A run for the border, it wasn’t

A doofus in suburban Dayton, vexed that Taco Bell had shorted him a taco, returned to the scene of the grime:

Police say a couple went through the drive through and after the driver noticed he was missing a taco he came back to the window and started yelling at employees. Then he hit the building and took off… He was arrested for felony vandalism.

He wasn’t hard to find, either:

“We were able to track the vehicle fluids back to his house about 2 miles from here. Upon interview he admitted that he purposely hit the building because he was mad they messed up his order.”

Semiprotip: Next time, use the orange coolant, not the green stuff. You can always pass it off as taco sauce.

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Disrupting the limbic system

It’s, well, a limb, and it should not be there. It wouldn’t be there were it not for the Tuesday-night thunderstorms. This is how it looked on Wednesday:

One dead tree limb not quite coming down

The black line starting in the northwest corner is, of course, the power line. Note that the free-standing (ha!) limb isn’t actually touching the line, but it’s pulling down one that is.

This sucker being too unwieldy for me to wield, I put a call out to the neighborhood, and currently it’s in several pieces on the curb. I really need to buy me a chainsaw.

(As usual, the picture is shrunk for this column, but is rebigulated on Flickr.)

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#OccupyGrammar

O wicked Prescriptivist, forcing people to speak, and presumably to write, according to some moldy old rules:

For the individual looking for a higher education or trying to secure a decent job, what seems more humane: Admitting that, ugly, élitist, and unfair as it is, prescriptivism is currently the dialect of power and being able to manipulate that dialect can help you get ahead, or pretending that utopia is at hand, that everyone is a revolutionary, that linguistic anarchy will set you free? The choice to use our natural dialects whenever and wherever we please, to live in a world free of language-based racism and classism, may indeed be a worthy end for which to strive, but it’s also worth remembering that individuals don’t live in the end. They live now.

Whereas The New Yorker, which published this piece on one of their blogs, lives in whatever ancient period still demands an accent aigu on the E in “elitist.”

Nancy Friedman, who has listened to speakers from every percentile, seems to think this whole “dialect of power” business is a load of dingo’s kidneys:

Maybe “prescriptive English” is how the powerful people at the New Yorker speak and write. But as far as I can tell from my sorties into other corridors of power, it sure ain’t how “the system works right now.”

You want to know how “people in power” — company presidents, board chairmen, politicians, and other members of the .01 percent — communicate? I’ll tell you. They say and write things like “between you and I” and “please circle back to Fred and myself.” They write “alot” and “alright.” They say “hearken back.” They use comma splices. They confuse your and you’re, rein and reign. They’ve never met a Business Concept that didn’t merit Promotion through Capitalization. They smiled benignly upon the 43rd president of the United States — a former person of power — when he publicly said misunderestimate and Grecians.

Or is he “a person of former power”? Someone who would insist on that construction, I aver, is in need of swift refudiation.

My usual rule for such things is “What would William Safire say?” Then again, over the years, he probably wound up eating more than his recommended daily allowance of words.

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Nobody’s business, including the Turks’

The Turkish government has declared itself officially out of the theatre business:

Proof of [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's] intentions is his treatment of visual arts, which Moslem scholars largely forbid as “sinful”. Under very flimsy pretexts, he decided to shut down all publicly funded theatres in Turkey. Of course, they will be “privatized”, but let’s face it. Who is going to buy them in a country where in more than 40 provinces there are no movie theatres? State-funded theatres were the only beacon of modernity in the interior Anatolia, where the clock is rapidly ticking back to Middle Ages.

At, or near, the heart of this particular matter:

[H]is daughter Sümeyye said she was insulted by an actor during a play… Erdoğan, who dabbled in amateur dramatics as a student, has a reputation for wearing his heart on his sleeve. But his tirades against “arrogant, alcoholic actors” and an arts establishment he claims holds ordinary people in contempt have shocked Turkey.

Theatres cannot take government subsidies and then criticise the hand that feeds them, he said. “They have started to humiliate and look down on us and all conservatives.”

Not that this was the only incident:

Then last month’s controversy over an allegedly obscene play was used by Istanbul’s mayor, an Erdoğan protege, to take artistic control of its municipal theatres after a religiously conservative playwright condemned Chilean playwright Marco Antonio de la Parra’s Daily Obscene Secrets without seeing it as “vulgarity at the hands of the state”. The play, an attack on the values of Chile’s military dictatorship, which had much in common with the Turkish generals who once locked Erdoğan up, had been performed more than 70 times without protest, but is now being removed from the repertoire.

One wonders if the Mayor would have liked it any better had he actually seen it. (Or maybe one does not.)

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Meanwhile, in your eyes

Remember the classic Marshall stack? This is evidently the Lloyd Dobler stack:

A metric crapload of boomboxes

My luck, someone will hand me a pen right about now.

(Via FAIL Blog’s WIN!)

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Keir Dullea, gone tomorrow

Riffing off this post from last month, KingShamus defends faster-than-light travel in SF and related genres, starting with a story that doesn’t have it at all:

It could be argued that in the film version of 2001, the most memorable character was all those millions of miles that separated Dave Bowman and Frank Poole from the safety of Earth. That huge distance, which required such long periods of time to cross, was a wordless but constant presence within the film.

And just as capable of offing a crew member as good ol’ HAL, too.

Still, if you pledge yourself to the strictest possible observance of the laws of physics — “186,282 Miles per Second — Not Just a Good Idea, it’s the Law” — you may be unwittingly reducing the size of your audience:

We tend to put up with the trappings and tropes of the genre–pulse rifles, flying cars, powered armor exoskeletons and yes, faster than light travel — because the creators of speculative fiction have made them plausible in the context of the particular fictional universe they’ve created. When done well, audiences and readers will fill in the blanks with some handy-dandy suspension of disbelief. Mix it all together and presto — a totally unrealistic chunk of the story is basically accepted by the folks reading the book or watching the show.

And after all:

[P]eople put up with all the other whacked-out goofy and just plain stupid crap in science fiction.

We will not, for the moment, mention the seven hours I spent this past weekend reading this.

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Slower than the speed of night

The Big Storms converged right over my house at 8:10. I think. The power had dropped by 8:03, and stayed gone for the better part of three hours. (Which meant no cable, which meant the basketball game on the old portable radio on top of the fridge. Now you know why it’s there.)

As of last night before I turned in, I noticed rather a large section of tree out back entirely too close to the power line. If it doesn’t move too much, no problem. (And inasmuch as it’s practically screwed itself into the ground, it may actually fend off threats to the line.) Then again, this is May. Things move. I’ve had entire trees split in half in May.

For now, though, I am grateful to have a relatively unpunctured (we shall see later on) roof over my head. I spotted no hailstones over ping-pong ball size, but they made up in volume what they didn’t carry in sheer heft.

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Second curse, same as the first

Pretty much anything the Spurs did to the Thunder in Game 1, they did again in Game 2: they found holes in the OKC defense, they put up shots you wouldn’t believe — even Manu Ginobili might not believe them, and he was responsible for several of them — and while OKC fought back from a 22-point deficit in the third quarter, they would remain at least two possessions back for the rest of the night, as the Spurs eased out to a two-game lead with a 120-111 win.

The San Antonio offensive machine was in high tune: the Spurs actually took ten fewer shots than the Thunder, but sank six more. If the Thunder doubled them up on offensive rebounds — 16 versus 8 — well, if the shot goes in, you don’t need the offensive rebound, do you? The pesky Texans made 55 percent of their shots, the Thunder only 42. And Tony Parker was in his own private zone: he went 16-21 from the floor for a game-high 34. Ginobili, in a third less tome, racked up 20; both Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard posted double-doubles, having snared rebounds in mass quantities.

Scott Brooks had allowed before the game that maybe he should have played Serge Ibaka more on Sunday night. And Serge turned in a reasonable, if not noteworthy, performance. Unfortunately, these are the playoffs, where “Screw reasonable!” is the desideratum. Kevin Durant got 31 points somehow; James Harden got 30, and might have gotten some more had he not fouled out. And did we get the Good Russell or the Bad Russell tonight? We got the Good Russell That Doesn’t Shoot All That Well: he scored 27 on 10-24 shooting and a trio of treys, and didn’t turn the ball over so much as once while serving up eight dimes. If he ever maxes all the categories out, he’s dangerous.

But right now danger has to take second place to figuring out a way to beat the Spurs four of the next five. It can be done. But I’m not lying awake at night thinking up plays.

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Really delayed reaction

Somebody asked this on Yahoo! Answers back in October ’09, and it just now got around to having a Best Answer selected. Here’s the question, which is definitely within my realm of expertise, such as it is:

Why would a person initially start a blog if there’s no guarantee no one would read it at all?

Why would you start writing for virtually no one…

Ah, Grasshopper, you are so young.

My answer (which got one whole vote for Best, out of one):

Sometimes you just feel the need. It took me a year and a half to get my first 3000 visitors; now 3000 is a slow week.

And no, there are no guarantees. I figured if I threw enough stuff against the wall, some of it would stick.

Site’s been up 13.5 years as of today. Total visitors: 1.85 million. Patience sometimes is a virtue.

We’ll hit 2.3 million next month, maybe.

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Wide-body jets

These days, once you’re finished with your government-mandated assault on your person, you’ll be assigned to your lousy eighteen-inch-wide inflight penalty box, and you’ll like it, peasant. Or you can just pay for two seats, unless you’re in Canada, where this is considered a Discriminatory Practice.

Alternatively, you can hope (1) you’re riding on an Airbus A320 and (2) the airline checked the right boxes on the order form:

The standard economy seat on an A320 is eighteen inches wide; the XL versions will be twenty inches wide. Ostensibly airlines that order these planes will be able to choose how many XL seats and how many standard-size seats they would like, and will be able to upcharge accordingly for the more spacious ass accommodations.

“These seats are not meant just for overweight passengers,” Airbus’ aircraft interiors director Zuzana Hrnkova told journalists, before adding, “Mothers with children may be ready to pay a little more in order to be able to keep their babies in their lap, and large football players may be interested.”

Disclosure: While I’m on the wide side, I’ve never been asked to buy a second seat, though I did once have to ask for a seat-belt extension. I am, um, a bit narrower these days.

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Serial groper

“This is not a joke,” says Jennifer, though I’m having trouble imagining Henny Youngman coming up with one better:

Former priest Thomas Harkins molested so many children, even the Catholic Church was no longer willing to tolerate it. So he was defrocked, and is now happily employed as a TSA supervisor in Philadelphia. (Not even a run-of-the-mill agent, mind you, but a supervisor.)

And they say job skills aren’t transferable anymore.

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Well, that explains everything

Chicago Public Schools and the teachers’ union are engaged in contract negotiations, a process which a Chicago Tribune editorial explains thusly:

By law, that negotiation will extend until mid-July, barring an earlier agreement. If there is no agreement then, the mediator will propose a compromise.

Both sides will have up to 15 days to accept or reject that compromise. If either side rejects the deal, the terms are then made public. That will give residents a full view of what’s on the table. Thirty days after the report becomes public, the union can call a strike.

So why is the union calling for a strike vote now?

“It is impossible to take a vote in summer when all our members are on vacation,” union vice president Jesse Sharkey said Tuesday.

Oh.

(Via Dave Schuler.)

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But do you Like your Shares?

The conventional wisdom holds that Facebook’s Initial Public Offering was something of a failure, because the stock price has since fallen by a sixth. As usual, the conventional wisdom is braying through its own sombrero. The IPO went just fine for the institution that’s supposed to benefit from it:

The entire purpose of an Initial Public Offering, after all, is to bring cash into the company by offering ownership shares in the company for sale on the open market. Since these IPOs are all done through investment banks and brokerage houses, though, there are parties with conflicting interests at the table prior to the day the stock goes public. It’s in the best interest of the banks and brokerage houses that the stock be priced somewhere below what the market might pay for it, because they are the ones who buy the stock from the corporation in order to either sell it to their clients or keep it in their own portfolio in the hope that it will gain value. It’s in the best interest of the corporation that the initial offering price be as near to the top of market value as possible so that they maximize the value of the shares of ownership that they’re selling. Remember, after IPO day a corporation reaps almost no benefit from what happens to its share price unless it holds what are called “Treasury Shares” in its own name, or it decides to issue additional shares at some point in the future. Who benefits if the stock goes up sharply on IPO Day or immediately thereafter? The banks and brokerage houses.

Emphasis in the original. Remember, the company doesn’t get a cent if the stock goes up after the IPO: those initial shares go out at the scheduled price, they bank the proceeds, and that’s that. The only thing that changes is the market-capitalization value, and market cap is important to investors the way semisextiles are important to astrologers.

There’s still the question of whether Facebook is a harbinger of the future or just a flavor of the month — but the results of the IPO wouldn’t have told you that either way.

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A bit of illumination

This is Canadian singer Lights, and yes, that’s her legal name:

Lights on the sofa

Admittedly, it says “Valerie Anne Poxleitner” on her birth certificate. She’s twenty-five, and she got married a couple of weeks ago to Blessthefall lead singer Beau Bokan.

I am deeply fond of her song “Second Go,” from the 2009 album The Listening:

A couple of notes:

  • Tats aside, she looks remarkably like Rebecca Black, and indeed RB could sing this song if she did this kind of song;
  • The whole video was done in one shot.

Bless you, O God of Random Discoveries.

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Small French fry

We have been favored this weekend with photos of both Tam and Roberta X seated inside a cute little Vespa 400 — not simultaneously, I hasten to add — which prompted me to take a peek under this carlet’s not-exactly-oversized nose skirt:

Engine bay of Vespa 400

The teensy mill is an I2, 63 x 63 mm, around 393 cc, hence the “400” tag. It’s a two-stroke, with all the irritations of that breed, less one: later examples have a separate oil reservoir, and would attempt to mix the oil and gas together on the fly, saving the driver a little bit of work. The suspension, remarkably, was independent at all four corners, with coil springs all around; there was even an anti-roll bar up front. A contemporary test by a British magazine came up with a top speed of just under 52 mph; 0-40 (forget 60) was a stately procession of 24 seconds, or about what I tend to expect from someone in front of me climbing one of Oklahoma’s idiotically short onramps.

From the Art for Art’s Sake department, here is an example of a car bringing back memories you never actually had:

“She was so pretty,” he mused.

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Inconstant craving

Saturday morning I had the urge for cinnamon rolls, and made a mental note to grab some at the grocery store. But cinnamon rolls somehow manage to be both wildly variable yet consistently blah, so said mental note slid down the priority list — until I had actually schlepped my shopping bag into Sunflower and had begun my usual path, which starts in the corner with the baked goods.

On display I found small loaves of cinnamon bread, bearing the Sweet Paradise brand, from remote Hayward, California. They were small, but hefty: a full twenty ounces, the same weight as an inflated loaf of Mrs Baird’s. I decided that not having a whole faceful of icing was an advantage, and slid a loaf into my bag.

I got the thing home, sliced off a corner, and went into Beaming Mode: the urge was more than satisfactorily dealt with, and I said something to the effect that “Well, this was certainly worth the —” breaking off when I realized I hadn’t ever looked at the price, not even at the checkout lane. I duly went back to my desk, pulled up the register tape, and scanned down the list.

Five ninety-nine.

I was a trifle put off for a moment — “I just paid six bucks for a loaf of bread?” — but that passed quickly, and I sliced off another chunk. As they say on eBay, “A++++++ would buy again.” Even at $5.99.

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