Bars none

Time has compiled a list of the Ten Worst Cities for Cell Phone Reception, and guess who’s number three?

Like Jacksonville [#8], Oklahoma City is spread out over a huge area — more than 600 sq. miles. By point of comparison: Los Angeles, a city notorious for its spread (and endless, jam-packed highways) only covers about 470 sq. miles.

And this comparison means — what, exactly? If we had three and a half million people like L.A., we’d have better reception?

I have no personal experience with other carriers, but I know T-Mobile’s deadest spot in town: my office. A single bar is a joy forever, or for the two or three minutes it will last anyway. Reception on AT&T, which Time characterizes as the worst in town, is merely lousy in that room. (As with most cities on the list, Sprint is considered to have the “best” reception in town.)

Absolute worst, says Time, is Bakersfield, though they blame the problems there on a population growing faster than the wireless infrastructure.

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Half a dozen over easy

“Six Songs of Me” is a meme I didn’t invent, though I’ve done three installments of a series called “Songs in the Key of Me” (Vents #487, #685 and #754), none of them answering any specific criteria except having mattered to me at for some reason at some time. As it happens, the Guardian invented this meme, and I figure, if Peter can do this, so can I.

  1. What was the first song you ever bought?
    The Rolling Stones, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” summer of 1965.
  2. What song always gets you dancing?
    I hesitate to call any of my random motions “dancing,” but there are some tracks which refuse to allow me to keep still. I assume they’re looking for upbeat numbers here, but I’m partial to the slow jam: let’s say, the Clovers’ original “Blue Velvet.” (Although Bobby Vinton’s starched-white cover isn’t at all bad.)
  3. What song takes you back to your childhood?
    There are those who would argue that I never left. However, Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World,” and its surprisingly adept remake by Herman’s Hermits, are particularly pertinent to my life as a young brooding loner, since I did know much about history, biology and whatever, at least by comparison to the studs of the era, and it wasn’t doing me the least bit of good.
  4. What is your perfect love song?
    From the first act of the musical I Do! I Do!, “My Cup Runneth Over,” a fairly large hit for the fairly large Ed Ames in 1967, which nicely blends the miraculous and the mundane, and sets an expiration date of Never.
  5. What song would you want at your funeral?
    “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House, which maintains a message of hope amid a barrage of bother. Besides, it’s so damn beautiful, yet no one knows exactly what it means. Precisely the way I’d want to go.
  6. Time for an encore. One last song that makes you, you.
    Jackie DeShannon’s “When You Walk in the Room,” which speaks for all of us subject to insane crushes that we dare not act upon. If ever I’m infamous enough to justify a biography, this is the title I want.

Pick up on this if you like; there is no taggage involved.

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More Equestrian armaments

After My Little Abrams M1A2 over the weekend, I was keen to find some more ponified weaponry, and the first stop, of course, had to be Lurking Rhythmically, which has several Rainbow Dash-ed guns, including an AA-12 which, says Erin, can clear a room in ten seconds flat.

Then again, Dash has attitude, and of course Twilight Sparkle can be pressed into service as a machine gun, but I frankly was not expecting anything Fluttershy-related.

Shows you how much I know. Here’s a Fluttershy SKS, of which Neatorama’s John Farrier says:

It appears to lack the standard folding bayonet, but it does have Fluttershy’s cutie mark which will probably have the same effect on an enemy.

The logistics of that maneuver don’t add up, if you ask me. Then again, I’m not your go-to guy for Soviet-design arms.

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Today the pits, tomorrow the wrinkles

Elisson discusses the homely prune:

Face it: Prunes are kinda funny, which is why the dried fruit boys are trying so desperately to rebrand prunes as “dried plums.” Well, you’re not fooling anybody.

I buy my prunes in bulk at Sprouts (formerly Sunflower), and the word “plum” is never mentioned.

Okay, “bulk” may not be the word you wanted to hear just now:

[P]runes do get a bad rap, most of it undeserved. Possibly it’s their grim blackish-purple coloration (“Mmmm, bruisefruit!”), possibly it’s their legendary laxative effect. As to this latter issue, it has been blown out (you should excuse the expression) of all proportion. I will tell you that unless you’re a serious prunehound, you’re taking a bigger risk of crapping your pants by chewing more than one stick of xylitol-sweetened gum or having a handful of sugar-free chocolate-coated cherries.

The title, of course, comes from Stan Freberg.

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Der Untergang who couldn’t shoot straight

You know who else didn’t like the outcome of the Oklahoma elections?


(Via Mike McCarville, who is name-checked in the subtitles. Should you need background, we recommend the Oklahoma Truth Council’s postings on the subject.)

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Strange search-engine queries (342)

For several weeks now, and by “several weeks” we mean “more than five years,” we’ve taken some time out every Monday morning to pore over the logs, take note of what actual Web surfers are seeking, and then mock them unmercifully. It’s a nasty job, but somebody has to do it.

wrench dressing ingredients:  This is best done with just a light sprinking of extra-virgin penetrating oil. (Do not use WD-40, which will not lubricate properly.)

mercedes benz vent perfume:  It’s really a genetically-engineered mold designed to resemble popular fragrances. Clean it out with a shot of Lysol.

what is the fizziest cola:  The one in the plastic bottle that you dropped on the floor thirty seconds ago.

marilyn monroe fluttershy:  Yes, yes, very nice, but we still don’t have anypony to play Rainbow Dash.

Renaissance woman 2.0:  You want to be damned sure you read the EULA before checking the box.

who edits a newsletter:  If they’re in a hurry, probably nobody.

MOONRIVER!!!!! Hey, don’t blame me… I’m just forwarding this to those whose sense of humor I believe to be just as warped as mine…  A fine huckleberry friend you turned out to be.

slink cognoscenti:  Otherwise known as the Undulation of Shame.

bronies at the sprint center:  By sheerest coincidence, temperatures in Kansas City were 20 percent cooler.

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Never going back to San Francisco

Philip Blondheim has passed on, and if that name means nothing to you, it didn’t mean much to Blondheim either, who decided early in his career that he’d need a monicker with a bit more zing, and eventually became Scott McKenzie. He was a long-time friend of Papa John Phillips, who gave him this song:

Even people who had no plans whatsoever to go to San Francisco took McKenzie’s record to heart.

McKenzie managed to chart three singles, all written by Phillips, for Lou Adler’s Ode label, of which “San Francisco” was by far the biggest. The follow-up, “Like an Old-Time Movie,” is all but forgotten these days. It’s been argued that McKenzie really didn’t have much of a voice, and he’d probably agree with that sentiment:

Scott dislikes the sound of his own voice. This is perhaps another of the reasons that he didn’t continue a recording career. Scott has given permission for this web page. However, in his own words, “I can’t imagine anyone having the slightest interest in me.”

I knew there was something in him to which I responded.

McKenzie was part of John Phillips’ reboot of the Mamas and the Papas in the 1980s and early 1990s. He died in a Los Angeles hospital after a two-week illness at seventy-three.

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His name is Mudd

Jackmeoff MuddThe gentleman in the Broward County (Florida) mugshot to your left, according to this report in HuffPo, is one Jackmeoff Mudd, fifty-four, a “man with an unfortunate name — or a strong commitment to pranking police … [who] was arrested last Friday on a litany of charges in Fort Lauderdale,” including charges of “assault, disorderly conduct, resisting an officer, possession of alcohol in an open container, and violation of probation.”

Now perhaps this was a typo. For long-established legal reasons, perps are usually referred to by their full names: this may well be plain old Jack Mudd, and “Meoff” is his middle name.

Or perhaps not. Either way, Heywood Jablowme was not available for comment.

(Via Fark.)

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Not cool for cats

As opening paragraphs go, you can’t beat this one:

A former translator for Osama bin Laden wants a cat as company in Guantanamo Bay and thinks LeBron James should apologize to Cleveland.

Carlos Warner, a lawyer representing Muhammed Rahim, an Afghan who translated for the late al-Qaeda leader, sent a letter to a Washington Post blog detailing his client’s complaints and comments from the U.S. prison. Mostly, he wanted to let people know that certain prisoners were given cats.

Now if they had been given dogs, you’d have heard about it all over the “news.”

As for Rahim’s antipathy toward the Miami Heat forward:

Warner says Rahim’s sentiment about the NBA star who left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat reflects his client’s tribal values, in which loyalty is paramount and “betrayals are not tolerated or forgiven, although an honest apology from an offending peer is valued.”

No wonder this guy’s in Gitmo. The entire American system seems to run on betrayal these days.

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Grief and its fellow travelers

Earlier this week, in the real world, a relative lost her life. Meanwhile, in an “imaginary” one, a friend takes her own life. The juxtaposition of the two reminds me of some things I’d rather have forgotten.

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Meanwhile under the sea

Jessica Misener files this complaint for HuffPo:

Surely a Disney princess, she of the impossibly bouncy hair and whittled waist, doesn’t need any work done, right?

Well, don’t ask a plastic surgeon that, because apparently, the iconic Little Mermaid was a prime candidate for few procedures (OBVIOUSLY! She’s such a hag.) BuzzFeed’s Copyranter spotted this ad from Clinica Dempere, a plastic surgery center in Venezuela, who decided to give Ariel the old nip and tuck anyway in a new spot for their services.

Somehow this doesn’t strike me as an improvement:

Ariel gets a new rack

“But there was nothing wrong with you, Belle!” cried the Beast.

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The best thing next to Bacon

The last episode of The Closer aired this week, so Kyra Sedgwick might be on my mind even if she weren’t turning 46 tomorrow. And then there’s always something like this street scene to jog one’s memory:

Kyra Sedgwick crossing the street

“Bacon” of course is Kevin Bacon, her husband since 1988 and, as she learned on Henry Louis Gates’ TV series Finding Your Roots, her tenth cousin, once removed. Not that anyone should give her the sixth third degree about it.

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Lines having been drawn

Brian J. included this historical tidbit on his Facebook page:

[T]oday’s fun fact: There are almost as many incorporated municipalities in St. Louis County, Missouri (91) as there are in the entire state of Wyoming (99).

And as a note to those people out of the area, the total number of municipalities in St. Louis County does not include the city of St. Louis because the city fathers decided in the latter part of the 19th century that they were tired of spending their tax revenue in the tax hinterlands, so they got a divorce. Now that the county’s population is triple that of the city, it shows the same level of foresight we get from the city leaders even today. Unsurprisingly, the city is more and more receptive to a reconciliation these days to get the county residents to pay for its services.

The county, I suspect, is perhaps less enthusiastic about the prospects for reunion.

A similar situation prevails in Baltimore: the city and county were legally separated back in 1851, though the city, supported by a statewide referendum, managed to annex about 40 square miles from both Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties in 1918. From Baltimore magazine, an historical note:

A civic organization called the Greater Baltimore League took the lead in campaigning for that annexation. One of its spokesmen, retired judge Henry D. Harlan, made folks who moved to the outskirts of the city and then fought against annexation sound like the equivalent of those modern-day folks who move next door to an airport and then complain about the noise.

“Those who locate near the city limits are bound to know that the time may come when the legislature will extend the limits and take them in,” Harlan is quoted as saying in the Sun. “No principle of right or justice or fairness places in their hands the power to stop the progress and development of the city, especially in view of the fact that a large majority of them have located near the city for the purpose of getting the benefit of transacting business or securing employment … in the city.”

Marylanders bought this idea in 1918. By 1948, they’d changed their minds, approving a state question which would require any future annexation proposals to be ratified by voters in the areas to be annexed. Baltimore City today remains within its 1948 borders.

And how many municipalities are there in Baltimore County? Zero. All they have is “census-designated places.” The county government runs the whole show.

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That’s not what I said

“The trouble with quotes on the Internet,” Abraham Lincoln once observed, “is that you can never know if they are genuine.”

Okay, maybe he didn’t say it. But there’s an awful lot of misquoting and misattribution going on out here in Pixelvania, and some of it may be due to the brain wanting to take the easy way out:

Have you noticed how incorrect quotes often just sound right — sometimes, more right than actual quotations? There’s a reason for that. Our brains really like fluency, or the experience of cognitive ease (as opposed to cognitive strain) in taking in and retrieving information. The more fluent the experience of reading a quote — or the easier it is to grasp, the smoother it sounds, the more readily it comes to mind — the less likely we are to question the actual quotation. Those right-sounding misquotes are just taking that tendency to the next step: cleaning up, so to speak, quotations so that they are more mellifluous, more all-around quotable, easier to store and recall at a later point. We might not even be misquoting on purpose, but once we do, the result tends to be catchier than the original.

On the other hand, in contemporary political discourse, it is probably wise to assume that any misquotation is deliberate.

A personal note: Since the old Movable Type days, I’ve had a sidebar feature called “It is written,” which yanks a quotation out of a text file. For some reason, most WordPress widgets offering rotating quotes expect you to store all that material in the database; the plugin used here does not, which is exactly why it is used here, inasmuch as that file has grown to about 160 kilobytes and roughly 2,000 quotes. Of those two thousand, I’ve had to go back and correct about 50, although the problem is more often misattribution than misquotation. I mention this because the piece to which I’ve linked contains one quotation I’d semi-improperly attributed: correct speaker, but incorrect rendering of his name. Of course, it’s since been fixed.

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Systolica dramatica

How high is “high” blood pressure? A thought from a physician:

I’m old enough to remember when we first got good blood pressure medicines, and debated whether we should treat those whose BP was “only” 150-160 … the study that convinced us was one that took some veterans and treated them to keep their pressure under 140 and others they left untreated at 160. Short term, no problem. Long term: More heart attacks and strokes.

I explained to my patients that severe high blood pressure was like running your car at 80 mph in first gear: you will burn out your engine quickly. But mild to moderate high blood pressure was like running your car in second gear: your engine will work fine, but wear out faster than if you used 3 or 4th gear when you went fast.

Then again, if your car is always parked … but never mind, this simile can stretch only so far.

I posted a 160/98 at my last physical, which was deemed a Cause For Alarm, since this is generally 25/15 points above my average. It took me a while to figure out what the hell had happened: I’d baked a ham earlier in the week, which made for lots of leftovers, and hams generally are cured with something like eleven times my usual sodium consumption. (Usually the only thing to which I add salt is the water I boil for cooking pasta, though of course I’m going to pick up greater-than-trace amounts in all manner of foods.) Inscrutably, blood sugar was down markedly that day.

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Tanks for the idea

From an earlier reader comment:

Is there a My Little Abrams M1A2 MBT? Kinda like Thomas the train, but bad@$$ier? :)

Is this close enough?

Ponies in a tank

(Snitched from the Military Bronies Facebook page.)

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