Your holiday open thread

Pass along a greeting, utter a pleasantry, or suggest a way to scrape the reindeer dung off one’s shoes. This will remain top of the page for most of the day.

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50 ways to leave your lava

Just take it to court, Bjórt:

Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project building a direct route from the Alftanes peninsula, where the president has a home, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabær. They fear disturbing elf habitat and claim the area is particularly important because it contains an elf church.

The project has been halted until the Supreme Court of Iceland rules on a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava, who cite both the environmental and the cultural impact — including the impact on elves — of the road project. The group has regularly brought hundreds of people out to block the bulldozers.

It’s not that Icelandic shelves are necessarily full of elves, mind you:

Andri Snær Magnason, a well-known environmentalist, said his major concern was that the road would cut the lava field in two, among other things, destroying nesting sites.

“Some feel that the elf thing is a bit annoying,” said Magnason, adding that personally he was not sure they existed. However, he added, “I got married in a church with a god just as invisible as the elves, so what might seem irrational is actually quite common” with Icelanders.

Me, I don’t mess with anything volcanic, just on general principle. And tick off elves in December? Bad for the bottom line.

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Pour décourager les autres

Certified Good Guy Marc Ensign has come up with “3 Reasons You Should Not Start a Blog,” and amazingly, “ridiculously hard work for not a whole lot of return on investment” doesn’t quite make the list.

Well, maybe it does. See #2 (Blog to Make Money):

I have good news and bad news! The good news is that you won’t have to work too hard! The bad news is that it’s because your blog isn’t going to last. Sorry!

As most of you know, this place runs red ink, though not a lot of it, and rather less than it used to back in the days when domains came from monopolies and server-space rental was pricey. Not to worry, however: I make it up in volume.

I recommend the piece mostly on the strength of #1, which cocks a snook at those folks who live and die by SEO:

These types of blogs were not written for us humans. Their only purpose is to appease Google.

Which, right there, is a pretty good recommendation for Bing.

(Via this Nathasha Alvarez tweet.)

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Fright duly induced

The very last thing I wanted to see this week — other than an inch of ice over everything, of course — was a letter from CFI Care (not its real initials), because it could only be one of one thing: “Your insurance is canceled, sucker! Good luck on the exchange.”

Well, that’s not what it was — it was the usual privacy, or lack thereof, policy statement — but my hands would have been shaking were they not already frozen in the process of wrangling the trash bin to the curb. (Memo for record: Thicker gloves, maybe?)

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Some crafty codes

And delicious, too. In the comment queue, swatted by Akismet:

Every one of the codes will work and appropriate for a range of os’s and web browsers.

If you wanna buy some local crafts, these are your good choices: Damagao, Matisu, Zhimatang, Changzhou Luobogan, Chaye, Liuqimushu, Dengxinrongbu, Luanzhencixiu, Liuqingzhuke, Liyaobaiqing, Liyangfenge, Tianmuhuyutou, Changdanghu Pangxie, Banli, Yanshanshun, Wumifan.

On the perfectly crunchy French roll, with sweetly tangy and moist chicken.

I’ll pass that on to the Wumifans.

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Drug us, for we are weak

Robert Stacy McCain has his doubts about everyday selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors:

Ever since Prozac started making headlines back in the 1990s, I’ve been dubious about the “brain chemistry” approach to treating mood disorders with SSRIs, because of a common-sense skepticism toward the claims of scientific “experts.” Is it really a smart idea to be loading people up on complex chemicals with all kinds of potential long-term effects? I mean, how many people who start on anti-depressants in their teens or 20s ever actually get well?

That is to say, shouldn’t the goal of psychiatric treatment be to get patients to the point where they don’t need treatment any more?

On the other hand, the goal of pharmaceutical manufacturers is to keep the cash coming in, which requires that patients not get well. There will never, for instance, be a cure for type 2 diabetes, because there’s so much money to be made by drugging the sufferers indefinitely. Besides, actual cures tend to be extraordinarily expensive; the Death Panels™ are loath to spend that sort of money on people, unless campaign contributions are at stake.

And yet I can’t remember anyone ever saying, “Yes, I was diagnosed with chronic depression, but I took these pills for six months and it went away, so now I don’t need the pills anymore and I’m as cheerful as a songbird all the time.” But I digress …

No songbird, I; however, during the last quarter-century I have been prescribed two industrial-strength anti-depressants — neither, admittedly, SSRIs — and after all that, mood regulation is now left to a single benzo at a low dosage.

Still, I’m not claiming to be “cured,” only to be somewhat better able to cope.

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I want my 212

An early-2010 discussion between Costa Tsiokos (@CostaHere) and yours truly on the subject of New York City area codes:

CGH: Was [347] really maligned? For that matter, does anyone malign 646?

CT: 347 is generally shunned. In fact, I personally shunned it: My first NY number was a 347, and I couldn’t wait to dump it in favor of 646. 646 is deemed worthy, and an acceptable alternative to 212 (which is fairly impossible to snag).

Especially if you don’t live in New York.

Oh, wait:

Anyone from the Deep South to the West Coast can now score the once-exclusive 212 area code.

New York wannabes from around the country can snag a Manhattan-esque number for prices ranging from $100 to $15,000 on the Web site

Buyers are instructed to consult their cellphone carrier companies to notify them of the change. They then pick from dozens of available 212 phone numbers, paying for it online via PayPal.

There’s just one thing that bugs me:

The Web site now claims to be perfectly legal, noting it’s “the ultimate source for a 212 area code.”

Things that are perfectly legal don’t generally have to say that they’re perfectly legal.

(Via Fark, which tagged it “STUPID.”)

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Best used-car ad ever

If I didn’t already have a newer model, I’d be sorely tempted:

Read the rest of this entry »

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But there’s no place to park

Even today, in the midst of what could legitimately be called a downtown renaissance in Oklahoma City, there are people who won’t set foot, or tire, in the urban core because it will cost them something to park. I have always suspected that this excuse was standing in for another, and I may have been right about that:

I’ve long argued that complaining about “there’s no parking” or having to “pay for parking” is just a convenient scapegoat excuse people give when the product on offer isn’t a compelling enough buy. If your downtown doesn’t offer enough value vs. a suburban office park location, naturally employees having to pay to park sounds like a huge imposition. If an attraction is lame, then of course people don’t want to pay to park there.

When lameness goes away, the demand surges. A recent example:

Attendance at Indiana Pacers games has spiked this year. It’s not hard to figure out why: they started winning games and have a team that doesn’t repel fans. Not long ago their arena was so empty it reminded me of the old days at Market Square where they used to hang a curtain around the upper deck to screen off the empty seats. Those Pacers were a team of thugs that got involved with fights with fans in the stands at the game, and shootouts at strip clubs afterwards. They also didn’t do a lot of winning.

Parking charges on game nights remained quite hefty throughout. The fluctuations in attendance had nothing to do with parking and high parking prices aren’t preventing sellouts this year. The lesson is clear: create a compelling product in your downtown or business district and parking won’t be an obstacle.

Yesterday in Oklahoma City was cold and icicles threatened anyone who walked near a tree. The Toronto Raptors were in town for a game with the Thunder. Attendance: the same old 18,203 it always is. Did anyone complain about parking? Maybe some guy who left his car under a tree.

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Bite your tongue and hold your breath

From Andy Crossett’s Celebrity Legs Gallery, the winner for 2013:

This year Katy Perry is the winner of the Best Celebrity Legs title. It’s her first win after several years of near-misses. She pulled into the lead literally in the closing hours of the contest, so I’m sure she worked up a nice glistening sweat. I’m pretty sure it was her turn as a sexy jungle girl in her “Roar” video and performances that put her over the top.

An image from the aforementioned video:

Katy Perry in Roar video

I can’t say I’m displeased with the selection, but just once I’d like to see a candidate from way outside the entertainment industry — say, Canadian author Sheila Heti, who is vastly more interesting to listen to. Not going to happen, though.

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Strange search-engine queries (412)

And so we come, once again, to the logs, where we shall seek the search strings that make you, or at least me, laugh. It might even work.

what causes mazda famila 2002 model not to respond fast in changing gears at the same time flashing the hold light when driving?  And here’s another guy thinking that he can get a car diagnosed over the Web. If I had a lick of sense, I’d figure out some way to charge for that.

cost to repair broken transmission clip/cable Mazda:  Like that, for instance. (That’ll be $35.00.)

tongue muscle hurt when yawning too hard:  Quit watching NBC. (That’ll be $35.00.)

saints slap house okc ok 73109 christmas haunted attraction:  “Slap house”? Why don’t you stay home and watch a good traditional holiday movie, like, um, Die Hard?

abkco music how long do they have rolling stones rights:  Until Keith Richards dies, or the sun goes supernova, whichever comes first.

dawn eden annoying:  She’s never bothered me. Maybe it’s just you?

create a car saying (bumper sticker) or a road sign (billboard) that would describe one main point you learned (florida virtual school):  “The wise teacher keeps her answers offline.”

tv show pics of kirsten vangsness in girdle:  As if. You’ll see The Rock defend a doctoral thesis on logical positivism before you see Vangsness in a girdle.

“christine chubbuck” “dateless”:  You know, if this bothered you, you could have asked her out yourself.

lufsig cleans up his act with a brand new name:  Which promptly got banned on Twitter.

shocked that he was manscaped:  Nobody wanted to see Lufsig’s junk, especially in a TwitPic.

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Preyed upon

One hates to say so, but the Toronto Raptors seem so much stronger since they dealt Rudy Gay to Sacramento a couple of weeks ago; they are, after all, leading the Atlantic Division despite being well below .500, they’d won three straight on the road, and they were up six at the half. Somewhere in the third quarter, though, the Thunder defense woke up: after yielding 37 in the second, they held Toronto to a mere 13 on 4-22 shooting, putting OKC in the lead by nine. Then in the fourth, the OKC offense snoozed, and a 10-0 Raptor run put Toronto up five with 2:30 left; with :26 left, the Raptors led by two, and Amir Johnson (16 points, 13 rebounds) dropped in two free throws at the :14 mark. Kevin Durant got a good look, but no points, and Kyle Lowry put it away on two more foul shots. The final: Toronto 104, Oklahoma City 98, and rather a lot of streaks came to a close.

Toronto shot a fairly dismal 39 percent from the floor, still three percentage points better than the Thunder. Five Raptors, though, made double figures, with Lowry’s 22 at the top. The secret weapon, if you ask me, was John Salmons, who led the bench with 14 points and +22 (game high). And there’s a Telltale Statistic: Toronto got fifteen more shots than OKC.

The one thing keeping the Thunder in this game, really, was their free-throw prowess: they hit 35 of 36. They had a slight lead in rebounds (47-42), a less-slight lead in turnovers (19-13). And while Durant had a decent 24, and Russell Westbrook a sizzling 27, nobody else broke into double digits. Second-night fatigue? Maybe, maybe not. I persist in thinking that Toronto, when sufficiently motivated, gets the job done, and on this road trip, they had the motivation.

Next outing: Madison Square Garden, Christmas Day. The Knicks are terrible, but they’re consistent.

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Their generosity is underwhelming

Leave it to Chase to come up with a timely response to the Target card-security breach: they’ve imposed strict limits on any debit card that might have been used at Target, and by “strict” we mean $100 a day from non-Chase ATMs and $300 a day in purchases. Just in time for Christmas, too.

Chase has about 23 million cardholders; they estimate that two million were affected by the Target snafu.

You might remember that Roberta X said earlier this week:

I’m one of the forty million, waiting for the other shoe to drop and wondering what I ought to do next. If I do go back, I’ll pay in cash.

If more than a handful of consumers follow suit, there will be ructions in the industry.

Disclosure: I’ve been to Target three times since Black Friday. No card swiped: strictly cash. This is less a tribute to my ability to see these things coming than an acknowledgement that it seems like a waste to bring out the plastic for a Glitter Pinkie Pie and a bottle of Flexeril.

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Miso sorry

Wonder why that price is variable?

Miso Specialties

(Via Miss Cellania, a May flower if ever there was one. No matter when her birthday is.)

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Not really a mean user

Said I after my first two weeks on Twitter:

The follower count seems to have leveled off at around 130, which is about a third higher than I anticipated.

Actually, I had originally planned for 50-75 followers, but since I tend to misunderestimate my influence, I decided I had a shot at that third digit despite not even slightly deserving it.

Four years and change later, I really have to wonder:

In comparative terms, almost nobody on Twitter is somebody: the median Twitter account has a single follower. Among the much smaller subset of accounts that have posted in the last 30 days, the median account has just 61 followers. If you’ve got a thousand followers, you’re at the 96th percentile of active Twitter users. (I write “active users” to refer to publicly-viewable accounts that have posted at least once in the last 30 days; Twitter uses a more generous definition of that term, including anyone who has logged into the service.)

How I got to the 95th percentile, I’ll never know.

(Via this TweetSmarter tweet.)

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More season’s greasings

One more 6×9 card in the mail. Collin Walke and his wife have no children, but they do have two dogs. Text on the address side: “Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas and a New Year filled with blessings of love, joy and peace.” For a minute there, I almost thought he was a Republican, just by dint of mentioning the C-word.

But no: Walke’s a Democrat, running for House District 87, currently represented by Republican Jason Nelson. (See previous edition.) Still a couple of days to go.

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