From ten years ago today

I figure, I have all these archives, the least I can do is recycle them once in a while.

From 19 May 2001:

The Cola Wars continue apace. As I was wheeling into the supermarket today, a giant inflatable Coca-Cola bottle proclaimed the appearance of a traveling lunch wagon at which said soft drink was the One True Beverage, while on the curb in front of the store, a visibly-fatigued figure started another lap of the premises with his Pepsi sign.

This is the sort of thing that drove me into the not-a-cola-or-a-root beer embrace of Dr Pepper. Temporarily, anyway.

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No longer under warranty

There’s an old joke about how drinking lots of water will keep you from getting stiff in the joints — although some of the joints don’t even serve water.

At the moment, merely bothersome joints would be an improvement: yesterday was punctuated by what seems to be Bursitis Resurgent, and just about everything south of the clavicle is sore in some way or other. This is, of course, one of the worst work weeks of the year, which doesn’t help. I have, however, started agitating for a ramp between the two office levels, since climbing and descending 150 times a day is aggravating all my existing conditions with the possible exception of the heartbreak of psoriasis. (And if things get much worse, I’ll be in a chair anyway.)

Not that I have any right to complain: also at the moment, my ex’s kid sister is having a not-so-easy time recovering from what appears to be a stroke. So I’ll have to try to keep the whining to a minimum.

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Out getting a rain tan

There are several British beaches where one can go without clothing, but the number of formal (as it were) naturist resorts is exactly one, and the explanation for this is disarmingly simple:

“We’ve had a bit of stick for the location,” [owner] Tim Higgs says in reference to those who dismiss Birmingham as “wet and miserable”. “But naturism in Britain is largely an indoor event, especially if you want it 365 days a year. British weather is unreliable wherever you are.”

Clover Spa and Hotel is in fact a spa, and offers typical spa services; the difference is the dress code.

(Warning: Pages linked in this piece might contain Actual Exposed Flesh, though not much of it.)

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Fark blurb of the week

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Scrutinizing the auto-insurance bill

The deal here is simple enough: compare the new auto-insurance bill to the old auto-insurance bill, and kvetch as appropriate. It is with considerable amazement that I report, however, that there is no change in the premium this time. None. Not so much as one thin dime.

(Yes, this is a repeat from November, which in turn was a repeat from May ’10.)

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Off the wall

News Item: Parents Lior and Vardit Adler have named their newborn daughter “Like” after Facebook’s “like” button, reports Galgalatz, an Israeli news outlet.

Top ten names rejected by Lior and Vardit Adler before settling on “Like”:

  1. Farmville
  2. Cher (pronounced “Share”)
  3. Huffpo
  4. Spam
  5. Assad
  6. Zuckerberg
  7. Newt
  8. Profile
  9. Antifile
  10. Trump

(Via Fark.)

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Tyler, too

From several years ago, a snippet from Swerve: Reckless Observations of a Postmodern Girl, by Aisha Tyler:

The next time you’re out with a bunch of people and they’re all babbling on about how their new SUV came with six cup holders instead of the standard factory-issue four, or how they’re pissed because they couldn’t find a pair of Super Humanity Force Five Superlow Cut Frayed Über-Denim jeans, you can talk about how you spent a weekend building a house for a low-income family and learned how to use a compound mitre saw. In metric. They will be cowed. But they will also be fascinated. Girls will think you’ve got balls, and boys will imagine you with a hammer in your hand, wearing nothing but a utility belt. Everybody wins.

Oh, and she can kick my ass on Halo, too:

Aisha Tyler in excellent T-shirt

All this despite being “objectively less physically attractive” than all those other girls. (Somebody needs new glasses and an attitude adjustment, and it ain’t me.)

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Uncanny noises

One of the things that makes a low-flow toilet work, sort of, is high pressure: mere gravity can’t do it alone. The price you pay for saving water, apart from the cost of the new throne, could be a much higher noise level:

[Acoustical consultant Noral] Stewart was hired to solve a knotty office problem: overly loud flushing sounds from new low-flow toilets that were carrying over into seven rows of five offices (each row on a different floor), in which the three middle offices were right next to the rest rooms. You really didn’t want to be the poor sods who got the middle offices on each of the floors: those shared a wall with both the men’s and women’s restrooms. Talk about Flush Central. Preliminary measurements of the sound levels showed many of the flushes were louder than 60 decibels (especially in that middle office), and almost all topped 50 decibels. That’s roughly the same level as a typical conversation, which might not seem all that loud, until you realize that every time someone flushes a toilet, those in conversation would be momentarily drowned out by the sound. Noise from ventilation systems, for comparison, is usually around 35 to 45 decibels. (Inside the restroom, sound levels are more like 80 decibels; the loudest Stewart measured was 96 decibels in one of the women’s stalls, a good 20 decibels higher than your average toilet’s flush should be.)

Ninety-six decibels, incidentally, is the California legal maximum for off-road motor vehicles. This is not a sound level you want coming from directly behind you. And it took several layers of different types of sound insulation to keep the noise from making its way into office space.

Suddenly I’m feeling better about my Incredibly Wasteful old-style bowl.

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Seriously, Granny, you’re wearing that?

Something called “Diet Chef” has surveyed a couple of thousand women, and they’d just as soon you put your bikini away once you reach the ripe old age of forty-seven.

My two-word reply: Helen Mirren.

Elsewhere: the miniskirt has to go after 37, but the stilettos can stay until 51.

Me, I cling to the old-fashioned notion that after a certain age, a woman knows what looks best on her:

At the age of 59, I know precisely what length hemline flatters my leg, what neck line makes the most of my bust line, and what I should never, ever let hang off my hips.

And that knowledge, more than anything else, explains why some women are eminently watchable at sixty and some of them don’t merit a passing glance many years before. (Not that I’ve ever merited a passing glance myself, but you know what I mean.)

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Dallas aforethought

Rick Carlisle’s offense, at least as manifest this evening, can be simply described as “Give Dirk the ball.” In terms of operating efficiency, it can’t be beat: Nowitzki hit 12 of 15 from the floor and 24 of 24 from the stripe, a solid 48-point performance. Then you look at the other four starters, and you see that only one of them — Shawn Marion — even broke ten, and he fouled out with three minutes left. Not that this matters a great deal in the grand scheme of things, but clearly the Mavericks are playing a Dirkcentric sort of game, and various Thundermen took their turns not quite defending Nowitzki. Oklahoma City pulled to within five a couple of times in the fourth quarter, but Dallas wasn’t having any of that noise, and the Mavs won it by nine, 121-112.

Then again, from the OKC point of view, three things happened: Kevin Durant scored 40, Russell Westbrook was wearing his Rim Repellent fragrance (3 of 15? ye gods), and Scott Brooks, who normally makes Clark Kent look like Sam Kinison, was T’d up for some uncharacteristic insolence. The Thunder actually picked off a couple more rebounds than the Mavs. But here’s your Telltale Statistic: Dallas sixth man Jason Terry (24 points) outscored the entire OKC bench (22).

Still, this isn’t any reason to despair. Dirk is Dirk, but he ain’t Apollo. There was a stretch during the fourth quarter in which nobody for Dallas was scoring but J. J. Barea. Okay, Barea had 21, but still, this thing is doable if (1) Westbrook breaks out of his funk and (2) someone — Serge Ibaka? — figures out how to slow down Nowitzki, or at least block one of his shots once in a while. (Dirk’s BA tonight: zero.) There’s another chance on Thursday, and then things come back north.

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A lesson in subtlety

“Are computers destroying our ability to write good English?” asks Robert Stacy McCain. This point seems inarguable:

Spelling is not a talent. Spelling is a skill. And skills that are not practiced have a way of atrophying. It is therefore obvious that the Spell-Check Age bodes ill for the future of good spelling.

Accordingly, he disdains the technology:

Screenshot with blatant spelling error

Of course, the Spectator, by no accident, has editors.

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It’s the end of the world as they told it

Phase 3: Prophet!

The first proof is based on Genesis 7:4, when God said to Noah: “Seven days from now I will send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will wipe from the face of the earth every living creature I have made.”

When God referred to seven days, he meant both seven days and seven thousand years, because “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” The flood occurred in 4990 BC. Seven thousand years later is 2011.

That’s going to be something of a shock to Bishop Ussher, who contended that creation itself didn’t happen until 4004 BC.

But it’s a poor proof that rests on a single calculation, so let’s also consider this:

There are 722,500 days between [the Crucifixion and 21 May 2011]. 722,500 is a significant number because it is composed of the significant numbers 5x10x17x5x10x17. Five signifies redemption; ten signifies completion; and 17 signifies heaven. The numbers represent the day of redemption (5) and the end of the Christian era (10) and the ascent to heaven (17) — and these factors are doubled for added significance.

“The extra S is for extra significance.”

Here’s the thing: sooner or later, one of these guys is going to be right. But for now, they’re batting 0 for Whatever. And I don’t think the Lord Almighty really wants to schedule the Rapture for Al Franken’s birthday.

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Nineteen over

Willow Palin gets written up for 84 in a 65 zone, and Stacy McCain couldn’t be happier for her:

It’s obviously hereditary. Willow’s dad is a championship snow-machine racer, so she gets it honest. And I can totally relate, because my granddaddy ran some ‘shine down in Alabama back in the day. Ask anyone who has ever ridden with me: I was born with that hillbilly NASCAR go-fast gene.

Cue Robert Mitchum on Thunder Road.

On the other hand, 84 isn’t all that fast:

I hit 84 mph between here and the corner store. During the famous NY-23 campaign in 2009, Republican consultant Ali Akbar took a few rides with me. Ask him what that was like.

Long time ago, when I was still willing to get on a plane, I flew into Kansas City (yes, my arms were tired), and my daughter drove out to pick me up. If you’ve ever been to KCI, you know that it’s halfway to Omaha, so at the time, it was a long haul back to civilization. Only once did I see the speedo needle around 84, and that was when she was slowing down for a looming traffic signal.

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It’s easier than recruitment

I have to admit, this is downright ingenious. Robert Weissberg offers a proposal to make affirmative action at the college-admissions level a profit center for universities:

Schools would announce a limited number of sponsored undergraduate fellows that could be “endowed” by super-rich do-gooders. Given the prestige (and favorable publicity) of sponsoring a university fellow, the rush would be on, especially at elite schools. The opening bid would be set equal to the total four-year cost for a minority student, and this would include full tuition, student-activity fees, room and board, some spending money, all necessary remediation, the per-student cost of the cultural center, and everything else imaginable. Moreover, to cover administrative costs, “overhead” would be tacked on (in research contracts, this can be as high as 80 percent of a grant). I’d guess that $100,000 per year per fellow would suffice as the minimum opening bid for direct expenses, plus, say, another $50,000 for overhead. If, for example, Harvard opened the bidding at $150,000 for 30 fellows, the guaranteed yearly haul would be $4.5 million (the actual net would be substantially higher, since this outside contribution cancels the cost of internally funding affirmative action). For a four-year (probably five-year) program, this works out to at least $18 million … in fresh revenue.

Schools a bit lower on the food chain than Harvard probably couldn’t ask quite so much, but the principle is the same. And there’s definitely no shortage of foundation money out there.

(Via John Rosenberg.)

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Sorta clear on the concept

At some point when I wasn’t looking — turns out to be the early 1990s — Marvel Comics issued a handful of Swimsuit Issues. (As Brett White of Topless Robot points out, “The only difference between superhero spandex and a swimsuit is that the colorist gets to use a lot more flesh tone.”

Which still doesn’t explain putting an invisible swimsuit on the Invisible Woman:

Sue Richards in a swimsuit

Frighteningly, there’s precedent for this.

(Via Fark. Cross-posted to

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Genius at work (special Zooey edition)

Over the weekend I relayed a plaint by Zooey Deschanel about how no matter what her starting point, the iTunes Genius would send her several songs by Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

This suggested an experiment. I duly cranked up iTunes and instructed Genius to match ZD’s cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “Sugar Town,” an iTunes bonus track from the soundtrack of (500) Days of Summer. Genius declined for some reason.

Okay, fine. Be that way. I went back to that same soundtrack and ordered up the She & Him cover of the Smiths’ “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.” This time Genius actually coughed up some tracks:

The Smiths, “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”
Feist, “Mushaboom”
Jem, “Yellow”
Vampire Weekend, “Holiday”
Ben Folds featuring Regina Spektor, “You Don’t Know Me”
She & Him, “Sentimental Heart”
Neko Case, “People Got a Lotta Nerve”
Phoenix, “Lasso”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Zero”
The xx, “Heart Skipped a Beat”
Of Montreal, “Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games”
She & Him, “Thieves”
Feist, “I Feel It All”
The Raveonettes, “Dead Sound”
Death Cab for Cutie, “Lovesong”
Belle and Sebastian, “The Boy with the Arab Strap”
Vampire Weekend, “Oxford Comma”
Neutral Milk Hotel, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Dull Life”
Phoenix, “Lisztomania”
She & Him, “You Really Got a Hold on Me”
The xx, “Basic Space”
Florence + The Machine, “Cosmic Love”
Death Cab for Cutie, “Grapevine Fires”

The first two tracks are indeed from that same soundtrack. The first Death Cab track is a remake of the Cure’s “Lovesong”; Jem’s “Yellow” covers Coldplay’s. (And of course, the head Death Cabbie is Ben Gibbard, who is married to Zooey Deschanel.)

Not a speck of Gary Lewis, though. And who would have thought anything would match up with Neutral Milk Hotel?

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Fair-trade kafir

Apparently the way it works is thusly: we buy petroleum from the Middle East, and in return we send them — um, bad ideas. King Shamus explains:

The Ba’ath party that dominated Iraq and continues to oppress Syria is merely an Arab facelift for a German socialism. Bashar al-Assad is basically Erich Honecker with a much funnier name and a slightly more brutal secret police organization.

Then again, Bashar didn’t have to make out with Leonid Brezhnev. I think.

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“I love it when a plan comes together,” said Andrew Ian Dodge as he compiled the 421st Carnival of the Vanities.

Assuming he’s quoting John “Hannibal” Smith, it would seem reasonable to mention that the producers of The A-Team planned to get Hulk Hogan and William “Refrigerator” Perry to play themselves in one episode, which they did — in episode 4.21.

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Let’s just hope there are ten

Suzette, on the dodgy subject of, um, toes:

I never liked to look at anyone else’s toes because attractive ones are few and far between. Nowadays, it’s quite a tough job to ignore them because the Cult of Pedicure is all around us, even on TV. So I have to look at them like it or not. I do notice that the trend is to leave the nail longer in order to make the toes look longer. This goes against my grain because I am careful to be sure there’s no excessive nail length to snag onto objects as I walk past them, to say nothing of the poked-through-stockings issue.

This might be the trend at Shiba’s Discount House of Nails, but I don’t see it too often around here, perhaps because we know in our heart of hearts it doesn’t really work: you see a nail overlapping the toe by half a centimeter or so, and your first thought is almost certainly not going to be “My goodness, what a long toe that is.” The worst fashion development, if you ask me, is the rise of the French pedicure, which takes that longer-nail look and exaggerates it horribly.

The Cult of Pedicure, however, I see as mostly an economic phenomenon, made possible largely by massive emigration from the Pacific Rim. With a nail salon in every strip mall, prices are, if not nil, certainly nominal. Before that, it was mostly models and celebrities who got the treatment. And I suspect they needed it, given their tendency to step out in impractical, possibly even painful, shoes.

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Utensil strength

“Don’t eat with your hand, son,” said Mr. Tirebiter. “Use your entrenching tool.”

Unification of Cutlery

That “spife” looks like it’s spent several hours dunked in a cup of Ersatz Bros. Coffee.

(Via GraphJam.)

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