Look on my words, ye mighty, and disdain

The first post of 2013 was titled “Worst titles of 2012”; I’ve been doing this yearly wrapup since ’07, and I’m surprised I didn’t think of doing it earlier, inasmuch as I’ve been slapping actual titles on these posts since 2002. (The Vents, of course, have had titles since 1996.) For some readers, the post titles may be the best thing here; they definitely draw attention to the place.

Which could be bad news, says Annetta Powell:

[B]log titles should be able to capture the attention of your target readers. This conclusion brings us to a rather startling fact that a good blog title also has the potential to negatively impact your blog reputation. This is because it is a mistake to create an extraordinary title to represent an average or maybe below average blog post. Simply put, a great title for a not-so-great content can seriously damage your blog reputation.

Is that a fact?

[A] good title for a blog post which is of little or no value to the reader basically defeats the purpose of having an attention-grabbing headline. You may increase your traffic generation but your target audience will find your Content Marketing to be disappointing. This is because your potential readers will get attracted to your blog title and click on it expecting to find content of similar caliber. But the opposite of this situation will leave them bitterly disappointed in your blog post.

Or, perhaps, bitterly disappointed in those other four posts I did that day. I get, I think, more than my share of what I think of as WTF traffic, people dropping in wondering, well, WTF; some of them will stick around, but more of them won’t. I’m not goofy enough to think that I’m going to hold on to every stray reader who wandered in here because of a quirky-looking tweet or a bizarre Google search. A few months back, I caught some linkage which temporarily boosted my feed subscribers from 300 or so to nearly 800. I’ve kept maybe 100 from that boomlet, which is probably more than I deserved.

And then there’s this business:

Bloggers also focus on making their blog title good enough for SEO purposes. This requires them to use primary keywords in the title as well as in the content. But today’s audience and readers are highly aware of most internet practices. If they get attracted to a good blog title for poor quality content, they will be under the impression that the writer’s focus was only on SEO and not on adding value for them. This negative reputation will then transfer to all your future blogging efforts as well.

And you already know what I think about SEO:

“Search engine optimization” is the 21st-century version of phrenology. Everybody and his brother-in-law has some scheme to game the system; every other month or so, Google, which owns half the search market, duly upsets the system and thus all the games. Blather, rinse, repeat. Were I more desperate for traffic, and had I money to lavish on this site, I would be better served by simply hiring a practitioner of vodou; at worst, I’d only have to clean the chicken blood out of the database once in a while.

I note for reference that I’ve tried several plugins, but there is, so far as I know, no WordPress code specifically intended to remove chicken blood.

So while I’m grateful for Ms Powell’s advice, I’m probably going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing for the past decade or so, and I figure that any of you who object to that sort of thing will never, ever see this because you quit reading me years ago.

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Quote of the week

Step right up, ladies and gents, and see this week’s winners in the Victimhood Sweepstakes! You know you want to:

The blame-shifting, guilt-tripping, grievance-mongering Victimhood Sweepstakes mentality, which paralyzes individual initiative and invites us to rationalize our problems as resulting from indomitable historic trends over which we have no control — that’s the problem.

Pointing the finger at demonized scapegoats — “Corporate America” or whatever — as the all-powerful villains in a horror story, where we are like teenagers fleeing the bloody slasher, is neither accurate nor helpful. Honest hard-working people succeed every day in America, yet the liberal gloom-and-doom vision rewards failure with the consolation of self-pity: “It’s not your fault. You’re a victim.”

Pity is a poor substitute for success.

Honest and resourceful people who encounter disadvantage or misfortune do not surrender to feelings of helplessness, nor do they let their resentment of others’ advantages fester into an excuse. Where there is life, there is hope, and with hope there should be a determination to work harder, to ignore the advantage denied and seek the opportunity offered. Excuses are for losers, and self-pity is a trap.

Been there, whined about that. About a quarter-century ago, I was about as washed up as it’s possible to get without actually getting clean. It did not occur to me at the time that if all you can see is your duodenum, it’s no wonder the whole world looks like crap. Extricating my head from that position was a task both tedious and painful, but it had to be done.

It helped that in those days, there were far fewer Professional Victims, gamers of the system, their ambition adulterated with avarice, their industriousness supplanted by indolence, their self-respect the spiritual equivalent of high-fructose corn syrup. I saw them coming:

[W]e live in an era where nothing is more important than How People Feel, where victims are routinely assigned the maximum level of moral authority, and it’s justified because, well, they feel bad.

And nothing makes a TV audience feel good quite so effectively as people on TV saying that they feel bad. TV itself, of course, doesn’t care, so long as they buy this laundry detergent or that auto insurance.

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Which probably voided his warranty

Apple says you must not attach unauthorized equipment to your iDevice, and dammit, they mean it:

A man who charged his iPhone with an unauthorised phone charger received a severe electric shock and is now in a coma in hospital.

Wu Jian, originally from Jilin province, had been charging his iPhone 4 on July 8, holding the phone in his left hand while inserting the phone charger into an electrical outlet with his right, according to the Beijing Evening News. According to his sister, Wu suddenly fell to the floor twitching. He remained there until his sister was able to unplug the charger.

This is not the first time this has happened, either:

Most recently, a Xinjiang woman was killed by an electrical jolt when charging her iPhone 4 with a fake Apple battery charger.

So far, Apple has only commented on the case of the Xinjiang woman, saying the company was “deeply saddened to learn of this tragic incident and … will fully investigate and co-operate with the authorities in this matter”.

At the very least, Apple will send out a copy of its end-user license agreement.

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Presumably a grizzly scene

The title says it all: “Man acquitted in romantic bear-spray squabble”. Who knew?

A San Francisco man was acquitted Thursday of breaking into his ex-fiancée’s house and assaulting her new lover before getting sprayed with bear mace by a shirtless neighbor.

Jurors deliberated for just three hours before finding Christoper Hall, 31, innocent of the two felonies.

They did, however, stick Hall with a misdemeanor count of vandalism. The ex, said defense counsel, was not considered a credible witness, and New Boyfriend didn’t seem to have suffered any damage. (Then again, New Boyfriend was a Marine, and they don’t damage easily.)

This, though, should have been taken as a warning sign:

The two had met in a hacky-sack circle in early February and announced plans to marry just two weeks later.

Hacky-sack? Now don’t it seem like kicks just keep getting harder to find?

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The online thrift shop

There is vintage, and there is Not Vintage Yet. For that, there is Poshmark:

Ever wish you had a style-mate and could shop her closet? Now you can. Poshmark connects you to people whose style you adore, allowing you to shop their closets, anytime you’d like.

Have items in your closet that you love, but just don’t wear anymore? List it for sale on Poshmark in less than 60 seconds. Sell what you have in your closet so you can shop for what you really love today.

Generating a sale listing on Poshmark using their iPhone app — Android is coming — automagically updates your social-media connections, which is how I heard about this in the first place: Rebecca Black is unloading some of her stuff, including this unworn Zara blazer. If you click on “Zara,” everything Zara comes up.

The only downside, I suppose, is that you have to divulge your size. Still, this has the potential to be, um, farking awesome.

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The Twinkie report

I go grocery-shopping on Saturdays. This is explained simply enough: I work somewhere between 40 and 50 hours a week, which basically eliminates the desire to do anything functional on weekday evenings, and, well, Sunday is a day of rest, kinda sorta. The chance, therefore, that I was going to hit the shelves this past Monday to see the arrival of the New and Unimproved Hostess Twinkies — rumor had it that the totally tubular snack had been shrunk, but actually, that happened a year ago, before all the recent unpleasantness — was pretty close to nil, and the idea of going to Walmart, which started selling them the Friday before, was repellent in its own right. (This is due less to any particular animus against Walmart than to a general desire to throw some business to someone who doesn’t dominate the marketplace; Walmart sells close to half the groceries in this town.)

Today at Crest Foods, 23rd and Meridian: shelf space had been cleared and presumably at one time filled, but the cupboard was bare today except for a few boxes of Hostess CupCakes, complete with presumably trademarked BiCapitalization.

Today at Homeland, May and Britton: I saw no shelf space for Hostess products, but competitors (Little Debbie, Tastykake) were sitting on shelf caps, waiting to catch you at the end of the aisle. There were actual Twinkies and several of its brandmates on a table near the checkout lines; however, the Twinkies were in the overpriced transparent two-pack, the sort of thing you’d see in a vending machine.

So I bought no Twinkies today. I am not particularly regretful.

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What makes you pitiful

So it’s come to this: Westboro Baptist Church — which is hardly a church and not all that Baptist — pickets a One Direction concert at Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Westboro pickets 1D

Inevitably, there was a counterdemonstration:

Westboro pickets 1D

Photos by Jennifer Taylor Johnson, who said this was “the last thing I expected to see.” Trust me on this, Jen: Fred Phelps ain’t nothin’ but a publicity hound, cryin’ all the time.

Addendum: The Phelps-Heads are also scheduling an “event” for the funeral of Cory Monteith, a member of the cast of Glee, prompting these remarks by Tyler Vendetti:

It was unexpected and tragic and the people that are left to mourn his death, his family and friends, should not have to deal with a group of insensitive extremists that grossly misrepresent the teachings of the Bible in order to perpetuate their own vile beliefs. By allowing them to continue their practices, we as a country are giving them permission to target others for their differences and to inflict emotional distress on whoever they deem unworthy.

We’re also giving them permission to become a national punchline, an object of ridicule, the butt — in the butt, Fred! — of jokes. Westboro has earned its irrelevancy; the opportunity to remind them of it every time they open their mouths is their one and only, um, saving grace.

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Click through

Said the President yesterday:

There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator.

I have every reason to believe that this is true, sad commentary on life in these semi-United States that it is. However, I’m outsourcing my threat analysis to Roberta X:

Pedestrians: Statistically, unlikely to harm or rob you.

Men: Statistically, unlikely to harm or rob you.

African-Americans: Statistically, unlikely to harm or rob you.

U. S. Senators: Start the draft, start wars, create new regulations and raise taxes. And it’s always the intent of a majority of them — often, a supermajority. When you see a Senator, lock your damn door!

Behavioral adjustment in 3… 2… 1… complete.

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A modicum of restraint

Suzette bought a discontinued food processor — a Cuisinart from last decade — because it had large, pushable buttons, which she trusts, instead of some slippery touch pad, which she most certainly does not.

The illustration she provided shows the stark contrast between the two machines, and also includes a piece of earlier equipment: a GE food processor with “little ass buttons.” It reminded me of my thirty-year-old Osterizer, in the beigest possible beige, which also has little-ass buttons, as distinguished from little ass-buttons. And in fact, I left her a comment to that effect, which WordPress.com refused to accept; evidently it pushed their ass buttons.

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Bling around the collar

The unrelenting bad news from Detroit is enough to make you, or at least me, look for happier stories, and when I finally found one, it was a press release from General Motors. Still, it’s something on the positive side of the ledger: the 100th anniversary of the Chevrolet “Bowtie” logo, which has been traced back at least as far as the fall of 1913.

Washington Post ad for Chevrolet, October 1913

What hasn’t been traced, exactly, is where the design came from in the first place. Billy Durant and his wife told different stories about its origin, and in 1990 the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America started their own search. Still, the Bowtie has just about everything you’d want in a logo: the shape is distinctive and doesn’t require either special coloration or even actual type. (Take that, Ford!) Only the Mercedes three-pointed star — the Benz wreath seems to have been purged lately — comes close.

Tangential addendum: While checking out the Mercedes reference, I landed on Wikipedia’s page for “Mercedes Benz,” the song in which Janis Joplin begs the Lord to buy her one, inasmuch as her friends all drive Porsches. The article is illustrated with a picture of a car driven by Joplin: a Porsche.

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Remission control

The Vatican, 1967:

Although indulgences are in fact free gifts, nevertheless they are granted for the living as well as for the dead only on determined conditions. To acquire them, it is indeed required on the one hand that prescribed works be performed, and on the other that the faithful have the necessary dispositions, that is to say, that they love God, detest sin, place their trust in the merits of Christ and believe firmly in the great assistance they derive from the Communion of Saints.

[Pope Paul VI in Indulgentiarum Doctrina.]

The Vatican, 2013:

Indulgences these days are granted to those who carry out certain tasks — such as climbing the Sacred Steps, in Rome (reportedly brought from Pontius Pilate’s house after Jesus scaled them before his crucifixion), a feat that earns believers seven years off purgatory.

But attendance at events such as the Catholic World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro, a week-long event starting on 22 July, can also win an indulgence.

Mindful of the faithful who cannot afford to fly to Brazil, the Vatican’s sacred apostolic penitentiary, a court which handles the forgiveness of sins, has also extended the privilege to those following the “rites and pious exercises” of the event on television, radio and through social media.

“That includes following Twitter,” said a source at the penitentiary, referring to Pope Francis’ Twitter account, which has gathered seven million followers. “But you must be following the events live. It is not as if you can get an indulgence by chatting on the internet.”

This is not, I hasten to add, a Get Out Of Hell Free card.

(Via Pejman Yousefzadeh.)

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Very striking

Gabrielle Union showed up Wednesday at the ESPYS in something identifiable as a Little Black Dress, sort of:

Gabrielle Union in Marc Bouwer

Well, it’s a dress; it’s black, mostly; and it’s definitely little. It’s from Marc Bouwer’s fall 2012 collection, and not everyone was wowed by it; one comment I saw somewhere said it looked like it was made out of bicycle tires. I say, let’s hear it for proper inflation.

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That day is upon us once again

Rebecca Black takes a back seat to no one — except maybe at your local Honda dealer, where the Honda Summer Clearance Event is taking place.

To borrow a phrase, everything is proceeding as I have foreseen. Even Aaron Sorkin is getting into the act:

Next on the agenda: VidCon. In the meantime, meet RB’s BFF.

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In a world where there are no mirrors

Is it rude to tell someone their uneducated?  Someone called me a 'Terrorist' and I told him 'You're an uneducated savage'. Was that rude?

Dear Pot:

Yes, I am black.


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Taking its sweet time

Proposition to be tested: that the black carbonic substance pitch is a viscous or flowing material. Test method: place a quantity of pitch in a funnel, set the funnel in a jar, and wait.

Trinity College began this experiment in 1944. Several times they thought they’d caught a drop in the bottom of the jar, but there never seemed to be someone around to observe the phenomenon — until this year, when an observer thought he’d seen a drop beginning to form. The department set up a 24/7 webcam to catch the drip in motion. (If only they’d had that in 1944, right?) Finally, they had their proof.

A similar experiment in Australia began in 1930, and has reportedly yielded eight drops, but not one of them ever managed to drip in front of an observer. (“Technical glitches” have been blamed.)

Conclusion of the Trinity team:

viscosity of pitch : viscosity of honey :: 2,000,000 : 1

We should probably not expect pitch to be packaged in bottles — or, for that matter, jars — any time soon.

(Via this Jennifer Ouellette tweet.)

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Mulch to be desired

Even now, lawns are pleading “Please get off me!”

Mean Mower by Honda

Honda, Team Dynamics racing, and Top Gear have created a monster: a 109-horsepower lawn mower than can do zero to sixty in four seconds flat. The Mean Mower is expected to top out at around 130 mph, the same speed as my car.

About the only thing it doesn’t do particularly well is cut grass. (I know, right?) With the blades — actually a series of cables — in place, the mower slices through the Bermuda at 15 mph. And there’s no grass bag, that space having been given over to an expanded fuel tank and extra engine cooling.

Still: WANT.

I trust I need not explain why.

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