as early as next season, though they’re still talking lockout. Experience, it turns out, pays dividends; the Thunder, by next spring, will have earned them. Will could have told you that, too.

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Moonlight and doo-wop

KingShamus was kind enough to put up Debussy’s Suite bergamasque in full, and came up with the following conclusion:

The magnum opus that we see is the final draft of a piece with countless revisions, false starts and trashcan fodder laying behind it. Debussy could’ve published his first or second attempts at the Suite bergamasque — of which ‘Clair de lune’ is a part — and it probably would’ve sounded great. But it also probably wouldn’t have transcended time and circumstance. It might’ve been just a notable piano composition.

Interestingly, the Suite has its own Facebook page.

My mother seldom played the piano, but when she did, “Clair de lune” was her signature piece. And in 1961, the Rays, best known for their hit “Silhouettes” four years earlier, scraped into the Top 50 with a vocal-group version.

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Fleeting efficiency

The White House has issued a memorandum on government automotive fleets, and as is often the case with government decrees of this sort, what isn’t said is often at least as important as what is.

This paragraph, for instance, seems pretty comprehensible:

By December 31, 2015, all new light duty vehicles leased or purchased by agencies must be alternative fueled vehicles, such as hybrid or electric, compressed natural gas, or biofuel. Moreover, agency alternative fueled vehicles must, as soon as practicable, be located in proximity to fueling stations with available alternative fuels, and be operated on the alternative fuel for which the vehicle is designed. Where practicable, agencies should encourage development of commercial infrastructure for alternative fuel or provide flex fuel and alternative fuel pumps and charging stations at Federal fueling sites.

This is mostly in response to the fact that the government buys a lot of flex-fuel vehicles, but very little actual E85; the President has decided, not unreasonably, that this was ultimately counterproductive. And I’m thinking that if the agencies are having to insure some sort of Federal infrastructure for AFVs, there might have to be some openings for the private sector, if only out of speed considerations: I can assure you that Chesapeake and OnCue can build a CNG station a lot faster than anyone in area code 202.

The next paragraph, however, gets a trifle murky:

Pursuant to motor vehicle management regulations, set forth at 41 C.F.R. 102-34.50, executive fleets are required to achieve maximum fuel efficiency; be limited in motor vehicle body size, engine size, and optional equipment to what is essential to meet agency mission; and be midsize or smaller sedans, except where larger sedans are essential to the agency mission. Within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, any executive fleet vehicles that are larger than a midsize sedan or do not comply with alternative fueled vehicle requirements must be disclosed on agency websites.

Now obviously the Secret Service is not going to allow the President to be schlepped around town in Malibu One. Beyond that, though, I’m wondering what sort of “agency mission” deems anything bigger than an Impala “essential.”

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Quit horning in

Not only is the vuvuzela annoying, it’s a fairly efficient distributor of airborne pathogens:

[P]lastic blowing horns (vuvuzelas) have the capacity to propel extremely large numbers of aerosols into the atmosphere of a size able to penetrate the lower lung. Some respiratory pathogens are spread via contaminated aerosols emitted by infected persons. Further investigation is required to assess the potential of the vuvuzela to contribute to the transmission of aerosol borne diseases. We recommend, as a precautionary measure, that people with respiratory infections should be advised not to blow their vuvuzela in enclosed spaces and where there is a risk of infecting others.

Citation: Lai K-M, Bottomley C, McNerney R (2011) Propagation of Respiratory Aerosols by the Vuvuzela. PLoS ONE 6(5): e20086. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020086

(Via this Syaffolee tweet.)

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Putting the Ass in Aspirational

The Hyacinth Girl doesn’t “get excited about politicians anymore”:

Every single one of them will disappoint, especially Republicans. The problem with most people who want to get into politics is that they either want to be liked or believe they should be liked. Republicans consistently buy into the false narrative written by the media and gleefully embraced and recited by the Left. We lost the culture war in the 1960′s, and we’ve been playing catch up ever since. Republicans don’t want to be the nerds, the unpopular kids, the squares, and they suck up to the media because they view the media as kingmakers. They claim to be outsiders and sometimes they really are, like Sarah Palin, but to believe the lame false narrative, you’ve got to be in the bubble. The rest of us mouthbreathers know that the narrative is bullshit, but when you’re in the political machine — like, say, Newt — you can’t see the forest for the particularly obnoxious tree interviewing you at the moment.

Sarah Palin, I suspect, works the machine just a trifle too well to be completely persuasive as an outsider.

On the other hand, she’s got Gingrich dead to rights: you can be absolutely certain that Newt’s primary concern was, and is, Newt.

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A drought in the rainy-day fund

Not that this surprises me in any way:

Nearly half of Americans are living in a state of “financial fragility,” a new paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals. To determine this statistic, researchers from the George Washington School of Business, Princeton University, and Harvard Business School asked survey participants whether they would be able to come up with $2,000 for an “unexpected expense in the next month.” 22.2 percent predicted they would be “probably unable” and 27.9 percent said they’d certainly be unable to foot the unplanned bill. The hypothetical cost “reflects the order of magnitude of the cost of an unanticipated major car repair, a large co-payment on a medical expense, legal expenses, or a home repair.”

My own response would be something like “Yes, if you can somehow figure out some way to keep anything else from happening for the rest of the year.”

(Via swirlspice.)

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Astroturf by the strand

The Herald of Everett, Washington finds an enthusiastic booster of red-light cameras in its Web discussion areas:

A poster using the screen name “W Howard” has commented 43 times on our site since June. The unifying themes in these posts are that the cameras are good, that they are making the world safer and that anyone who says otherwise — particularly Mukilteo initiative activist Tim Eyman — needs their head examined.

So far, no big deal. But then:

Some readers have suggested “W Howard” has been posting comments as part of a marketing campaign run by American Traffic Solutions, Inc. The Scottsdale-based company contracts to provide enforcement camera services in Lynnwood and Seattle. It had inked a similar deal in Mukilteo last year, then Eyman pushed for a public vote. Upshot: no cameras in Mukilteo, and a spreading movement around Washington that has growing numbers of people asking questions about enforcement camera technology.

So the paper acted on those reader suggestions, and guess what?

Heraldnet.com requires that people who wish to post comments supply us with a live email address at the time they create their user account. “W Howard” gave an address at American Traffic Solutions. It is one used by Bill Kroske, vice president of business development at ATS. Somebody techie here ran down the internet protocol address that’s being used for “W Howard’s” posts. The electronic trail led straight back to Kroske’s company in Scottsdale.

It occurs to me that expat lefty Glenn Greenwald could make a ton of money instructing these hapless corporate swine in the arcane arts of astroturfing and sockpuppetry.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Ringside seat at Tornado Alley

Yours truly, a few days after the F5 tornado in Oklahoma City, May 1999:

You can’t watch destruction at this level, even at a “safe” distance, without something happening to you. The deeply religious, and we have lots of them, saw this as a severe test of their faith; the vast majority of them, I believe, held on. For those of an environmentalist bent — and perhaps also for those who scoff at such things — the storm was a none-too-gentle reminder that Nature always gets the last word.

Today’s line of storms contained entirely too many tornadoes. We didn’t get the Joplin treatment, but there exist reports of casualties and lots of fuzzy video. Apparently one tornado tracked to my north and one to my south; all I got was a lot of rain — I estimate about ¾ to one inch in an hour — a few broken limbs, and a dinner delayed by an hour and a quarter. I suppose I’ll know tomorrow if it took out the office.

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Angrier birds

Or maybe they’re just intoxicated:

Drunk lorikeets are falling out of the sky in Darwin.

Despite tough laws on alcohol consumption across the Northern Territory, a vet was preparing for another season of alcohol-fueled avian vertigo.

The noisy birds — famous for creating a racket at the Friday Palmerston Markets, on the outskirts of Darwin — act in a drunk manner and then fall over, according to Ark Animal Hospital vet Dr Stephen Cutter.

Sounds like your cousin from [fill in name of disfavored region], doesn’t it? But Wikipedia notes:

Due to the largely liquid diet of lorikeets, their droppings are also of a very liquid nature, making them one of the messier companion birds to keep.

Let’s hope that doesn’t sound like your cousin from [fill in name of disfavored region].

(Spotted, so to speak, by the Friar.)

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