Born to howl

Let’s see if I have this right. You can tune a piano, you can’t tuna fish, but look what you can do with a pack of wolves:

And no, this isn’t Auto-Tune, but an iPhone (and other iGadget) app called LaDiDa, which generates the background music for you and which costs a mere $2.99.

It might even work on blue whales, though they’re already renowned for staying in key.

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The wrath of Pythagoras

Okay, he’s dead, and even if he wasn’t dead he probably wouldn’t read Sportsday in the Dallas Morning News. But I can’t imagine him being pleased with this:

Remember your old geometry lesson about the long side of a triangle being equal to the two shorter sides. That means a dove 40 yards out and 10 yards high is 50 yards from the gun and clearly out of range.

My old geometry teacher, who was about five foot nineteen and clearly out of range, would frown, assuming he didn’t immediately go for his sidearm.

Now if you do the math correctly, you’ll find that the bird in question is 41.2 yards away. It’s still probably out of range — and you don’t want to go shooting things out of range, just on general principle — but I’m perplexed by that “old geometry lesson.” I mean, is the shot going to go 40 yards out, turn 90 degrees, and then go 10 yards straight up? And if it is going to do that, can I watch?

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Fark blurb of the week

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Justified left

This is Sonic Charmer’s description of “the leftist problem in general”:

[H]ow does one support a system characterized largely by credentialed, centralized bureaucratic privilege and unconstrained power, while continuing to always posture as an egalitarian populist on the side of the masses?

This would seem like an invitation to cognitive dissonance. Then again, we can rationalize our way out of anything if we work at it a bit:

The answer seems to be to continually harness your brainpower to come up with elaborate theories about this and that (why things are so bad for others, etc.), and in particular to extrapolate whatever conflicted personal hang-ups and obsessions you happen to have into a social theory. Hence, “I didn’t keep my kid out of that school cuz it was mostly Hispanic, I kept my kid out of that school because, um, the teachers are so bad. Which raises a troubling social question, why are Our Society’s Teachers so bad? We need to fix that, and you should put me in charge of fixing that!”

“Fixing that,” in general, means throwing more and more money at it under the assumption that — well, actually, you can’t tell what they’re assuming, unless it’s the standard government-as-tumor dynamic: grow or die. One of the few departures from this mindset came via Oklahoma City’s MAPS for Kids, which put half a billion dollars into eliminating “inadequate facilities” as an excuse for crummy schools. Indeed this qualified as throwing money at it, but I admire its approach: isolate a variable and see if it makes a difference. What’s more, voters approved the temporary tax that financed the program, which makes it a lot easier to bear than the usual top-down spending decrees, especially the ones relying on so-called “Federal funds” glommed from the population at large; no one from Bangor or Bakersfield paid for any of this, unless he happened to be around here and bought something during the period the tax was in effect. (If he stopped at Mickey D’s and spent $5.99 on a combo meal, six cents went into the MAPS for Kids kitty.)

This particular program was low on grandiosity, which is why it’s not being shouted from the housetops in Washington or New York, where people don’t want to know from minor improvements in the hinterlands: they want to Save The World, dammit, and they want to make sure you know it. If Walmart, presumably via China, started selling a reliable, low cost Conscience Salve (use only as directed), they’d buy it in ton lots. Or more likely, they’d send the staff to buy it in ton lots, lest they themselves be seen in Walmart.

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Can’t we all just get along?

A bumper sticker we can get behind, so to speak:

Variations on the Coexist theme

This is apparently actually available; my attention was drawn to it here. (Source updates would be appreciated.)

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Wisdom of the ages

I can find no fault whatever with this declaration:

“Do not cheap out on the specially designed adhesive for merkins!”

Just thinking about the consequences of using inferior fastening techniques is making me squirm.

(See also “People for the Merkin Way.” Better yet, don’t.)

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Sometimes things just take a while

For instance: World War I will end this weekend.

Wait, what?

The First World War will officially end on Sunday, 92 years after the guns fell silent, when Germany pays off the last chunk of reparations imposed on it by the Allies.

The final payment of £59.5 million writes off the crippling debt that was the price for one world war and laid the foundations for another.

And who’s getting paid, exactly?

Most of the money goes to private individuals, pension funds and corporations holding debenture bonds as agreed under the Treaty of Versailles, where Germany was made to sign the ‘war guilt’ clause, accepting blame for the war.

By coincidence — or maybe not — Sunday, 3 October 2010, is the 20th anniversary of the reunification of Germany, following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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Sans professionalism

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. That word is “professional”:

Terra Southern Professional Plaza, Tempe, Arizona

Because nothing inspires confidence like a blatant display of Comic Sans.

This is just one example of the graphic horrors on display at Your Logo Makes Me Barf. Seriously.

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Going out with stylus

Dust thou art, and unto something that needs dusting thou mayest yet return, for a none-too-small fee:

And Vinyly, a UK-based outfit, has this offer: after you die, you can have some of your cremated ashes pressed into a vinyl record. (A tagline on their website says, “Pressed for Time.”)

The downside of this, of course, is that individuals you’d like to see turned into a plastic waffle won’t be until they’re actually dead, and last I looked, it was illegal to speed up the process by anything stronger than “Another piece of pie, dear?”

(Via SteveF at Daily Pundit, who anticipates a thriving market in, um, sampling.)

Addendum: Working title for this was “Vinyl resting place.”

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Tick, tick, boom

I’m assuming that this was a deliberate act and not a divinely-inspired error:

Tonight, I deleted every single song by The Hives that was on my hard drive/iTunes library (and, by extension, my iPhone and iTouch).

Basis for this assumption:

I’m treating this development as a sign of unexpected maturity.

Trini would have endorsed this viewpoint; she can’t stand The Hives.

So far, Randy Fitzsimmons has been unavailable for comment.

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Undeath tax

We knew Harrisburg was in bad shape, but I never thought they’d have to resort to squeezing money out of zombies:

Last year, about 200 of Harrisburg’s ghastly ghouls were able to do their Zombie Walk through the city’s downtown without hassle or fees. This year, the city gave the brain-lovin’ bunch the news that they would have to pay $450 in march and permit fees, plus insurance.

A pound of flesh, as it were.

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The 66.6-percent bracket

Over at Stacy’s place, we discover that Roxeanne de Luca has heard the same old story, over and over:

Now, I know that a lot of working class people work their butts off, but I’m sick and tired of hearing middle-class people who work 40 hours a week in an air-conditioned office and punch out at 5 pm every day complain about the “rich”. It’s like they want to work a cushy, no-stress job that gets them home by supper every day, have a thoroughly mediocre education and skill set, and earn a quarter-million a year. For those of us who didn’t see our parents while growing up, it’s downright offensive.

Well, yeah, doesn’t everyone want one of those?

What doesn’t occur to these folks is that the only way they’re going to get Sinecure Deluxe™ is by the actions and influence of those selfsame Evil Rich — and if they’re not related to any such, as I’m not, they’re [somewhat] out of luck.

I myself qualify under the “thoroughly mediocre” specification, and I have over the years performed enough butt off-working to propel my earnings to the general vicinity of the national average, or maybe a couple of burritos beyond. I figure, that’s part of the deal; I mean, it’s not like anyone’s gonna give me anything.

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In excelsis

Gloria Stuart, who died last weekend at the ripe old age of 100, is probably best known these days for her turn in James Cameron’s Titanic, back in 1997. Having myself managed to avoid anything Cameron-related since The Abyss, I prefer to remember her as Claude Rains’ love interest in James Whale’s The Invisible Man, back in 1933:

Claude Rains with Gloria Stuart

Here’s the Los Angeles Times obituary, in which Leonard Maltin says:

“She was a charming and beautiful leading lady in the ’30s, and I never understood why her career didn’t go further at that time.”

Whale did what he could, casting her in three of his films. And it’s not like they didn’t have the 1930s equivalent of Rule 5, either:

Gloria Stuart, circa 1932

And just for the heck of it, here’s a clip of Gloria being bothered just a tad by inebriated houseman Boris Karloff in The Old Dark House, a James Whale thriller from 1932.

(Thanks to Allen Ellenberger and Dave Schuler.)

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Is this the Transylvania station?

I didn’t take this very well, and you might not either: there are apparently people who have not seen Young Frankenstein.

Probably don’t have enormous schwanzstuckers, either.

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How you know it’s a bad day

Anything that sounds like this qualifies easily:

Budget had switched us to a vehicle in the first row … or, more accurately, Budget had switched us to a vehicle.

I had hoped that with all the inconvenience of bag dragging, ass freezing and empty spot finding, that we’d get a fancy upgraded car.

When Mary popped the trunk on a dingy, scratched up silver Toyota Corolla with Texas plates, I was disappointed.

“Aw, you couldn’t get them to upgrade us?”

“This was the upgrade.”

Al Sleet, your hippy-dippy weatherman, once announced the temperature at the airport, and then added, “Which is stupid, because I don’t know anybody who lives at the airport.” Some people come close; at least one succeeded. But I don’t think any of them wanted to, even if they had no bags to drag and no empty spots to find.

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Accelerated vernacularity

A certain CBS-TV show notwithstanding, what most of us worry about is $#*! our kids say:

Children are swearing at an earlier age and more often than children did just a few decades ago, according to Timothy Jay, a psychology professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. “By the time kids go to school now, they’re saying all the words that we try to protect them from on television,” says Jay. “We find their swearing really takes off between (ages) three and four.”

So we need to crack down on those nasty television shows, do we? Well, no, that won’t help:

Kids aren’t learning swearing at an earlier age from the television they watch. The rise in cursing mirrors the rise in cursing among adults in the past thirty years that Professor Jay has been studying the psychology of swearing.

It may not help that parents can sometimes be hypocritical when it comes to swearing. Nearly two-thirds of the adults surveyed that had rules about their children swearing at home found they broke their own rules on a regular basis. This sends children a mixed, confusing message about swearing and when it’s appropriate.

And how surprising is that? Not very:

Virtually all people swear, and people swear pretty consistently throughout their lifetime — from the moment they can speak to the day they die. Swearing is almost a universal constant in most people’s lives. Research, according to Jay, has shown we swear on average from 0.3% to 0.7% of the time — a tiny but significant percentage of our overall speech (frequently-used personal pronouns occur at approximately 1.0% rate in speech). Swearing is more common than you might think. But personality research suggests that people who swear more, not surprisingly, score higher on traits such as extraversion, dominance, hostility and Type A personalities. Swearing is not just for the uneducated or people of a lower socioeconomic class — it knows no social boundaries in its expression.

One of the few places you don’t hear much of it is in the Star Trek universe, which is odd, since they have universal translators fercrissake, and you have to assume that J. Marauding Alien isn’t always going to be pleased with the way things are going.

Me? Since I work alone, I generally have little reason to speak at the office unless someone comes in, so I suspect my own Percentage of Filth is way higher than 0.7 percent. Not that anyone really gives a $#*!.

(Via Joanne Jacobs.)

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Back from the spa

I threw this out on Twitter right after I got the call from the dealership:

It’s as invariant as the seasons: 1 I30 + 1 Malfunction Indicator Light = – $600.

Not that I get one every season, but they’re consistent: when the light goes on, I get a bill for $600 or so. (Actually, this bill was more like $1000, but we’ll get to that later.)

Another owner was happy to commiserate, since he’s been down the same road, albeit a tad farther than I have. I think what frosts me about this is that it was the pair of rear oxygen sensors that went south, and, per the service information at hand, “under normal conditions the rear heated oxygen sensor is not used for engine control operation.” It’s there to fix the mess if something goes wrong with a front sensor. The price of compliance with emissions regulations, folks.

Routine stuff was also performed: oil and filter change, new air filter, new cabin air filter (which I’d let go for the last 30k), and fresh slush for the slushbox. We’re experimenting here with an actual synthetic ATF which, I am assured by the label, meets Nissan’s specs. The last batch of bronto-based juice, put in place about 32k miles ago, appeared slightly off-color to these eyes, and while it passed the smell test, I’m thinking something with a little more heat resistance might be useful. Downside: the stuff is ten dollars a quart, and it doesn’t mix with dino oils, so instead of just dropping the pan in the classic manner, it was necessary to drain the whole box, torque converter and all. An institutional-sized jug holds four gallons, and that’s how much it took. I blame the Endangered Species Act.

Oh, and the loaner today was a ’10 G37 sedan in a Mad Men-ish charcoal grey. It pushed my Want buttons rather more than I’d have liked. (It also had faster throttle tip-in than I’m used to, but I’m sure I could adjust.)

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Insert “bad romance” joke here

Lady Gaga as Hillary ClintonThis shot of Lady Gaga visiting a New Jersey nursing home in her best Hillary-As-Dominatrix duds has elicited mirth in various corners of blogdom, notably from Smitty, who predicts that this particular vision might not be good for Bill Clinton’s health. Which may be true, given the worries over the former President’s health issues, especially his own.

On the other hand — and isn’t there usually another hand? — this suggests a plan for Hillary, who, instead of “working her way toward a messy elder-stateswoman bun,” should do a 180 and try some of Gaga’s more blatant gimmicks. I really think Bill, old and infirm as he thinks himself to be, might perk up considerably were he to see the Mrs. wrapped in 40 pounds of flank steak.

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The “force of habit” argument

This isn’t exactly what they meant by “the softer side of Sears”:

A North Carolina man faces indecent exposure charges after police say he was found without pants on taking pictures of himself Monday afternoon in the parking lot of Sears at the Galleria Mall in Rock Hill [SC].

The not-quite-unnamed chap — the last sentence of the news story gives away his last name, suggesting some editing after the fact — lives in Conover, NC, on Naked Creek Road, near St. Peter’s Church Road.

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Rules of detraction

Someone complaining about your blog? Here’s a model for your response.

Assuming, of course, you consider it worth the effort to respond at all.

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