Try not to look

Once upon a time, fashion was intended to serve the time-honored function of making sure that boy meets girl. (There always were, and still are, other combinations possible, but they require a bit more specialization, or so it seems to me.) Today, the dynamic is utterly different.

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A puff of magical non-smoke

There’s a dealer in e-cigarettes down the road about a mile. Their presence affects me not a whit. Now there’s another one about two miles to the south, which apparently hired some seeming derelict to harangue smokers in the middle of the road last Wednesday, but that’s another story; still, apart from that bit of performance art, their presence affects me not a whit.

The half-whits in Los Angeles, meanwhile, would like to see such things banned, and there’s only one logical explanation for their behavior:

Primitive peoples who relied on magic rather than science to explain how the world works often believed in what is known as “sympathetic magic” — the idea that if item A looks like item B, that means A either shares B’s traits or gives you actual power over B… And belief in sympathetic magic appears to be enjoying a renaissance among those who oppose “e-cigarettes” or “e-cigs,” basically on the grounds that a battery-operated metal tube emitting water vapor looks like a burning tobacco cigarette emitting cancerous smoke, ergo it must have the same disease-inducing power as said tobacco cigarette, right?

Or at least deserves the same stigma. Consider this week, when the Los Angeles City Council voted to treat e-cigs exactly as regular cigarettes by banning the use of e-cig water vapor wherever tobacco smoke has already been banned.

Then again, this is Los Angeles, where the highest-paid representatives of the city’s best-known industry spend much of their spare time complaining about income inequality. There’s got to be some supernatural explanation for that.

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Representing Bizarro Texas

Finally, a plausible explanation for Sheila Jackson-Lee:

In a speech this week, she offered praise of the Constitution of the United States, which had governed us for “400 years.” This has led some to conclude that Rep. Lee is actually from the 22nd century, a time in which said Constitution, adopted in 1787, might indeed have been around at least 400 years.

My own solution is that the Congresswoman is not from our future, but instead from a parallel universe. In this alternative Earth, the United States was indeed formed in the 17th century and the Constitution adopted in 1687. Also, the resolution of the Vietnam War was significantly different and there are still two Vietnams, as Rep. Lee suggested in 2010. And Neil Armstrong took an even bigger step for mankind than he did in our world, planting the flag of the United States on Mars instead of just the moon. Usually, Rep. Lee is able to conceal her allohistorical origins, but she occasionally slips up. I for one certainly hope that she is at some point able to return to her timeline and allow her counterpart to return to our universe, but I don’t know if anyone is researching the topic.

There is, I suspect, a back-burner project being conducted by Texas Republicans, but they dare not go public with it, lest they be accused of being parallel-species-ist.

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Lubed out of existence

The Instant Man pointed to this preposterous bit of Wired nonsense:

The ability to repair a car via software is especially important when the vehicle itself consists of so much new technology that traditional mechanics don’t know how to fix. The flip side is that without an internal combustion engine, there’s not as much to fix. I’ve written before that a Tesla without its outer shell looks like a cell phone on wheels. It’s basically just a big battery. That means no spark plugs, no air filters, no fuel pumps, no timing belts. In short, Teslas don’t have any of the parts that force you to take your car in for “regularly scheduled maintenance” — services that can cost dearly at the dealer. But it’s hard to charge for an oil change when there’s no oil to be changed.

I’ve seen a few Teslas in the wild, and they all had tires. Also suspension parts, which can and do wear out.

More to the point, dealers have lost a ton of oil-change business over the years to the neighborhood Spee-D-Loob, mostly because SDL’s business model — throw in the oil change as a loss leader, then scare the customer into several other services — is very attractive to people who were told by their sister’s brother-in-law’s cousin that you never go to the dealership because they’ll charge you out the wazoo, which, based on my regular inspections of the Yahoo! Answers Cars & Transportation section, is roughly two-thirds of the human race. (I expect, any day now, that someone at the blinker-fluid level of automotive competence will be asking what the fair price is for a wazoo charge.)

Perhaps even more to the point, Motor Trend has a Tesla Model S on long-term test, and this was in their April update:

A few days later I got another email: “We replaced a slightly out of spec right steering knuckle and the drivetrain.” Replaced the drivetrain! “There was nothing wrong with the power unit,” they noted, “but we heard a clicking in the transmission. The power unit isn’t serviceable in the shop so we decided to be proactive.”

The Tesla Service Center no doubt didn’t enjoy eating the cost of that drivetrain, but they knew Elon Musk had their back. And if the transmission goes out in your [some other make and model], your dealership will swap it out for a previously rebuilt unit, because nobody on staff knows how to rebuild a transmission anymore. Not so different, really.

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I shan’t vouch for this

As it happens, I ordered some stuff from Amazon earlier this week. (Then again, who didn’t?) So perhaps I wouldn’t have been surprised to see this in my email box:

Fake Amazon voucher graphic

However, it went to an email address not associated with my Amazon dealings. And since I default to good old text-based email, the way God and RFC 822 intended, what I actually saw was a word salad with Amazon Prime-related stuff as the lettuce. Text therefrom:

Amazon claims that a $79 annual membership for Amazon Prime provides free two-day shipping on “millions” of items, but for some products, the company is accused of encouraging sellers to inflate shipping prices, according to two recent lawsuits. “The bottom line is the free shipping that Amazon offered to its Prime members wasn’t free,” said Kim Stephens, attorney for one of the plaintiffs, adding that he was “shocked” by Amazon’s alleged pricing practices. and took little _Pixie_ Marcia Burke of Alabama says she became an Amazon Prime member and used its “free shipping” service at least 18 times in 2010, according to her lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Seattle. Prime-eligible products are designated on Amazon’s website.

Thank you for recently visiting us. We hope you come back soon.

We would like to thank you…

Get Your $25 Card Voucher

Thank you for visiting Amazon.

the Baron de Breteuil. In what she hopes will be certified as a class-action lawsuit, Burke accuses Amazon of encouraging third-party vendors to include in the price of their items the amount they would have charged for shipping in their items to maximize revenue and profit margins. She also accuses Amazon of encouraging vendors to increase their prices to Prime members by the amount they charged others for shipping, without revealing that a portion of those alleged “inflated” prices was for shipping fees, the lawsuit claims. She would go back gladly

Bechtold Enterprises |8730 Cross Pointe Loop|Anchorage, AK 99504-2269 – -|-Change-Your-Mail-settings-|-Bechtold Enterprises | Scudder and is warmly encouraged by Dr. These sellers raise their prices to match or top their competitor’s total price, as items are sorted by price on Amazon’s site, Burke alleges in the lawsuit. In the time period that the lawsuit covers, Oct. 24, 2007 to Feb. 22, 2011, the main benefit for Prime members was the free two-day shipping. Starting Feb. 22, 2011, Amazon increased Prime’s appeal by including extras, such as movie and television streaming and Kindle e-book borrowing, the lawsuit states. A spokesman for Amazon, Erik Fairleigh, declined to comment due to the firm’s policy related to active litigation. . aged thirty six. The death scene was indicative of the strength and joy of his faith. Soon after Rev. Thomas F. King came to Portsmouth the Baron de Breteuil and took little _Pixie_

Poor little _Pixie_ is only a pawn in their game, it would appear.

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Saturday spottings (cluebat needed)

There is nothing particularly remarkable about the intersection of NW 50th and May: this stretch of May is five lanes — two northbound, two southbound, one center for left turns — just like scores of other arterials through this town. I was northbound on May this afternoon, in the center lane waiting to turn left on 50th, when a chap pulled up on my left. I had no idea what he was planning to do, but I was reasonably certain it was not good.

Which it wasn’t. Seeing what he thought was an opportunity, he vectored across the intersection in front of me, perhaps thinking he could beat the driver on my right who had just ventured into the intersection. He could not. The laws of physics prevailed — specifically, the one about two objects not occupying the same space — and the bending of fenders ensued.

As I made my left turn, I made a point of not thanking the resident deities for not making me that farging stupid, having long since learned that my own capacity for cluelessness is well-nigh boundless. For the past two weeks, I’ve been carrying around winter-weather debris on my car’s lower flanks, and the promise of rain today had stayed my hand at the car wash. With the rain having thus far failed to materialize, I decided that, inasmuch as I was on my way to Homeland, I would go ahead and use their car wash, and since I’d filled up only last Saturday and still had more than half a tank left, I wouldn’t bother to get gas; I’d pay the dollar extra, or whatever it was, and be done with it.

So I got out a $5 bill for the standard $4 wash, punched the button, and only then noticed that there was no slot to insert said bill or even a credit card: all transactions apparently had to be originated with either the cashier or at the pump. Okay, fine, I said, backing out of the car-wash entrance and looking, I presume, extremely foolish. I pulled up to a pump, slid the card, punched Yes when they offered me a wash, and waited about two minutes for the machine to tell me that we’re sorry, the wash is not available at this time, your card will not be charged for it.

And some time between my entry into the full-fledged store and my departure therefrom, an interval of roughly 15 minutes, a table full of Girl Scout Cookies appeared at the exit. I need these like I need a hole in the head, I thought, and wound up buying a box of Trefoils, my fifth (I think) box of the season. If there’s a School of Trepanning nearby, consider this my application to become a test subject.

Oh, and the rain started about an hour and a half later, but not in sufficient quantity to remove two-week-old grime.

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Freeman Hunt turned up an article from her archives, titled “Frank Advice for a Male Relative on Finding a Mate,” and this is how it leads off:

Never spend even a moment’s time on anyone who treats you badly. As you are courteous, you should expect courtesy in return. A jerk, no matter how beautiful, no matter how intelligent, no matter how accomplished, is still a jerk and is as untrustworthy as she is insufferable.

While this seems inarguable, I note that women of the jerkular persuasion are usually tagged with some epithet considerably worse than “jerk” — even by women, who presumably ought to know better.

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Hell has eight pins

Do you lie awake at night, trying to gauge the depth to which we as a species have sunk by not having universal cell-phone chargers? The Eurocrats evidently did:

European Union politicians have vowed to end the “nightmare” of non-compatible phone chargers… “The current incompatibility of chargers is a nightmare and a real inconvenience for consumers. This new directive ends this nightmare and is also good news for the environment as it will result in a reduction of electronic waste,” said European parliament negotiator Barbara Weiler in a statement.

Apple’s Lightning connector is presumably doomed.

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In semi-living color

I’m pretty sure this ad came out around 1954; while I wasn’t in a position to notice, really, I don’t remember anyone around this time period wearing this shade of blue — indeed, any shade of blue — on her toes. (Heck, it’s not that common today.) Still, it’s sort of compelling:

Advertisement for Phoenix hosiery

Phoenix, despite its name, was based in Milwaukee, incorporated in 1897 as the Phoenix Knitting Works; their 1917 factory in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward, long since converted to office space, changed hands last year for about $4.5 million.

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Pi, schmi

To some of us, Pi is Very Special Indeed:

To others (after the jump), maybe not so much:

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Down for the rebound

Tristan Prettyman, mentioned here about as often as I can work up an excuse, was dumped by Capitol Records yesterday.

She blames, um, me:

(Decidedly favorable review of Cedar + Gold — which I did actually buy, admittedly in the quantity of one — here.)

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Snow is still a four-letter word

The winter of ’14, as seen from Chicago:

Sounds a little funny to my ears. But over these last few months, I have moved several thousand pounds of snow with my shovel and my back, and you don’t soon forget such things. I have also, I discovered yesterday, personally witnessed the five snowiest winters in Chicago history, according to this list. Four of which occurred during my schooling years, including the last two, in 77-78 and 78-79, when I was trudging around college campuses in frozen outposts in Illinois. Gosh, thanks, I just don’t know what to say …

Wait, yes I do. Where is that damn global warming everyone keep yammering on and on about? This is also one of the coldest winters ever — it was below zero on March 3rd, with the first day of Spring just three weeks away.

On the third of March down here in the tropics, we had a nice, toasty six degrees. (Second occurrence of 6° this winter; we got down to 4° in late January, though in classic Oklahoma fashion, the next day we had a high of 67°.)

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Lileks on Nighttime Pain Relief Fluids:

There were the usual choices: The Real Stuff, and the Store Brand that Tastes like Donkey Sputum. Everyone knows it. They could probably make the store brand taste better, but why? You’re buying it to save money. Suffer. The Nyquil had words printed on the security wrapper: VICKS DOES NOT MAKE STORE BRANDS. A bit defensive, eh? Google VICKS DOES NOT MAKE and it autocompletes “store brands.” It’s been on the wrapping for a few years, I gather. It’s a smart move — inserts the seed of doubt, lest anyone thinks they sold the crown jewels to maximize market share, but everyone knows the store brands are reverse engineered, and possibly use Mexican methoholodyexophine-2 made in shoddy factories where the manager periodically relieves himself in the vat. It’s always the same percentage as the real thing. I’d more impressed if it had the same chemicals but twice as much, and they were proud of it.

I’d even pay brand-name prices if they did that.

I’m still waiting for WeeQuil, which is not a tonic for the youths, but a perhaps-possible NyQuil variant that lasts one full week (or seven days, whichever comes first). I figure it would have to be sold in 750-ml bottles like Two-Buck Chuck, though the price will likely be closer to $30. Maybe $300. And it would be darn well worth it, too.

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I might have known

Every month, it’s a new story, simply because health writers always need something to write about, and because their readers, or a substantial percentage thereof, are just this side of full-bore hypochondria. The current Amazing Revelation is that unless you have an actual deficiency, you probably don’t need to take vitamins.

I was in Target last evening, picking up a couple of prescriptions and, yes, a bottle of a particular vitamin which, says the doctor, I somehow don’t get enough of. Usually I pay cash for such stuff, but today I whipped out the Visa, and as always, I scrutinized the receipt when I got home.

An X in the right column, apparently, indicates a “health item.” Both prescriptions were deemed health items. The vitamin, which was labeled “Health-Beauty-Cosmetics,” was not. Maybe I’m reading too much into this — or maybe I need to put more things on plastic.

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Dredge report

The last game with the Lakers this year — oh, come on, there’s no chance they’ll make the playoffs, even if they’re not mathematically eliminated just yet — was widely seen among Loud City residents as mandatory payback for that debacle this past Sunday at the Staples Center. Certainly the Thunder acted like they wanted it: ten steals and eleven blocks — Serge Ibaka had seven swats — demonstrate some serious desire. Once garbage time ensued and everybody got some minutes (new hire Reggie Williams made his OKC debut, knocking down five points in five minutes), attention, mine anyway, turned to the box score. Would the Lakers get six players into double figures? (They would.) Would the Thunder reach 60 rebounds? (They would.) Can OKC possibly break 130 points in 48 minutes? Yep. 131-102 was the actual final.

If ever you wondered whether Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were spiritually joined at the hip, consider tonight’s lines: KD, 8-17 for 29 points; Westbrook, 9-17 for 29 points. (Russ also served up nine dimes.) Ibaka came up with a double-double (15 points, 13 rebounds) to go with those seven blocks; the bench contributed 46 points, led by birthday boy Caron Butler with 11. (Is it just me, or is Butler gradually displacing Jeremy Lamb in the rotation?)

Still: six Lakers in double figures, topped off once again by Jodie Meeks. I think I speak for everyone here in town when I say that I’d much rather Meeks got 19 than the 42 he got on Sunday. And L. A. got 13 treys in three fewer attempts than OKC did. But their three-point prowess was to some extent undercut by their futility at single points: the Lakers missed 10 of 25 free throws. (OKC put up 30 and missed only two.)

For the rest of the season, “L. A.” denotes the Clippers, whom the Thunder face once more. (The Clips are up 2-1.) But that’s not until April. In the meantime, the Mavs will be here Sunday, and after that it’s a week out East, against Chicago, Cleveland and Toronto.

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Roxanne the Casbah

If you’re pregnant and headed for, or already in, Saudi Arabia, you might need to know this:

Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry has banned 50 given names including “foreign” names, names related to royalty and those it considers to be blasphemous.

Saudis will no longer be able to give their children names such as Amir (prince), Linda or Abdul Nabi (Slave of the Prophet) after the civil affairs department at the ministry issued the list, according to Saudi news sites.

It justified the ban by saying that the names either contradicted the culture or religion of the kingdom, or were foreign, or “inappropriate”.

Inexplicably — at least to yours truly, with little knowledge of Arabic — “Lauren” and “Sandy” are on the proscribed list. Best guess: a traveling prince got dumped by a Lauren once upon a time, and, well, the whole darn country is already Sandy.

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