Where angels fear the tread

The really neat thing about those “try before you buy” rental stores is that by keeping the payments “reasonable,” it’s possible to sell, for instance, a $500 computer for $1300.

I would not have thought, however, that this premise was extensible to automobile tires:

RIMCO, a division of Atlanta rent-to-own furniture and electronics company Aaron’s, started in 2004 as a destination for drivers who wanted to pimp their rides with trendy wheels. But as the recession reduced customers’ demand for pricey rims, the company looked for other things it could sell that would keep shoppers coming back time and again.

The answer seemed obvious: tires.

And the targeted customer seems obvious: the douchecanoe who’s just inflicted a brand new set of 22s on a poor, defenseless Chevy Impala, and only then figures out that his old half-bald Walmart Chinese-import rubber won’t stretch six inches to fit. You can find half a dozen people like that any day on Yahoo! Answers.

(Via Autoblog.)

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The assumption of privilege

Not that I’m particularly in the mood to throw increasingly expensive fuel on the fires of class warfare, but this paragraph demanded attention:

Observers of human nature have long puzzled over the possibility of an ethical class divide. On the one hand, people with fewer resources and dimmer prospects might be expected to do whatever’s necessary to get ahead. On the other, wealthy types may be more focused on themselves, because money, independence, and freedom can insulate people from the plight of others. They may also be less generous: Studies involving money games show that upper-class subjects keep more for themselves, and U.S. surveys find that the rich give a smaller percentage of their income to charity than do the poor.

This latter point, I suggest, is due to a combination of tax preferences and self-aggrandizement: all else being equal, J. Gotrocks Lucre is most likely to want to clothe his do-goodery in the raiment of the J. Gotrocks Lucre Foundation.

(I am indebted to the lovely Tamara K. for reminding me that you almost never see “lucre” unless it’s prefixed with “filthy,” and that in combination thereof it means “lots of money in the hands of people you think are icky or shallow or otherwise undeserving.” Perfect.)

Still, dishonesty, as George Carlin pointed out, is still the second-best policy, which leads to this:

To see whether dishonesty varies with social class, psychologist Paul Piff of the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues devised a series of tests, working with groups of 100 to 200 Berkeley undergraduates or adults recruited online. Subjects completed a standard gauge of their social status, placing an X on one of 10 rungs of a ladder representing their income, education, and how much respect their jobs might command compared with other Americans.

The team’s findings suggest that privilege promotes dishonesty. For example, upper-class subjects were more likely to cheat. After five apparently random rolls of a computerized die for a chance to win an online gift certificate, three times as many upper-class players reported totals higher than 12 — even though, unbeknownst to them, the game was rigged so that 12 was the highest possible score.

This is the part that made me blink, though:

When participants were manipulated into thinking of themselves as belonging to a higher class than they did, the poorer ones, too, began to behave unethically. In one test, subjects were asked to compare themselves with people at the top or the bottom of the social scale (Donald Trump or a homeless person, for example). They were then permitted to take candies from a jar ostensibly meant for a group of children in a nearby lab. Subjects whose role-playing raised their status in their own eyes took twice as many candies as those who compared themselves to “The Donald.”

It would be interesting to see just how easily people are manipulated into Synthetic Empathy™.

Meanwhile, it was nine years ago that I said this:

I don’t automatically assume that I have X coming to me by dint of Y; it has always seemed to me that my only legitimate and unassailable birthright is death. And this, I suspect, is not a commonly-held belief; on the contrary, the world seems to be largely filled with people who think that on the basis of some Y or other, they deserve all the X they can get.

Well, X to you, Mister Lucre, and to all the wannabes out there.

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Drop them off in the Sixth Circle

There is, I suspect, no work of literature worthy of the name immune to this sort of thing:

Dante’s medieval classic the Divine Comedy has been condemned as racist, antisemitic and Islamophobic by a group calling for it to be removed from classrooms.

The complaint:

[T]he Italian human rights organisation Gherush92, which advises UN bodies on human rights issues, wants it to be removed from school curriculums, or at least used with more caution, because it is “offensive and discriminatory” and young people lack the “filters” to understand it in context.

Gherush92 singled out some particular cantos from Dante’s masterwork for criticism: Inferno’s 34th, which tells of Judas, endlessly chewed in the teeth of Lucifer, and 28th, in which Mohammed is depicted torn “from the chin down to the part that gives out the foulest sound”, as well as Purgatorio’s 26th, which shows homosexuals under a rain of fire in purgatory. The work, it says, slanders the Jewish people, depicts Islam as a heresy and is homophobic.

You’d think, if Dante were “homophobic,” he’d have dealt with said homosexuals in Inferno rather than Purgatorio. And anyway, Canto XXVI deals with all flavors of lust, straight, gay or whatever.

As for Muhammad, well, the issue for Dante is the division between groups caused by the sowing of discord, which is apparently Ali is dinged for the rupture of the Ummah into Shia and Sunni. Ostensible Christians deserve this punishment as well: see, for instance, Fra Dolcino, as Muhammad suggests Dante should do.

There’s no end to this, I fear.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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Improving the experience

It seemed odd to me that Opubco would want to push two entirely different packages of what is essentially the same news product, but having looked at Oklahoman.com, I definitely prefer it to the NewsOK offering, for three reasons:

  • It’s organized more like the paper itself, without the necessity of dealing with the Replica, which is exactly like the paper, assuming you have a suitable vertical monitor, which I don’t.
  • A more relaxed, or at least less busy, design.
  • None of the idiot commenters who clutter up NewsOK.

It’s a premium product with an actual price tag, though it costs nothing extra to us old mossbacks who pay to have the dead-tree edition tossed onto our driveways.

Will this work? I have no idea. For now, though, I like it.

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Unwillingness to claim us

“Be nice to your kids,” says the old joke. “They’ll pick your nursing home.”

Several quote collections credit this to Abraham Maslow, though none of them bothers to cite an actual source for it. Still, there’s serious truth to it, and Francis W. Porretto expands upon it:

The next generation will determine the value of our retirement funds. Not in the naive fiscal sense, but in this regard: Inasmuch as a dollar is only worth what it will buy in the marketplace, our progeny, which will control the levers of production when we retire, will determine what our retirement funds will be able to buy — by producing the goods and services available for our dollars. If they’re less innovative, less skillful, less knowledgeable, less quality oriented, or less inclined to work than are we, the bounties in our marketplace will descend from their current level to … less. So genuine concern for the next generation isn’t just a reflection of what degree of duty we feel for our children; it’s also a matter of self-interest.

I have long suspected that our self-proclaimed cultural arbiters really don’t like children: the little brats cut into one’s time for self-actualization, after all, and the most important, or at least loudest, issue of the moment is keeping those wombs empty by any means necessary. You’d think the little ones were forbidden by Vaal or something.

On the other hand, at least we’re still managing to reproduce at a respectable rate, cultural arbiters notwithstanding:

While almost all of the developed world, and many other nations, have seen plummeting fertility rates over the last twenty years, the United States’ rates have remained stable and even slightly increased. This is largely due to the high fertility rate among communities such as Hispanics, but it is also because the fertility rate among non-Hispanic whites in the US, after falling to about 1.6 in the 1970s and early 1980s, had increased and is now around 1.9-2.0, or slightly below replacement level, rather than collapsing to the 1.3-1.5 level common in Europe.

New England has a rate similar to most Western European countries, while the South, Midwest, and border states have fertility rates considerably higher than replacement. States where The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a strong presence, most notably Utah, also have higher-than-replacement fertility rates, especially among the LDS population.

Replacement level in the developed world is considered to be about 2.1. (Which suggests that around 4.4 grandchildren would be the bare minimum. I am running ahead of that statistic, thank you very much, though I’m far beyond the point where I can claim any credit for it.) Still, I look at the five grand a year with my name on it kicked into the Social Security system, and I have to figure that this might support one retiree for three or four months, max. We’re asking more and more of the youngsters, while doing as little as possible for them; worse, we’re doing as little as possible as expensively as possible. Sooner or later, this, like everything else that can’t go on, won’t.

(Title from the Replacements’ “Bastards of Young.” Because.)

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Pony potables

In the absence of Fillyjonk, who’s taking spring break, I have to assume that there’s a small chance that she missed this little bit of whimsy — unless, of course, it’s a repeat from last year, and I wouldn’t know about that — and therefore it is my responsibility to make sure she sees it. Then again, if I knew anything about responsibility, I would surely have noticed this on the appropriate day, right?

Equestria Daily, one of the earliest MLP:FIM fan sites, occasionally displays a custom banner to celebrate whatever might be going on, and for St Patrick’s Day they had a wild drawing of ponies soused on apple cider:

O'Questria Daily

Clearly Rarity and Fluttershy are not the type to get sozzled under such conditions. On the other hoof, The Great and Powerful Trixie seems to have hoisted more than a few. And I am not even going to speculate as to why Derpy’s in the tree.

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Strange search-engine queries (320)

If you’re new around here, this is a weekly (so far) feature in which we acknowledge the fact that a lot of our visitors come here, not to be entertained by our wit and wisdom or to torture themselves by exposure to the lack thereof, but because they typed something into the Google or Bing or even Yahoo! search box, and it somehow matched something in this domain. During any given week, those searches number easily in the hundreds; here, we present the silliest, and make fun of them, because what the heck else is there to do on a Monday morning?

fugmob:  Combination of “fugly” and “mob,” therefore somewhat superfluous, since all mobs tend to be fugly.

THE disc-break from the DOSUSER:  If you’re old enough to remember DOS, it’s likely you can remember breaking rather a lot of discs yourself, not to mention a CPU or two.

fly like a beagle:  I assure you, time hasn’t been slippin’ into the future that much. Yet.

hoopier:  On the frood scale, the Magratheans are hoopier than, say, the fifty-armed Jatravartids, the first sentient species to invent aerosol deodorant before the wheel.

GET YOUR PASS TO ORGY SEX PARTIES HERE:  Wait a minute, you need passes to those things? And STOP SHOUTING!

SCHMICP DISEASE:  It killed John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmicp, though it wasn’t named for him. One of the symptoms is a tendency to SHOUT!

lowered bra:  Lower it to the floor, and we’ll talk.

why are men unhandy:  Limited experience at lowering bras.

nude men 60-75 years old.com:  Certainly wouldn’t be a dot-org at that age, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

sleeping wife wakened by yobs who impregnate her:  I’m sorry, you want the Daily Mail, just along the corridor.

has someone patten blinker fluid:  It was a joint development with sealed, maintenance-free muffler bearings.

female jeans:  Depends on which side the zipper’s on. (Sometimes.)

zooey deschanel hosed:  Sometimes even when she wears jeans.

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Dampened blaze

Sometimes all it takes is a diligent application of the fundamentals. Still smarting from the drubbing they got from the Spurs, the Thunder buckled down early on, jumped out to a 16-point lead after the first quarter, and the Trail Blazers, the first team to beat the Thunder in OKC this season, were sent back to Portland with a loss. The Thunder won this one going away, 111-95 (note: 16-point difference), and now lead the season series 2-1, always useful against division rivals.

OKC actually shot their way to this win: 55 percent from the floor, 61 percent (11 of 18) from downtown, and we’ll tiptoe past the ten free throws (of 28) they missed. Rebounds: OKC, 43-35. Assists: OKC, 24-15. Turnovers: OKC, 15-12. (Well, you can’t have everything.) Once again, Russell Westbrook took more shots than Kevin Durant, but then he also scored more points (28 versus 26) and didn’t once give up the ball. James Harden was not so wonderful from the floor, but he drew fouls like crazy, and got 11 of his 14 from the stripe.

For the Blazers, sixth man Jamal Crawford scored the most points (23) and tied for most technicals (1, with Kurt Thomas). Portland shot a decent 46 percent, and Raymond Felton was effective, though Nicolas Batum was bottled up much of the night. And LaMarcus Aldridge, always a thorn in OKC’s side, was held to 15 points on 6-19 shooting; that may have been the difference right there, since Aldridge usually thinks nothing of dropping 20 or 30 on the Thunder.

Next: a one-game road swing, to Utah on Tuesday, followed by three at the ‘Peake: Clippers Wednesday, Timberwolves Friday, Heat Sunday. No one who can be taken lightly.

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You think you’re so damn smart

Well, actually, I don’t. And it’s probably a good thing I don’t, now that I think about it.

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Before you can walk

Roberta X has adjusted nicely to one of the newer features of urban living:

On the subject of ADA compliance, let me just say, as a somewhat clumsy person, that I like curb cuts — and they mean that every block, there are three squares of actual decent sidewalk, instead of tilted, battered slabs. (OTOH, around Roseholme Cottage, many of the curved curbs at the corners are large lengths of what appears to be cut stone! I’d miss them.) In Indianapolis, you’ve got to add, “…where there are sidewalks.” Outside of Downtown, they’re kind of optional.

She’d be amused, I think, to hear that while Oklahoma City has similar sidewalk density — which is to say, Not Much — we’ve been duly installing curb cuts, even in places where sidewalks don’t actually exist. I’m guessing this is a byproduct of having seen too many reruns of Field of Dreams.

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Horrible gases

Wired has a regular feature called “What’s Inside,” which runs down the ingredient list of something you probably didn’t want to see the ingredient list for, and tells you what you’re getting.

For April, it’s the ever-popular anti-flatulence tablet Beano, a large component of which is relatively inert:

Much like a Jennifer Aniston film, industrial-grade potato starch is a flavorless, odorless, colorless substance that exists mainly to take up space.

That’s going to leave a mark, though not a blatantly obvious one.

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Just above the killing floor

Contemporary cars have a panoply of warning lights, some pretty standard, some model-specific. My first Mazda 626, for instance, had a warning light to tell you if one of the exterior lights was burned out; this was apparently decontented away in the next generation. One I’ve never seen, though, was Nissan’s FLOOR TEMP warning, which is explained thusly:

The thing that really put the malaise into the Malaise Era was the inability of the automotive industry to meet US federal and (in the case of cars sold in California) state exhaust-emission regulations without crippling the vehicles (whether this inability was due to Naderite anti-progress bomb-throwers infesting the government or corporate mismanagement and the over-reliance on lobbying to fend off emissions regulations is your subject to debate). While Honda’s CVCC engines managed to beat the tailpipe test without the use of the early, incredibly inefficient catalytic converters, just about everybody else had to bolt a super-restrictive and surface-of-sun-temperature cat onto the exhaust. On low, sporty vehicles that didn’t have a good location for the catalytic converter, an overheating cat could set the car’s interior on fire. Nissan’s solution to this was the FLOOR TEMP indicator light, which used a temperature sensor near the catalytic converter to warn the driver to slow the hell down.

My primary Malaise Era ride was a ’75 Toyota Celica, which, in 49-state mode, lacked a cat altogether. (Despite the absence of the oft-derided device, minor tweaking of the rudimentary engine controls enabled this car to pass — barely — California emissions in 1988.) There was a lamp on the dash labeled EXH. TEMP, which I assume would have served the same purpose; I never saw it glowing.

The Italians, apparently, took a more direct approach:

Fiats, Ferraris, and (I’m pretty sure) Alfa Romeos of the late 1970s got this lovely and equally confusing “SLOW DOWN” idiot light to warn drivers of overheating catalytic converters; at least this light gave the driver some idea of the remedy for the problem. Some Fiats and British Leyland cars got a similarly cryptic (yet technically more accurate) “CATALYST” idiot light. Perhaps a really big idiot light reading “CATALYTIC CONVERTER OVERHEATING — SLOW YOUR ASS DOWN OR PERISH IN FLAMES!” would have been best.

They couldn’t do something like that today; why, that message is just as long as one of those wicked text messages and would thereby almost certainly constitute Deadly Distraction.

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Of course it’s premium

To some people, pretty much everything is an opportunity to accessorize. Hence this midweek paparazzo shot of Paris Hilton, who incorporates both the gas pump and the Ferrari into her look.

Paris Hilton at a Union 76 station

Besides, that’s a majorly cute dress, and I’d like to encourage wearers of hats.

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Playing the Hef card

Robert Stacy McCain notes in an addendum to a post about Gillian Anderson’s, um, interesting past:

It might be worth pointing out that I once got a lot of traffic for the headline: “Dana Loesch in Playboy?”

Which reminded me of this item from 2004:

File this under “Once in a Lifetime”: there’s an actual (albeit very small) picture of Michelle Malkin in Playboy.

No, not like that, ya perv. In the annual The Year in Sex roundup (January ’05), there is, not entirely unexpectedly, a marginally-raunchy picture of Jessica “Washingtonienne” Cutler, and to give credence to her particular transgressions, there’s a clip from the Post (which Post, I couldn’t say) with Ms Malkin’s column, complete with standard photo of the columnist.

Which Post, as it turned out, was the New York Post.

Malkin linked back to that, generating my single largest traffic day up to that point. Which suggests that even in the thinnest of posts, Hef adds heft.

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Colt in Manehattan

This PMV made the rounds of the pony-based community earlier in the week, and since that time it’s absolutely refused to get out of my head. One contributing factor, I suspect, is the fact that it’s the correct voice: Michelle Creber does the singing voice of Sweetie Belle on MLP:FIM, though obviously none of these clips were done with a Sixties soul classic in mind. I think. It’s hard to tell these days. A so-called show for kids that can do a visual homage to The Big Lebowski is capable of just about anything.

Michelle Creber, incidentally, is twelve years old. (She has one other commercially-available recording: a cover of Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive.” I am not making this up.) And you may remember MandoPony from “I’ll Be Waiting,” aka “Derpy’s Song,” a few weeks ago.

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Next time express yourself in American

Once in a while Windows Live Mail calls out an obvious phish, though it’s not unfailingly reliable at spotting the non-obvious ones. Still, this one, purporting to be from American Express, was rather easily detected:

Because of unusual number of invalid login attempts on you account, we had to believe that, their might be some security problem on you account.

So we have decided to put an extra verification process to ensure your identity and your account security.

Please click on continue to the verification process and ensure your account security. It is all about your security.

There’s even a (possibly unconscious) punchline:

Thank you. Open In Internet Explorer Only.

I have to figure that anyone who closes some other browser and then opens up IE as directed probably deserves to be phished. Because, you know, it’s all about your security.

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