All about that search

Yesterday, I was looking up something in Alaska, and before I ever got to the second A, this is what was thrown up on screen:

Screenshot from Google Instant Preview

Remind me to have a word with one of their staff Trainors.

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Could’ve been anticipated

You remember Tiffany, the singer, right?

This is a perfectly serviceable cover of the Tommy James hit, if maybe a tick or two behind the 2007 version by the Birthday Massacre. I bring this up because I wandered onto Tiff’s Facebook page, Tiffany (The Singer). (Extra amusement value: I got the link from Debbie Gibson.)

And I bring that up because if you start looking for Wikipedia hints and you type “Tiffany (singer)” thinking that well, it’s Tiffany (The Singer), you may well end up here:

Stephanie Young Hwang (born August 1, 1989), better known by the stage name Tiffany or by her Korean name Hwang Mi-young, is an American singer-songwriter and actress. She is a member of both the South Korean girl group, Girls’ Generation and its subgroup, TTS.

Of course, I went looking for some of her stuff, and found this solo track:

Our Tiffany, if I may be presumptuous for a moment, could sing that.

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Wholly mackerel

Actually, most of the news these days is bad, but this really ought not to surprise anyone:

The reason is the increasing — today near to absolute — unwillingness of our political class to confront reality when doing so might make it look bad.

When reality slaps you across the face with a wet mackerel, the only imaginable evasion is rhetorical: “No, no! While it did look like a mackerel, it wasn’t an authentic mackerel, as these variances along the lateral fins and the belly scales should make obvious. Besides, I turned forty-five degrees in the instant of the first impact, so it didn’t get my right cheek, so I wasn’t really slapped across the face. Anyway, we’re still good friends.”

That ridiculous word “optics” gives the game away: the important thing is how you look, not what you said or what you’re going to do.

The marvel of political journalism in our time is that anyone still bothers to ask a politician a question, when we all know that the answer will be self-serving rather than honestly responsive.

There are, it seems to me, only two political questions still in use: the softball and the gotcha. Which is served up at any given moment is purely a function of whether the asker is politically aligned with the askee.

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Or just wait fifteen minutes

Lynn defends the nine-season climate around here:

For the most part I actually like Oklahoma weather. We rarely have the same kind of weather long enough to get tired of it (except maybe the heat and drought in mid to late summer) and it’s an endless source of entertainment, especially if complaining is your favorite sport.

Hey, I run a blog. What do you think my favorite sport is?

(“Climate? I didn’t even see it!”)

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Subspeciesism

There are, according to Equestrian lore, three pony tribes, or subspecies, or whatever. There are also similarly-configured creatures which are not ponies at all:

And then I thought, wait, there are donkeys … or are they mules? (The show seems to use the term interchangeably, which bugs me ever so slightly, because donkeys and mules are different). And then I got to thinking: wait. If there are mules in Equestria, if they are like the mules that exist in the human world, that would have to mean a donkey and a horse got married at some point and …

Heh. Inter-species marriage. And you thought some people had a hard time accepting inter-racial marriage.

This chap is apparently a mule:

There exists a fanfic in which a dragon and a pony mate, and the offspring has characteristics of both and is accepted by neither.

I caught a fair amount of flak a couple of years ago for suggesting that a pony/human relationship might be possible; I suspect it might be easier, if only for logistical reasons, if both partners are quadrupeds.

And in a couple of places I’ve advanced the notion that despite all these years of Harmony, there might be some lingering inter-tribe resentment, which drew me further flak.

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The unchanging of the guard

James Lileks, on the occasion of the (presumed) retirement of Andrew Sullivan:

I can’t imagine not doing this, and I hope you can’t imagine not expecting something. I mention this because Andrew Sullivan announced he was retiring from blogging today, and given his longevity this was seen by some as one of the great tent poles of the Golden Age of Blogging toppling over. Perhaps. The notion of individual sites with individual voices has been replaced by aggregators and listicles and Gawker subsites with their stables of edgy youth things, and public squares like Medium where dross and gold abound. But there will always be a place on the internet for individual sites like this one, because there is nothing from stopping all the rampant egotists from braying bytes over this matter or that. I’ve always been a diarist, and this iteration happens to be public.

As the edgy youth are wont to say: +1.

It was a home page, and then personal website, and then a blog, depending on the terminology of the era, but it really hasn’t changed at all. Next month, I think, is the 18th anniversary of the Bleat.

The mind boggles at the thought of keeping a Web site open for eighteen whole years.

Not going away. Why would I? This is fun.

Make that +2.

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In care of Mummy

By general agreement, the first of the Gospels was Mark’s, which appeared around 70. No copies of Mark earlier than 100 or so were known to exist, until (maybe) now:

A text that may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist — a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year 90 — is set to be published… This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy.

Waste not, want not.

Roger Pearse suggests that this may not be quite what it’s represented to be:

On the one hand we have a drip-drip of non-academic reportage, excitedly making all sorts of claims, possibly based on no more than a video by somebody who may (or may not) be involved in the project at all. This feeds the fever of speculation; which, of course, increases the price that may be asked for publication, and generally increases the commercial value of the property. It seems to benefit nobody in any other way that I can see.

On the other hand, we have an entire silence on all the matters that would allow professionals to form a judgement.

Pearse, whose interest in patristics goes back a long way, sums it up: “To me, all this is too good to be true. But let’s hope not.” Fair enough.

(Via Monday Evening.)

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Fair-weather Federalists

Principle? Not if we can help it:

In the last several years, I can count at least four “principled” positions taken by AZ Republicans on Federalism:

  • State law should not pre-empt Federal law (marijuana criminalization)
  • State law should pre-empt Federal law (Obamacare)
  • States should enforce Federal laws that we think the Feds refuse to enforce sufficiently aggressively (immigration)
  • States should prevent the Feds from enforcing Federal law when we think they are being too aggressive in enforcing (Grand Canyon National Park closure during shutdown)

At least Democrats are consistent on Federalism: wherever it is, they’re against it.

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This guy’s the limit

Erin Palette talks about guys, and she means to include herself:

One guy is always male. (Which isn’t surprising, since Guy has been a man’s name for over a thousand years.) Therefore it follows that if someone says “It’s a guy thing” or “Guys’ night out” you know with 100% certainty that said guys are male.

But I have seen a woman address a group made up entirely of women with “Hi guys!” in which case those guys are now 100% female. However, even though a group of women can be called “guys”, I have never seen that group subdivided such that one woman would be a “guy”, regardless of how logical that might be.

This isn’t exactly egalitarian: except in very specific circumstances, groups of men are not referred to as “girls.” Still, it’s an interesting evolution of the language:

Many women feel that the word “mankind” is sexist when used to refer to all humanity, but I have yet to see any woman seriously object to “guys” even when used in nearly the same way.

I don’t really have a point to this other than Huh. A distinctly gendered noun has become a gender-neutral collective through cultural drift.

Now I wonder what the non-binary among us would think about this.

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Not the best approach

Obviously I’m not the only person who gets spam. I usually don’t reply to it, though:

Then again, her initial reaction was less kindly:

Stabbiness is not an uncommon reaction to particularly noxious spammage.

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Hey, defrost this

On the 25th of November, I went out to the garage and located my ice scraper. Amazingly, it was right where I’d left it back in March. Maybe someday I won’t have to do this sort of thing anymore:

Fed up with the dismal winter ritual of chiselling ice off their car windows, a group of engineering students from Waterloo, Ont. came up with a way to ensure they never have to scrape another windshield again.

What began as university project two-and-a-half years ago to solve a pet peeve has evolved into Neverfrost, a startup company that’s developed a transparent film for vehicle windows to prevent frost and deflect harsh elements like snow and freezing rain.

The concept has already grabbed the attention of the trucking industry and its founders are so confident in Neverfrost’s future that one of them brushed off a job at Facebook and another sidelined plans for grad school, to chase their dreams of making the ice scraper obsolete.

And this isn’t some crummy plastic like your neighbor’s kid has stuck on the inside of his windows so you can’t see him picking his nose at the wheel, either:

The film incorporates nano technology, or the manipulation of objects on a molecular level, to prevent the windshield surface from reaching the conditions necessary for condensation and temperatures low enough to freeze.

Neverfrost also claims to be resistant to the impact of stones and insulates the vehicle cabin from outside elements, which its founders say can lessen the scorching heat of the summer sun.

Heck, it’s too bad they can’t make a whole car out of the stuff.

(“The Nobel Prize is such a lock this year,” says the Fark submitter.)

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Lance’s revenge

You may remember Lance Thomas, a Thunder training-camp invite who actually made the team when the injury situation got out of hand. Eventually he was dealt to the Knicks in the three-team deal that brought Dion Waiters to Oklahoma City, with the expectation that New York would waive him. They did. But they signed him to a 10-day contract three days later, and another one when that one ran out. What better way for him to demonstrate his value to the Knicks than to lead them to a victory on his previous team?

It didn’t work out quite that way. Thomas is still, after all, a second-string player. But he had 17 of the 31 points scored by the New York bench, his season high, and the Knicks were up nine halfway through the fourth quarter. This is normally Kevin Durant’s cue; but KD is still sidelined with that toe jam, or whatever it is, and a 7-0 run by Russell Westbrook in just under 60 seconds was followed by ten in a row from New York, and as the phrase goes, that’s all she wrote. OKC would come no closer than five after that, and the Knicks earned their third straight win at the Garden, 100-92.

There’s a brace of Telltale Statistics here. Consider Westbrook’s line — 13-30 shooting for 40 points — and the assist count: NYC 29, OKC 10. It’s not so much that Westbrook was trying to play hero ball, although there were obvious moments when he was, but that nobody else could shoot either. Reggie Jackson had 13 points; Serge Ibaka 10 and 10 rebounds; the rest didn’t matter much. (Dion Waiters, you should know, finished with eight.) Oh, and 5-22 on three-pointers, versus 8-17 for New York.

What’s more, the Knicks, among the sorriest rebounders in the Association, hauled in 51 of them tonight, against 47 for the ostensible league leader. They took six more shots, made six more shots. And Carmelo Anthony was being Carmelo Anthony, racking up 31 points and 10 rebounds. Jason Smith had the other Knicks double-double, 11 points and 11 boards. And Tim Hardaway, the only other Knick reserve to score, got the 14 points that Lance Thomas didn’t.

So it’s back to .500 again, and the Grizzlies waiting Saturday night. Pray for snow. Or something.

Update, 29 January: Lance Thomas will be signed by the Knicks for the rest of the season.

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Whipped into a frenzy

Found this old ad at Miss Cellania’s, and as usual, it sent me off into a tangential tizzy:

Kraft ad for Miracle Whip

Miracle Whip, says the ad copy, combines “the best qualities of good old-fashioned boiled dressing and fine mayonnaise.”

“Boiled dressing” is apparently before my time, so I went hunting for a description, and found one:

A Boiled Dressing can be thought of as sort of a Hollandaise Sauce for fresh vegetables. It draws on the principle that eggs and vinegar will emulsify in a liquid and form a creamy concoction. The base is usually eggs, vinegar, and a liquid such as cream, milk or water. Some recipes also use a small amount of flour or cornstarch as a thickener. Seasonings such as dry mustard, sugar and salt are added. Later versions would include a tablespoon of olive oil, showing that it was becoming available, but was still a luxury item.

The one thing it isn’t, curiously, is “boiled”; it’s actually simmered over a double boiler.

Wikipedia yields up this historical note:

According to Kraft archivist Becky Haglund Tousey, Kraft developed the product in-house using a patented “emulsifying machine” (invented by Charles Chapman) to create a product blending mayonnaise product and less expensive salad dressing, sometimes called “boiled dressing.”

Miracel WhipHowever, this story is disputed.

In Germany, the Kraft Foods spinoff Mondelēz International sells Miracle Whip as, um, Miracel Whip, presumably to match up with pronunciation in der Vaterland, though that WH combination doesn’t look the slightest bit Teutonic. I have no idea if the formula is any different, though it seems at least plausible that Germany, or the European Union as a whole, might actually have regulations affecting pseudo-mayo; says that same Wikipedia article, the modified corn starch and the inevitable high-fructose corn syrup are derived from non-GMO corn, which presumably would be easier than getting a new variety of maize past the EU’s GMO controls.

(Parenthetically: Once upon a time I inquired of my Twitter followers if there were a low-fructose corn syrup; I was directed to the nearest bottle of Karo.)

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Drive them into the sea

Whatzername in Card Services apparently still has a job, but some of her far-flung brethren have been cast aside:

This is a telemarketing fundraising operation: The people who call you up and will exchange decals for some charitable organization or association, and after they collect the proceeds, they give something like 15% to the organization on whose behalf they’re calling.

Believe me. I did this for the space of three weekends when I was twenty-two.

Hopefully, this is an indicator that the business model is collapsing and they’re all going out of business. More likely, though, it probably indicates they’re either moving these calls off shore or going to an automated system, which makes the whole thing even more annoying than it already is.

For what it’s worth, at least one government agency has had it up to here with those jerkenheimers:

[I]n late November … 39 states’ attorneys general basically said to the FCC: telemarketing and robocall telemarketing are giant pains in the butt for our citizens and everyone hates them. There are consumer-side workarounds, but your phone company can’t block a phone spammer from making outgoing calls to you. So why don’t phone companies just block the numbers to start with?

Phone companies, which have been busily not blocking any of these numbers ever, insist that it is the current law that stops them. AT&T [pdf], Verizon [pdf] and the CTIA [pdf] have all filed comments to the effect that the industry is already totally on it, but that existing tools are sufficient. Further, the FCC should stay away from this, since because phones are regulated as common carriers, all carriers have an obligation to move all phone traffic, period, with no exceptions.

The Federal Trade Commission, however, sides with the rest of us:

The FTC comment [pdf] does not actually call robocalls a plague upon humanity, but it does stress that they are in many cases illegal, and now being placed through internet services from foreign nations where the FTC can’t do much about it. Call-blocking technology is a-ok by them, since it would “make a significant dent in the problem of unwanted telephone calls,” even if, “to date [common] carriers have resisted offering call-blocking services to their large customer bases.”

Sainthood awaits the hardy soul who can get the FCC and the FTC onto the same page.

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Horton hears a Boo Fricking Hoo

After Snowmageddon 2015 slid past New York City and made a beeline for Boston, there was wailing and gnashing of teeth and cursing of forecasters; one of them even issued an apology. Bad move, says Lisa:

I think the forecasters who are apologizing are doing a huge disservice to their audiences. No matter how sophisticated our weather tracking systems, a storm can veer off unpredictably as this one did slamming Boston instead of New York City. If your city prepares and dodges a bullet, that’s a win. Certainly better than the other scenario: not being prepared.

We’ve dodged a few here over the years; in fact, we can count on at least one overwrought forecast fizzling out per season. Which is not to say that we behave any more sensibly:

From years of working as a journalist in New England, I learned that people who live in cities — even supposedly weather-savvy cities like Boston and Portland, Maine — are very disconnected from the weather. They simply refuse to believe that weather almost on any given day is probably the most dangerous thing they will ever face. Every time a snow storm was predicted to hit the Portland area, we at the TV station knew where the stories would be. Some bozo would ignore the warnings, get in some ill-equipped little Japanese car without chains and make a completely unnecessary trip such as trying to drive up to the ski resorts to get a jump on the lift lines, or even just driving through deserted streets looking for an open corner store to get cigs. Actually, usually there would be dozens of such dummies. While on the road, some would get stuck, skid out diverting emergency vehicles and police attention from more pressing matters like keeping lanes to hospitals cleared. I remember one such case where an idiot skidded out his car, and blocked an area where an ambulance was trying to get through. Took several diverted snowplows, tow trucks and a critical hour to get that car out of the path and the ambulance with a patient into the hospital.

“Travel is strongly discouraged,” which is usually the worst it gets down here, doesn’t contain any qualifiers; they don’t say it’s discouraged for everyone but you. An outright ban, as enacted by NYC, is the same but more so. Says Norman-based comedian Amanda Kerri:

Is it so hard to make a PBJ sandwich for a day or two? Oh my god, you might not have Pad Thai delivered at three in the morning… This is why the rest of America hates you.

And truth be told, if some of my neighbors wander out on a night that would challenge a Zamboni, well, they better have platinum-plated reasons.

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They wish to register a complaint

The following item, claimed to be from complaints@irs.gov — oddly, it seems to have originated in Italy — landed in my email box, though it had been addressed to someone entirely different:

Dear business owner,

A criminal complaint has been filled against your company.

Your company is being accused of trying to commit tax evasion schemes.

The full text of the complaint file ( .DOC type ) can be viewed in your Microsoft Word, complaint is attached.

AN official response from your part is required, in order to take further action.

Please review the charges brought forward in the complaint file, and contact us as soon as possible by:

Telephone Assistance for Businesses: Toll-Free, 1-800-829-4933
Email: complaints@irs.gov

Thank you,
Internal Revenue Service Fraud Prevention Department

I need hardly point out that were this an actual criminal complaint, you’d get something a lot more emphatic than a badly worded email with a spam score over 5.

I did not, of course, look at the Word document, which presumably carries the payload.

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