Songs for a hole in the ground

Something called Dark Asylum Radio is asking:

Today is your funeral - what song is playing as they lower your body?

Given my modest but solid military record, I’m pretty sure that the local detachment of something or other will dispatch a bugler to send me off with “Taps.”

During the ceremony — perhaps as a recessional — I have requested the playing of this. The kids, I think, will honor this request.

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Perennial Elle

“There’s so much discussion surrounding health and fitness,” said Elle Macpherson to the Daily Express on the occasion of her 50th birthday, “but what I really aspire to is wellness.”

Elle Macpherson, highly stylized

Looks pretty well to me.

There is, incidentally, some disagreement over Macpherson’s age: some sources put her date of birth as 29 March 1964, which would make her 50 today, or 29 March 1963, which would make her 51. I submit that it doesn’t matter a whole lot one way or another, at least until she’s eligible for Medicare.

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For those who think dung

I’m sure this book would prove useful to someone in a very specific set of circumstances:

How to Poo on a Date has won the 36th annual Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.

The book, by Mats & Enzo, published by Prion Press, topped a public vote to find the oddest title, in one of the closest contests in prize history. In the end, How to Poo on a Date: The Lovers’ Guide to Toilet Etiquette, took home the title with 30% of the vote, beating into second place Are Trout South African? by Duncan Brown (Pan South Africa) and The Origin of Feces by David Waltner-Toews (ECW Press), which both captured 23% of voters.

Were I a minion at ECW Press, I’d be bragging right about now: “The Origin of Feces ties for Number Two!”

Regrettably, the founder of the Diagram Prize has just passed on:

Bruce Robertson, who has died aged 79, was managing director of the book design and artwork partnership Diagram and founder of the Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title, an award presented annually by The Bookseller magazine.

Robertson and his business partner Trevor Bounford dreamed up the award in 1978 to avoid boredom at the annual Frankfurt Book Fair. The first award went to Proceedings Of The Second International Workshop On Nude Mice. Other winners over the years have included How to Avoid Huge Ships; Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop; and Managing a Dental Practice the Genghis Khan Way.

Essentials to the modern library, you may be sure.

Incidentally, this is the second crap-related title to win the Diagram this decade: Saiyuud Diwong’s Cooking with Poo won in 2011. And winning the Diagram can do wonders for one’s profile, even if one’s book is out of print: Amazon merchants are asking over $50 for the 2003 winner, The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories.

(With thanks to Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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A fool such as I

An operation called Grandiloquent Word of the Day came up with this polysyllabic portmanteau:

tibuloconcupiscent

A Facebook friend was kind enough to paste this on my wall, suggesting that it was right up my alley. I argued that “I’m just as interested in watching her take them off.” And besides, ZZ Top has already described this phenomenon more than adequately.

Morley, a famed British brand since 1795, was rebooted in 2011, though today they manufacture men’s wear only.

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Sexist hardware

It wasn’t planned that way, of course:

In the fall of 1997, my university built a CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) to help scientists, artists, and archeologists embrace 3D immersion to advance the state of those fields. Ecstatic at seeing a real-life instantiation of the Metaverse, the virtual world imagined in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, I donned a set of goggles and jumped inside. And then I promptly vomited.

I never managed to overcome my nausea. I couldn’t last more than a minute in that CAVE and I still can’t watch an IMAX movie. Looking around me, I started to notice something. By and large, my male friends and colleagues had no problem with these systems. My female peers, on the other hand, turned green.

Clearly, further experimentation was called for:

I created scenarios in which motion parallax suggested an object was at one distance, and shape-from-shading suggested it was further away or closer. The idea was to see which of these conflicting depth cues the brain would prioritize. (The brain prioritizes between conflicting cues all the time; for example, if you hold out your finger and stare at it through one eye and then the other, it will appear to be in different positions, but if you look at it through both eyes, it will be on the side of your “dominant” eye.)

What I found was startling [pdf]. Although there was variability across the board, biological men were significantly more likely to prioritize motion parallax. Biological women relied more heavily on shape-from-shading. In other words, men are more likely to use the cues that 3D virtual reality systems relied on.

And that word “biological” is there for a very specific reason:

Scholars in the gender clinic [in Utrecht] were doing fascinating research on tasks like spatial rotation skills. They found that people taking androgens (a steroid hormone similar to testosterone) improved at tasks that required them to rotate Tetris-like shapes in their mind to determine if one shape was simply a rotation of another shape. Meanwhile, male-to-female transsexuals saw a decline in performance during their hormone replacement therapy.

The spiffy new Oculus Rift may compensate for this — or it might not. I’ve never seen one, and for that matter I never was any good at rotating random polygons. I’m thinking, though, that of the various differences between the sexes, this is one of the more easily minimized.

(Swiped from Erica Mauter’s Facebook page.)

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One impossible thing before breakfast

The state treasurer is requesting a budget cut — again:

For a second consecutive year, State Treasurer Ken Miller is asking the Legislature to cut appropriations for his office. And for the second year in a row, he is the only agency head to do so.

Miller said his request for a five-percent budget cut is made possible by focusing office operations on core treasury functions. He also requested and was granted a five-percent appropriations reduction last year.

Staff inflation? Not here:

Prior to the last recession, the treasurer’s office had 72 employees working in three locations in Oklahoma City, including two leased offices. Now the staff is 40 percent smaller and all treasury employees work in one location in the State Capitol Building after closing external offices.

If everybody got a 5-percent budget cut — but forget it. Just under 100 percent of all agency heads will tell you with a straight face that cutting spending at a time like this is immoral.

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Brrr

Below-normal temperatures today and tomorrow morning here in the Big Breezy. Not that Rebecca Black would have any reason to know that, but if you ask me, she definitely picked a fine time to do her second one-take unequalized cover, a version of the Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather,” which you’ll find below the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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A Sac of kittens

When Russell Westbrook is gone — but never mind, let’s not think about that again. One thing we haven’t thought about at all, though, is this: what happens when Reggie Jackson is gone? The Regmeister hosed up his back at practice yesterday and was scratched for tonight, which almost certainly explains why the Thunder signed the nearest available Reggie, the 66ers’ Reggie Williams, to a second 10-day contract, and brought him in just in case they needed him against the Kings.

Maybe not so much. The Kings played even with the Thunder for just over three minutes, at which time the score was 4-4. After that, Sacramento appeared to go to pieces; four minutes into the second quarter, they were down 37-15. Then the Kings started to make some shots, pulling into the 30-percent range after wallowing in the 20s. But everything they gained in the second quarter (Sacramento 23, OKC 22) they lost in the third, and more, with the Thunder claiming a 31-point lead, 82-51. Still, the Kings weren’t giving in, and OKC finally caught on at the four-minute mark, having been outscored by Sacramento 21-6 in the fourth quarter. (Williams was then put in, and promptly made a couple of jumpers.) The Kings cut that 31-point deficit down to 13 at the horn, losing by a not-that-embarrassing 94-81 count, and they did that without their big names: Rudy Gay (3-11, 7 points) played only 21 minutes, DeMarcus Cousins (2-8, 4 points) only 17, and neither showed up in the fourth.

With the OKC defense apparently watching everything else, the Kings sustained themselves with the occasional trey (9 of 18, but 22-67 from within the arc) and rebound dominance (49-38, 17-3 offensive). Guards Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum played almost the whole game (46 minutes each); McLemore was the Kings’ high scorer with 18. From the bench, Travis Outlaw contributed 17; Jason Thompson rang up 10 points and 14 boards, and Quincy Acy added 13 boards more.

Still, the Thunder starters wouldn’t be seen in the fourth quarter, Kevin Durant retiring for the night with 29 on an efficient 9-11. Westbrook worked 24 minutes, as always flat-out, and collected 18 points on 7-12. And Jeremy Lamb put in a team-high 33 to lead the reserves with 13. OKC hit nine treys, but it took them 23 tries to get them.

The Jazz will be here Sunday afternoon, which might be a yawner; the Spurs will show up Thursday, which almost definitely won’t.

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Circulation beginning

Yours truly, from about this time last year:

One of the niftier ideas of recent years is the Little Free Library, bigger than a breadbox but just barely, located in urban neighborhoods and rural areas. And we’re about to get this one in our neck of the woods.

It’s now up and awaiting further stock:

Little Free Library in Mayfair Heights neighborhood

I dropped off a couple of books yesterday; if the neighborhood follows through, and they almost always do, it should be pretty well stuffed by this time next week.

(Photo by Taryn Evans, shot Wednesday. If you’re unclear on the concept, this is how it all started.)

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At least it isn’t head cheese

Just calling it “beer” seems suddenly inadequate:

[M]icrobrewers at Dock Street Brewing Co. did go that extra mile for fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead — or any zombie fans, really — by cooking up some goat brains for a new brew called Dock Street Walker.

Yes, goat brains. Smoked brains, to be specific, an ingredient enjoyed by others around the world but perhaps not so much the American public.

According to the brewery’s press release, it’s “an American Pale Stout brewed with wheat, oats, flaked barley, organic cranberry, and Smoked Goat Brains!”

Enjoy it with a slab of goat cheese, and toast The Governor. (Oh, wait, The Governor is already toast.)

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Multi-tusking

Let us stipulate that no one wants to see further endangerment of elephants. That said, the Feds blew another one:

New federal rules aimed at blocking the sale of ivory to protect endangered elephants are causing an uproar among musicians, antiques dealers, gun collectors and thousands of others whose ability to sell, repair or travel with legally acquired ivory objects will soon be prohibited.

An example:

To illustrate the confusion ahead, experts gave the example of what would happen under the new regulations if someone attempted the interstate sale of a 100-year-old Steinway piano with ivory keys. Such a sale has long been permissible, because the piano qualified as an antique that contained ivory imported long before the mid-1970s, when officials began proscribing the material.

But the new regulations would prohibit such a sale unless the owner could prove the ivory in the keys had entered the country through one of 13 American ports authorized to sanction ivory goods.

Given that none of those entry points had such legal power until 1982, the regulations would make it virtually impossible to legitimize the piano’s ivory, the experts said. That predicament would apply to virtually all the antique ivory in the country, barring millions of Americans from ever selling items as innocuous as teacups, dice or fountain pens.

The Feds are not backing down, because smugglers:

[T]he eight-member advisory panel that formulated the new restrictions is aware they impose insurmountable hurdles. But … the efforts by some smugglers to disguise recently poached ivory as antique material have made the additional restrictions necessary.

My own suggestion — place a bounty on smugglers, and when they’re brought in, feed them to animals — apparently has not been considered.

(Via a Steinway owner.)

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Kith and mannequin

As I understand things — and it’s no secret that my fashionista credentials are barely above size zero — you’re not supposed to notice the model, only what she’s wearing. So this perplexes me somewhat:

I recently participated in a forum discussion about beauty. In that discussion, it became apparent that some participants — a small subset, admittedly — felt that runway models were the ultimate definition of feminine beauty. Not one possible definition — the definition.

This makes sense only if the prettiest girl in your world looks like a twelve-year-old boy. Now there’s nothing in the world wrong with looking like a twelve-year-old boy — I did, back when I was a high-school sophomore — but if your tastes in women run in this direction, I suggest there’s a possibility that you’ve overlooked something somewhere.

Of course, it may be something simpler than that:

I suspect that these men might have been dreaming about the actresses who depict models in movies, rather than the actual models. They also seemed reluctant to accept the idea that those women may not look, when they step out the front door to get the paper in the morning, precisely the same way that they look in movies and magazine covers.

Or, as Cindy Crawford once said: “Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.”

This being March, which comes right after February, which means the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue — let’s face it, February’s not much use for anything else — some of these chaps may have just recently bought into the illusion that the girls just plop down on the beach and shutters are squeezed. (After all, they’re not reading the articles; they’re just looking at the pictures.)

But this is more worrisome:

What struck me was the idea that there is a single definition of feminine beauty, and any other beauty is not merely different, but inferior. That women who don’t strive for this particular brand of beauty are failing to make the most of themselves and resigning themselves to a miserable man-free existence, and that men who don’t want this specific kind of beauty in a woman, who want something else, are deluding themselves, or “settling”, or so weird that they don’t count statistically.

Or worse, betas who have no hope of corralling the most desirable women, according to the traditional instruction of game.

I, of course, have long since been consigned to one of the lower-down Greek letters. And my own definition of beauty is, I suppose, fairly close to standard, though it is also legendarily flexible. And by now I think I’m past all those biological imperatives: the genes have been passed on, fulfilling whatever duty was required of me.

Besides, I am possessed of a tiny sliver of discretion: should A look better than B, it profits me nothing to mention it to A. Or, for that matter, to B.

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Why there is $7 beer

The pundits have compiled their best estimates of Major League Baseball salaries this season, and perhaps the most surprising item in the list is where you find the Yankees: second. Somehow, this year, the Dodgers — the Dodgers! — are outspending the Bronx Bombers to the tune of $30 million: the Chavez Ravine payroll is just this side of a quarter of a billion dollars. Evidently Guggenheim Baseball Management, which paid $2.3 billion in cash to buy the team out of bankruptcy two years ago, isn’t afraid of large checks. (Then again, Dodger Stadium was part of the deal.)

Of 30 MLB teams, 16 are spending over $100 million on players this year. The chintziest are the Marlins and the Astros, who fall below the $50 million level. That sort of parsimony would not be tolerated in the NBA, which this year has a minimum team payroll of $52,811.000. This is not to be confused with the team salary figures used to determine compliance with the league’s salary cap; this is the actual number of dollars that must be spent to avoid trouble with the front office in New York.

Then again, NBA teams have rosters of no more than 15 players. Even so, the Brooklyn Nets made it over the $100 million mark this year, with six players over $10 million each. And you know what? NBA beer costs even more than MLB beer.

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Still unstifled after all these years

It’s the meatheads who never catch on, really:

Funny thing about Archie Bunker. As I understand it, he was built to be the bad guy, but people related to him. He was a traditional, albeit crude and poorly spoken, member of the old generation that was out of touch with the modern, sixties person. But people related to his problems in understanding the changes going on in society and with those who would compel him to change. And somehow that gruff character carried a sitcom twelve seasons. Kind of like the modern day Ron Swanson of Parks and Recreation. Although this latter character was originally intended to be a foil for the star’s character, he was a man’s man Libertarian, and he’s the one from whom Internet memes are made. Because people even in the twenty-first century relate. And the sitcom writers and producers are shocked by what sells. Because they’re professionals or something.

These are the days, guys. Even if you’re still obsessed with the Summer of Love and all that horsepuckey.

And while we’re at it, can we declare a moratorium on that “right side of history” meadow muffin? History takes no sides, and wishful thinking won’t make it do so.

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It would be worse with a minibar

A possible disadvantage of vacationing in Vegas with an infant in tow:

[I]f you’re going to “rent” a crib at Mandalay Bay for more than a single day, it’s actually cheaper to buy one off Amazon and have it sent to the hotel than it is to actually rent theirs.

Wouldn’t want to look too family-friendly in America’s Gomorrah, would we?

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DOS right

You can look at this as “too little, too late,” or you can envision something growing from this old but compact kernel. Microsoft has released the first two versions of MS-DOS (1.1 and 2.0) to the open-source community:

On Tuesday, we dusted off the source code for early versions of MS-DOS and Word for Windows. With the help of the Computer History Museum, we are making this code available to the public for the first time.

The museum has done an excellent job of curating some of the most significant historical software programs in computing history. As part of this ongoing project, the museum will make available two of the most widely used software programs of the 1980’s, MS-DOS 1.1 and 2.0 and Microsoft Word for Windows 1.1a, to help future generations of technologists better understand the roots of personal computing.

The software — you get both source code and object code — is generally free from restrictions: you may not post copies elsewhere, but otherwise you can do pretty much what you want with it.

(Via this Costa Tsiokos tweet.)

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