Sister Mary Houndstooth

Minus the headgear, anyway. This is Drew Barrymore at a recent screening (in Washington) of Big Miracle:

Drew Barrymore in Washington, D.C.

And if you ask me, this is Drew at her absolute peak of cute, but I have to admit that I don’t quite get this Ports 1961 outfit. (That’s the brand name; it’s not a 1961 outfit from Ports.)

Jessica of the Fug Girls suggests:

When I first saw this — last week — I thought it was A HOT MESS. But now that I’m coming back to it, I’m not nearly so mad. In fact, I think the whole thing could be saved if it were just a mini-dress. SUCH AN EASY FIX, DREW. Next, we need to do something about your hair…

Yes, yes, yes on the hemline; I like her hair, though, at least from this angle.

(Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images for Universal Pictures.)

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Not that we get paid by the word or anything

For reference purposes only — no wagering! — Steph Mineart lists 161 famous short stories, in ascending order of length. (Shortest one listed: Virginia Woolf’s “A Haunted House,” a breezy 710 words.) The average: a hair over 4000 words.

She’s also done a list of word counts for famous novels, and no, War and Peace (587,287 words) isn’t the longest.

And I note with no small degree of angst that I have written nearly four million words in the last five and a half years — 55,000 just in January — but I seriously doubt I could put together a decent 4000-word short story. (Although this isn’t too awfully bad for 300 and change.)

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Hardly Newtral

The Oklahoma primaries are coming up, and while I think we can safely say that the state GOP would prefer to go Mittless, enthusiasm for Newt Gingrich is not exactly universal:

In fact if I had time, I would change my voter registration to Republican long enough to vote against him before switching back to independent.

And should Newt edge out the Romney Badger…?

Should the bizarre become the new normal and Mr. Gingrich receive the GOP nomination, I will join the half of my fellow Americans who go to the polls on election day. But my presidential ballot will remain blank.

And that would seem to be that.

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The songs retain the fame

One of these days I ought to blindfold some youngster, put together a mix of tracks from Led Zeppelin (the first album) and In Through the Out Door with Robert Plant’s voice nulled out to the extent possible, and then ask the kid how many bands were involved.

KingShamus, I suspect, would appreciate the experiment, having made the following observations:

[W]ould a modern band be able to survive the sort of creative contortions Led Zeppelin put themselves through? We don’t really have to speculate on that question. It’s pretty obvious that the vast majority of rock groups simply don’t attempt to push their musical boundaries all that much. For every Radiohead that has rearranged their sound over the course of their career, there are only about a thousand other bands that have pretty much stayed in the same general artistic space they occupied on their first albums.

The rule of thumb we used back in the day: if the second album is a major departure from the first, people would complain that the band is just throwing stuff against the wall, hoping something will stick; if the second album sounds just like the first, people would complain of a lack of growth. Today, the latter scenario might seem to be more common, but the complaints have subsided:

I don’t know when it happened, but at some point bands started to recognize that they were also brands. Brands require consistency in order to be successful. McDonald’s cannot go from selling cheap American-style fast food to gourmet $50 a plate Japanese-Mexican-Dutch fusion cuisine within a few years. Nobody would buy the change and McDonald’s would kill their company. The same process has changed the way rock music operates. Bands are very conscious of the creative space they occupy and hold to it.

On the other hand, I suspect some of us are ready for sashimichangas lined with Leyden cheese.

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Stinking badger

(Slightly expurgated, but still only marginally safe for work.)

(With thanks to Lou Pickney.)

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Love, Lutz and laffs

Jalopnik’s Ray Wert puts up a post called “I Would Go Gay for Bob Lutz,” and illustrates it with a video clip in which he says exactly that. For some reason, this annoyed TTAC’s Jack Baruth:

With this “go gay” business … Ray may have committed a rare mis-step. His gay readers don’t appreciate the idea that being gay is a choice; his straight readers are alternately bemused and offended. Wert trivializes homosexuality even as he pretends to embrace it.

I can’t speak for Wert’s gay readers, but as a straight guy, I can assure you that I was neither bemused nor offended, and that I didn’t read anything into the statement other than Serious Man-Crush.

Besides, I have a stronger example to cite, from thirty-odd years ago. How much stronger? I’m putting it behind the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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D for deflection

Mavs/Thunder games are usually fairly riotous, but usually not to the extent that one of the coaches gets a free pass to the locker room. Tonight Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was T’d up twice, the second for kicking the ball into the stands, though the Mavs didn’t do anything differently in his absence: the entirety of the Dallas offense seemed to be “Get Jason Terry the ball.” Terry was his usual effective self, though Dirk Nowitzki was having an un-Dirk-like night (two of 15?) and both Lamar Odom and Brendan Haywood were missing in action. Meanwhile, the Thunder, who had trailed through most of the first half, sputtered; but in crunch time they came up with both buckets and stops, snagging the win, 95-86.

Thabo Sefolosha is still out, and Scott Brooks, noting that starting James Harden hadn’t been all that successful against the Clippers night before last, came up with the idea of starting Daequan Cook at the two. Cook managed some Thabo-like numbers, and Harden was back in double figures, so perhaps this will be the rotation while Sefolosha heals. Russell Westbrook led the scoring parade with 33; Kevin Durant had 23 plus 13 rebounds, and Serge Ibaka — well, is this technically a double-double? He scored only four points, but got 11 rebounds and ten blocks. And it’s a good thing there was some serious defense on display, because the Thunder shot only 40.7 percent and hit only five of 20 treys.

Then again, the Mavs shot only 35.7 percent and hit four of 19 treys. Nowitzki was held to eight points, half of which came from the foul line. Shawn Marion and Brandan Wright contributed twelve points each, but nobody else broke double digits. No way can we blame this on Carlisle’s brief spate of hotheadedness.

The Grizzlies show up in OKC Friday night, and that’s just the beginning of a hairy road trip: at San Antonio on Saturday, Portland on Monday, Golden State on Tuesday, Sacramento on Thursday and Utah on Friday. The Thunder won’t be back home until Valentine’s Day, and the Jazz aren’t exactly bearing candy hearts these days.

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Tea eldey are

Andrea Harris fleshes out yet another difference between male and female bloggers:

Women like sitting around feeling wistful and sad about what might have been, but as much as we play with the trope, we really don’t believe in our hearts that the Zombie Apocalypse is right around the bend. But the male of the species embraces the nightmare and if he has a blog unleashes his army of teal deer on it.

Well, it’s not a whole army, but:

Teal Dear

(Actually, this isn’t even my Teal Deer; it’s Fillyjonk’s.)

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Out of the manestream

In which I attempt to avoid the entire Valentine’s Day ruckus by hiding out in Ponyville. (Hint: it does not work.)

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The Levolor, the better

I’m not quite sure what to make of this, but making fun of it would seem to be the least I could do:

In a survey by Fitness magazine (that could well have been underwritten by the Federation of Window Blind Manufacturers), almost two in three Americans say they often walk around the house naked.

Now what do they mean by “often”? For that matter, what do they mean by “around”? An unpajama-ed trip from the bedroom to the toilet seven nights a week has frequency going for it, but not distance, unless one of the two rooms involved is in a separate wing of the house. (And we need the date this survey was taken: in North America, at least, there’s probably more around-the-house nakedness in August than in February. Your climate may vary.)

Odds are that this neighborhood nudity has a gender tilt, since 57 percent of women said they think they look fat when glancing at themselves naked in a mirror, while 48 percent of men are thinking, “Dude, lookin’ good.”

These two statements are not strictly comparable, unless the question was worded this way:

    When you glance at yourself naked in a mirror, do you look fat?

    [  ] Yes  [  ] No

I will say here only that between my bedroom and my bathroom, there’s a full-length mirror, and I generally pay very little attention to it.

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How’s your Super PAC?

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When wild in woods the noble savage ran

By now, many of you have seen that quiz from Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, which seeks to quantify how isolated we ostensibly upper-class individuals are from regular folks who might wear tennis shoes or an occasional python boot. Tatyana finds a “curious bias” in the test, suggesting that Murray’s sympathies lie clearly with the underclass:

Most certainly, there are decent, deserving people among the poor — I would know, my family have been poor and so I have, periodically — and not only by American standards. But altogether, as a class and condition, poverty is nothing to praise for. It corrupts the spirit, it makes people miserable, petty, makes them concentrate on getting their daily bread and not seeing wider picture. The notion of “honest/noble poverty” is a myth. A social/economic mobility is a good thing — isn’t what made America great?

I suspect that one’s opinion of that mobility depends on which direction you’re heading. Having gone both ways myself, I am pretty certain that I didn’t feel particularly noble when I bottomed out. J. K. Rowling, speaking at Harvard in 2008, knows the feeling:

Rowling finished the first [Harry Potter] manuscript while working as a language teacher. She went on public assistance so she could feed her daughter, she has said. Her parents also had hard times.

“They had been poor themselves and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that this is not an ennobling experience,” Rowling said… “Poverty entails fear and stress and sometimes depression. It means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships.”

And Tatyana contends:

If I am in a bubble — then those on the opposite side are in a bubble, too: they don’t see me and those like me. And their bubble is not better than mine just because there is a whole swimming pool filled with their bubbles while we are contained in a tiny jar.

Disclosure: My own score on Murray’s quiz was 41.

(Title via John Dryden.)

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A re-Volting development

Maximum Bob Lutz, GM’s original champion of the Chevrolet Volt, says that those damn wingnuts are badmouthing the car for no reason. The worst offender:

[T]he Oscar for totally irresponsible journalism has to go to The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News, with, as its key guest, Lou Dobbs. Amid much jocular yukking, the Volt was depicted as a typical federal failure. In attempting to explain why Chevy has sold fewer than 8,000 Volts, Dobbs states, flatly, “It doesn’t work.” He elaborates, “It doesn’t go fast and go far on electricity. What happens is it catches fire,” adding that Chevy has recalled some 8,000 Volts. Bill O’Reilly, nodding approvingly, helpfully interjects: “So they’ve recalled cars that haven’t been sold.” Boiled down to the subtext, Dobbs’ message was this: “All Volts catch fire, and therefore all Volts have been recalled.” That simply isn’t the case.

The NHTSA, in fact, has declared that the Volt is no more likely to catch fire than any other car, though some people still insist that the fix is in. And recalling cars that haven’t yet been sold is nothing unusual.

Besides, if the Volt were a “typical federal failure,” it would look like this.

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Neither May nor December

The Frisky, with Demi Moore in mind, points to this bit of research, but is tripped up by the dubious title: “Marrying a younger man increases a woman’s mortality rate.” Well, yeah, but:

Health records have shown previously that men live longer if they have a younger wife, an effect researchers expected to see mirrored in women who married younger men.

But a study by Sven Drefahl at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rosktock, Germany, shows that the greater the age gap between a woman and her husband, the shorter her life expectancy, regardless of whether he is older or younger.

(Emphasis added.)

Now to make sure that Roxeanne de Luca — or, for that matter, Smitty — doesn’t see this.

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Neither sport nor utility

Motor Trend has recently completed a year with a Mazda2 — in Kermit Green Metallic, yet — and copy chief Emiliana Sandoval, who wrote their wrap-up report, recommends it for high-school students:

What is bad is the lack of rear-seat and cargo room. Those seats supposedly accommodate three grown-ups, but two kids or tiny adults with stick-thin legs is a more realistic estimate. The cramped space also proves the point that this would be a great car for a high schooler: Nobody is getting lucky in that back seat without being well-versed in the art of contortionism.

I think she’s underestimating the ingenuity of adolescents.

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The perils of auto-update

This site had minor difficulties over the weekend, due mostly to (S)FTP failure: no connections on port 21, or on any of the usual alternates. Nothing to get hung about, as Lennon used to say: it didn’t affect external operations, only my ability to send up files. (WordPress has its own media handler, which may or may not use FTP or its brethren, and which I don’t use anyway.) Other customers of this host were not so fortunate; there was wailing and gnashing of teeth, prompting the Head Honcho to explain what had happened:

We run Debian OS and have used autoupdates to ensure security packages are installed as soon as they are available. We’ve had some breakage in the past from this approach, but nothing major. However last night’s autoupdate went badly wrong, removing essential packages from dedicated, VPS and some shared servers. Our monitoring and support team flagged the issue fast, and we scrambled our admin, dev and NOC teams to reinstall the packages that had been removed by autoupdate, reboot servers, fix package dependencies, and test that individual services were live. Given the number of services affected, this took a long time to complete. Rest assured we had all hands working on the issue, but I know it was still a frustrating experience for customers.

To mitigate the risk of anything like this happening again, we’re immediately switching off autoupdates, and moving to a manual process where we’ll only push out Debian updates after significant testing. There’s always a balance to be struck between speed, efficiency, security and issue prevention, but this event has shown us that we need to take a different approach.

Debian 6.0.4 was released Saturday; it was Sunday when Things Happened.

This has, I assume, nothing to do with the DDOS attack on Monday.

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