Spin doctor needed, stat

Few things in life are quite so hilariously pathetic as the efforts to protect a “public servant” (yeah, right) from the consequences of his screw-ups, and this Massachusetts incident adds just the right touch of contempt for the electorate:

About a month ago, Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray crashed a state-owned Crown Victoria after a night out. The Boston Herald made a public records request for the information from the car’s black box, which records the 20 seconds preceding the crash and five seconds after it. The box shows engine RPMs, speed, and brake position, among other things.

In a surprise to no one, the state denied the request, saying that the records could be misleading because a car hitting an ice patch or rolling over would lead its tires to spin faster, inaccurately suggesting a higher speed, state police spokesman David Procopio said.

Which, of course, gives away the game right there: they know exactly what AutoSnitch™ is going to report, and they’ve readied their counterstories. And I’ve hit enough ice patches in my day to know what happens: speed sensor goes awry for a second or two as traction disappears, and then things begin to stabilize.

Accident-reconstruction expert Bruce McNally, contacted by the Herald, isn’t buying the Official Explanation either:

“They’re correct that on its face you may not necessarily get the whole picture, but understanding that it’s giving you 25 seconds of data, it should be pretty apparent what his speed was before he lost control,” McNally said. “Unless they’re arguing that somehow he was on the slipperiest surface known to mankind 25 seconds before he crashed, it just doesn’t make sense.”

At least no one has suggested the Lite Guv was texting.

Update: 108 mph.

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Boys, meet Karma

I should warn you, she’s a hard mistress at times:

Two people allegedly hunting for scrap metal were killed Wednesday after part of a vacant nursing home collapsed on them on Detroit’s west side.

Fire, police, and rescue crews were called to Seven Mile and Glastonbury, near the Southfield Freeway. Two bodies were discovered in the abandoned five-story building. Fire Chief Kwaku Atara said it’s believed the two men were scrapping at the time of the roof collapse.

Lexicographical note: Apparently “scrap” is now also an intransitive verb.

(Via Fark.)

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Born jaundiced

Actually, Born Jaundiced was planned as a film title, but the producers didn’t like it, and after several bad suggestions, they decided to name it after one of the songs on the soundtrack.

So My Girl came to moviehouses twenty years ago, with Macaulay Culkin (remember him?) and Anna Chlumsky as a little more than best buds but not exactly dating, what with being barely 11 years old and all.

Which means that little Vada Sultenfuss is now, um, thirty-one:

Anna Chlumsky

And was she actually jaundiced? Well, she gave up acting, went on to college, got her degree, didn’t like any of the jobs she got, and decided maybe they’d remember her in Hollywood. She’s been working steadily since, mostly in smallish roles, and will be appearing in next year’s HBO series Veep, which stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as, well, the Veep.

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The Gas Game (re-redux)

Last year, for the first time, I signed up for the Oklahoma Natural Gas Voluntary Fixed-Price Plan, freezing the per-dekatherm price at $5.754. Apparently this was enough to kill the program altogether, since they don’t seem to be offering it for 2011-12.

My last gas bill priced the precious fuelstuff at $5.199; on the national commodity exchanges, a million Btu — close to, but not exactly, a dekatherm — was this week selling in the $3.50 range, suggesting that I’m not going to have to shell out multiple body parts this winter to keep the rest of them warm. Last winter, there was a brief spike at $7.50 or so, which of course I got to ignore; it apparently lasted less than a week. Maybe that’s what killed the VFP.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Overheated pitch

Secondary headline on this full-page ad in rather a lot of newspapers:

Amish craftsmen vow to keep up with rush for brand-new Hybrid-Thermic™ ‘Miracle Heater’ that uses about the same energy as a coffee maker per hour, so just plug it in and never be cold again

Being one of the approximately 17 people on earth who doesn’t own a coffeemaker, I turned to the Department of Energy, which has a whole list of appliances and their approximate energy use. Their estimate for your average coffee machine: 900-1200 watts. At the national average of 11.6 cents per kWh, 900 watts works out to 10.4 cents an hour; the fine print in the ad cops to “about 9 cents” on the “standard setting,” which seems close enough.

Still, this is the same level of consumption I can get out of a $35 space heater, while this miraculous gizmo costs $526 $299 if you order now. And if you run it 24/7, it costs upwards of $70 a month to heat one room. Maybe a deal if you’re used to a $1000 fuel-oil bill every winter; perhaps not so much down here in “Cold Zone 2.” (They apparently sort calls by zone: everything north of here except California and Nevada is in “Frigid Zone 1,” while the Deep South and Texas are in “Frost Zone 3.”)

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The view from around 3.5

Robert Stacy McCain points to a new psychological case studythis one, to be exact — and then declares that psychological case studies are simply restating the obvious:

The more success a guy has with women, the more experience he has in judging which chicks he has the best chance with. If a guy is regularly scoring with chicks in the 6-to-7 range on the 10-scale, but has little luck with any chick who rates an 8 or better, he learns to spot chicks in his feasible range.

Of course, if he’s not doing well in that arena:

Less-attractive guys are sometimes unfortunately willing to settle for the less-attractive chicks in their range. Popular entertainment (e.g., sitcoms in which chubby middle-aged losers have beautiful wives 10 years younger than them) suggests to these guys that they’ve got romantic opportunities they don’t actually have. And because the “dorky” guys also are usually lacking in social skills, they don’t have enough real-world romantic experience to judge either their own attractiveness or women’s interest in them.

Then again, if they try to date above their station:

Attractive women learn at an early age to spot guys like that and never give them any encouragement, lest they find themselves followed around by a lovestruck nerd who mistook her polite smile for a gesture of erotic passion. Guys who think pretty girls are “stuck up” fail to understand this as a necessary defense mechanism on the woman’s part.

In my defense, I must here state that I have never mistaken a polite smile for a gesture of passion.

There is one advantage, I suppose, to sitting here on the threshold of sixty: while the desires still haven’t had the decency to go away, the urgency is much diminished.

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Quantum of silliness

Earlier this week, Francis W. Porretto saw fit to disclose the most popular explanations for why Science has yet to find the Higgs boson; in the interest of broadening the scope of the investigation, I herewith present the least popular explanations.

  1. Jon Corzine spent it
  2. Harold Camping predicted it would arrive back in October
  3. Al Gore’s TV network signed it for a series, and no one has seen it since
  4. One of the Kardashians is saving it for a future wedding ring
  5. “I do think at a certain point you’ve found enough particles”
  6. Tim Geithner is claiming it as a tax deduction
  7. #OccupyElectronShell is attempting to blockade it
  8. Betty White gets first claim on it
  9. That “God particle” business has the atheists all butthurt
  10. Elvis will bring it when he returns in 2012

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Friday is forever

This being, um, Friday, here’s what I have in the way of Rebecca Black news:

(Title from this song, which happened to be playing on RB’s Tumblr blog when I dropped by last night.)

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Bed of slowses

There once was a time when you could carve up a workaday sedan and turn it into a respectable, or at least interesting-looking, pickup truck: Ford’s Ranchero and Chevrolet’s El Camino are fondly remembered by us Old Folks, and even efforts by Volkswagen and Plymouth in this realm weren’t derided. Much.

But that was then, and this may be coming:

smart truck

This smart trucklet will be introduced in concept form at the Detroit Auto Show, and while it seems to have one distinct advantage — you’re not giving up any passenger space for that truck bed — you probably wouldn’t want to carry anything much heavier than a case of Circus Peanuts, either.

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Quote of the week

Ann Coulter brings up one of those Newter Than Thou moments from history:

After Gingrich had been speaker for a brief two years, the Republican House voted 395-28 to reprimand him and fine him $300,000 for ethics violations.

(Sen. Bob Dole loaned Gingrich the money in what was called the first instance of an airbag being saved by a person.)

Bob Dole, incidentally, wonders why nobody’s mentioning Bob Dole’s tendency toward illeism anymore.

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Tempest in a B-cup

Andrej Pejic for HEMAThe Dutch retail chain HEMA advises that its new Mega Push-Up bra is good for two full cup sizes, not an inconsiderable accomplishment in this era of Cleavage über Alles, and is happy to draw attention to it by showing you the model in the red dress.

I am duly impressed, especially since the model in the red dress is a guy: Andrej Pejić, twenty years old, arguably the prettiest six-foot-two blond(e) working the runway today. I’d argue that he sells the product remarkably well, inasmuch as it brings a figure with no actual bewbage at all up to an almost-solid B.

To add to the It’s Complicated matrix: FHM named Pejić to their list of the 100 Sexiest Women in the World for 2011, ranking him 98th — ahead of Lady Gaga. (They insist it was an accident.)

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More toast science

Last year I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out if there might be an actual reason for specifying a single-slice slot in the standard toaster. (Short version: one slot does work better than the other.) However, I did not attempt to answer a question of arguably greater importance: is the toast more likely to land buttered-side down?

The answer, as it happens, is Yes:

Aston University’s Robert Matthews got a thousand children to conduct 21,000 toast drops. He proved not only that it is possible to use child labor in such a way that it seems whimsical and sweet, but that the toast, spiraling through space as it drops off the edge of a table or a plate, will land butter-side down sixty-two percent of the time. Some experiments show an even higher rate of buttered floor than that.

The launch apparently induces a degree of roll:

If it has rolled more than ninety degrees but less than two hundred seventy degrees, it will land butter-side down. It turns out that the average table height gives it time to turn just enough that it’s between these two angles, but not enough that it can turn past two seventy degrees and land butter-side up again.

Matthews won an Ig Nobel Prize for his research.

(Via Fark.)

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Blue Font of Death

It is pretty much common knowledge that the much-derided Comic Sans MS typeface originated at Microsoft — just look at the name — and while Redmond has dropped it into every Windows since 95, there’s really been no major effort to promote it. Which is perhaps just as well, because then we’d have visual excrescences like this:

Blue Screen of Death rendered in Comic Sans MS

Which is just fine with the folks behind the Comic Sans Project, which seeks to replace all those Other Fonts because “Helvetica is sooo 2011.”

(First seen in this Elysa Rice tweet.)

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Garbage in

Does anyone really know where these retail sales forecasts come from?

I’ve arrived at the opinion that retail sales forecasts are determined by throwing dice. If you read the job number statistics, projected sales reports and other boilerhoused documents used for arriving at these forecasts, you realize the projected numbers are created from data that is as reliable as dice. So, a smart man would throw some dice, or flip a coin to make the determination. I know I would; why waste the time?

Then again, just because a number has passed from the realm of projection into the valley of statistics doesn’t mean all of a sudden you can trust it.

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Marx, Lenin, and herpes

Dr. G. Keith Smith on the subject of, um, a social disease:

For years I have resented the desire of socialists (yes, they are on both sides of the aisle) to use Uncle Sam to confiscate my earnings and the future earnings of my children. Now I am thinking about things differently. You see, while I resent “sharing” property against my will, what I have come to understand is that it is the justification for this confiscation that commands resentment. Basically, others are sharing with me against my will: their problems, not their wealth. It occurs to me that this is the essence of socialism. One person’s problem is everyone’s problem. Your problems are mine, mine are yours. Embracing this concept precedes the theft necessary to “tidy things up,” to make things fair, to treat another’s problems. I wonder now if that should be the focus of property rights advocates, the denial of this concept, or, “your problems are yours, not mine.” After all, private property is secure once this problem sharing paradigm is rejected. Sharing problems with others that want no part of it is like giving someone tuberculosis or a venereal disease. I think this is a perfect analogy and therefore, I will henceforth refer to socialism as “gonorrhea socialism,” as this loaded phrase inevitably leads one to the faulty premise.

Then again, property-rights advocates have their hands full already, what with having to deal with taxation, Kelo, and “occupants.”

And Carnac, having read the title, opens the envelope: “Name three things you can’t seem to get rid of no matter what.”

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