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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Not to be diacritical or anything

I wouldn’t have thought anything brand-name-related bothered Nancy Friedman more than gratuitous umlauts, except maybe for gratuitous umlauts coupled with an egregious -ify or -ly ending. (Should some poor sap come up with a name like “Exëmplïfy” — well, let’s say I fear her wrath.)

But apparently there is one step beyond:

[G]ratuitous acute accents are worse: Even monolingual English speakers are likely to have encountered a few acute-accented French words such as sauté and cliché. (Hello, McCafé!) We know what the accent is supposed to do to a word’s pronunciation; undermine our expectations and you undermine our confidence in your brand.

One example she cites: The Lé Edge exfoliating tool, which scrapes away just enough epidermis for the purpose of “revealing the newer younger cells and more radiant skin.” Now I know of no circumstances in (my admittedly limited) French in which “le” is rendered as “lé”; but given the shape of the corporate logo, I wonder if maybe they thought that without “guidance” we’d pronounce it as a single syllable. (“I live only to serve, my Leedge.”)

The one I never did figure out was Mazda’s Protegé, predecessor to the current Mazda3. If you ask me, they should have either left off the one accent mark, or given the name its proper Frenchification: “protégé.”

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Are you the Keymaster?

Not that she knows of, but get a look at these credentials:

For I have a Unicomp Model M “buckling spring” keyboard!

Which is indeed the successor to the original IBM Model M, two of which I use daily (one at home, one at the shop). They spun off the keyboard business to Lexmark, which subsequently spawned Unicomp. (Lexmark also makes ribbons for the IBM 6400 printer, now living in Ricoh’s basement.)

My M at home is a 1391401, born in 1990; it was one of the last variants not to have a drainage channel. Think about that, but not for long.

So far, so good, though it doesn’t quite have the takkatakkatakka clickativeness of an old Chicony. The keys are about where my fingers expect them to be, though, and the keycaps are smallish and concave, the way Ghu and IBM intended them to be.

I can see Venkman using a Chicony — if he can’t get ribbons for an old Smith-Corona manual, anyway.

The sysadmin has suggested getting a couple of Unicomps as backup for those of us who insist, which means basically me. They cost as much as a dozen crappy commodity keyboards; then again, the M on my work box is seventeen years old, which means it’s long since outlasted a dozen crappy commodity keyboards. And the down-arrow is sticking a little on the upstroke, but that’s about it.

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More debtholes

“One of those modern-life things that just should not be,” she says, and you may be sure that it’s absolutely true:

I don’t know why they call me. The phone number that is linked to the address is NOT the phone number when the person in question lived here — this phone number has always been MY number; it was mine when I lived in the apartment and it moved with me. The phone number to my house was different when the previous owner lived there.

Which demonstrates that they’re far less effective than old-school skip tracers: at best they do some perfunctory Googlage, and all the rest is extrapolated rectally.

And there are scant penalties for their ongoing malfeasance:

A group of people also may sue a debt collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever amount is lower.

One percent. One. It is to laugh. Doesn’t say a damned thing about feeding them to wolves, either.

Well, eff that. As I said before: “I figure that if I actually owe someone money, they can by God send me a proper bill. If they can’t, screw ’em.”

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In search of some John Hancocks

No more anonymous comments on

“Soon, commenting on will be available to all (subscribers and non-subscribers) but those comments will be treated just like Letters to the Editor. All commenters will be required to use their real name and town,” [Publisher Bill] Masterson states.

Newsroom staffers and those working in the public light rejoiced.

How much rejoicing?

In this Internet infancy, anonymity sadly became not only the norm, but expected.

It has led to the most mean, profane, crude, racist, sexist and outrageous personal attacks I’ve encountered.

My guess is the commenters would never say such cruel things to a person’s face.

It’s been wrong to allow this bullying and name-calling to go on under a cloak of anonymity.

But … but … whistleblowers!

Oh, that’s right. For every potentially useful piece of information, there are approximately 1,823 trolls.

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Down in it

I once characterized myself as a practitioner of “self-defecating humor,” which I’m guessing Advice Goddess Amy Alkon would think is a load of crap:

Exactly how much of a self do you have to deprecate? Evolutionary psychologist Dr. Gil Greengross sees self-deprecating humor as a social version of conspicuous consumption (outlandish spending implying that a person has so much money, he could use packets of dollar bills for firewood.) Poking fun at yourself can suggest that you have so much personal and emotional capital that you not only don’t need to sweat to impress a woman, you can laugh at what a loser you are. (This works especially well if you’re a loser like George Clooney.)

Not much chance of that, I suspect.

[A]lthough some humorous self-condemnation can be fun, a constant barrage of it may make a woman’s ears try to coerce her arms and legs into a suicide pact. Also, it’s easy to fall into the habit of using humor as a force field so you never have to open up and get real. This tends not to go unnoticed or go over with the ladies.

For balance, I always try to condemn someone else, and given the state of the world at the moment, there’s always someone else at hand.

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For everything else, there’s FatterCard

Plastic is not good for your health, even if you don’t eat it, says a study:

Consumers are more likely to gain weight when paying with credit cards, because they are more likely to buy junk food as a result, according to a new study.

A Journal of Consumer Research report written by economists Manoj Thomas, Kalpesh Kaushik Desai and Satheeshkumar Seenivasan concluded that shoppers paying with credit cards find it harder to resist indulgent purchases such as fast food or unhealthy treats.

And how does that work, exactly?

Credit cards weaken the impulse control of consumers, making it more difficult for them to rationalize that something is not a necessary purchase, according to the study.

As usual, George Carlin was a bit more direct about it: “No one should be paying the bank eighteen percent interest on Tic-Tacs.”

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Waste management, indeed

Meanwhile in Michigan, somebody’s hiring, or at least somebody was hiring:

Laborers for early outdoor shits

(Another example of superior proofreading from the collection.)

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As reported by a spokesperson

The conventional wisdom says you grab the steering wheel at 9 and 3 o’clock:

The proper grip of the steering wheel starts with the hands at the 9:00 and 3:00 positions. Contrary to the 10 and 2 o’clock positions you probably learned in driver’s school, you have greater range of motion and control with your hands in the 9 and 3 o’clock positions.

There is, however, one distinct advantage of 10/2:

This can obstruct or obscure your spouse’s view of the speedometer and avoid commentary upon how fast you’re driving.

Your automotive interior — or, for that matter, your spouse — may vary.

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Fluffy, not stuffy

Poodles — wouldn’t you know it? — are “genetic psychopaths”:

Full-sized poodles tend to be fairly even-tempered. At around 45 pounds or heavier and 15 inches or more in height, they do not feel the need to assert themselves even when wearing one of those stupid poofy haircuts that dog shows insist is the appearance of a Champion Dog. They seem to have more of an attitude of “Hey, that’s right, I look funny. Come right up here beside me and I’ll make with a big ol’ toothy grin of my own!”

Show types will point out that these stupid poofy haircuts have a perfectly logical reason. Says the Poodle Club of America: “The trim you see in the show ring today is a highly stylized version of the original clip designed by hunters to help the dogs move through the water more efficiently.” They aren’t kidding when they say “highly stylized.”

Small poodles, on the other hand, have one of two thoughts in their tiny little canid craniums: “I shall obtain respect despite my appearance by barking incessantly and ravaging the toes of any creature who dares cross my path,” or, “If I keep barking someone will eventually kill me and put me out of my misery.”

And of course, the little guys live a lot longer than their taller relatives.

I’ve long since made my peace with poodles: my ex had one — a miniature, defined as between 11 and 15 inches — when we were wed, and he was generally better-behaved than I was, except during grooming, when we were both pretty damned balky.

If you want a good reason to be suspicious of poodles, Goethe’s take on Faust has Mephistopheles following him home like a lost puppy: a rather large lost puppy, perhaps, but still, not so intimidating as to suggest to Faust that maybe the study isn’t the best place for this particular dog.

Then there’s Frunobulax, stoppable by neither bullets nor rockets.

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Big Obsolete Al

Al Sharpton has been busily raising his profile of late, most likely because he needs to be busily raising some money:

Federal filings show his failed 2004 presidential campaign remains nearly a million dollars in debt.

The campaign still owes the Federal Election Commission (FEC) more than $200,000 in fines for a litany of nearly decade-old election law violations, a new quarterly FEC report details.

The campaign’s outstanding debts, including its FEC fine, total $925,713.78, according to its most recent quarterly report.

Notes Emily Zanotti:

Apparently, the FEC has been consistently badgering Sharpton for the money, though members of the National Legal and Policy Center, which filed the initial complaints against Sharpton for his 2004 Presidential farce, note that Sharpton cares about his legal problems and his debts about as much as he cares about the true state of discourse on racial equality in America, which is to say, pretty much not at all.

And Sharpton’s gig at MSNBC produces much heat, but no light, and damn little in the way of ratings.

No comment from Tawana Brawley at this writing.

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More juice, more often

The battery pack in the original Tesla Roadster was fairly simple: seven thousand (actually 6,999, but who’s counting?) laptop batteries. In 2006, when the Roadster debuted, Tesla projected that the packs would retain 70 percent of their original capacity after five years/50,000 miles. How did they do? Better than that, actually:

Battery packs in Tesla Motors’ Roadster electric cars will retain an average of 80- to 85-percent of capacity after 100,000 miles driven, according to a study published [Friday] by Plug In America, the nation’s leading plug-in vehicle advocacy organization.

Perhaps better still:

Roadster owners in hot climates are not seeing noticeably different battery capacity profiles than owners in moderate climates.

PIA’s survey might have a drawback or two — they took results from visitors to their Web site, which suggests at least some self-selection bias, and fewer than five percent of all Roadsters are accounted for — but with longevity questions still bedeviling buyers, Tesla surely must be happy about this, considering it was their 1.0 model.

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Bess you’ve seen

It’s the 89th birthday of Miss America 1945, who, had pageant officials gotten their way, would have been introduced to you as Beth Merrick, which sounded a hair less Jewish than her real name.

Bess Myerson was having none of that. (The girl was born in the Bronx, ya know, and you don’t pull that kind of thing on a girl from the Bronx.) She tied for first in the talent competition (with Frances Ladell Dorn from Birmingham, Alabama, who wound up as second runner-up) and took the swimsuit competition outright, despite some logistical issues:

Bess Myerson, Miss America 1945

The swim suit provided to Myerson proved too tight. Rather than wear the ugly suit pageant officials provided as a backup, Myerson had her sister Sylvia sleep in the original suit to stretch it out. When that wasn’t enough, Sylvia altered the suit to improve the fit. The tailoring worked, but Sylvia had to sew Myerson into the bathing suit. That meant Myerson had to wear the suit under her evening gown and talent costume during the final night of competition. While undoubtedly uncomfortable, the plan did the trick.

Well, that and Myerson’s piano prowess, which was apparently substantial enough to get her a record deal. Released late in 1959:

Fashions in Music by Bess Myerson

Andrew Ackers conducts the orchestra behind Bess on a dozen familiar standards, as old as “Ain’t She Sweet” (once covered by the Beatles, kinda sorta), as new as “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing.” Oh, and she also sold bleach.

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Just a Tad

For the last several years, Mad has been running a two-page feature written by Tim Carvell called “Planet TAD!!!!!” which purports to be the blog of a 14-year-old boy, and which, at least at first, looked like it had been designed 14 years before. It’s shown on a browser, of course, but you can’t go to a URL like “galaxyo’”, can you? (“I can’t,” said ICANN.)

So I’m checking out the current issue (#522), and holy veeblefetzer, Tad’s gotten himself a domain name! Or has he? I duly pulled up, and found this:

My son and I are fans of Planet Tad and MAD magazine. Wanting even more TAD, we typed in “” and were shocked to find the domain unregistered! I mean, the book is about a blog. A blog is a website. One can only assume that the domain name Tad would choose for his blog would be “”. Hmmm. Was there a major rift in space-time or could it just be a significant oversight?

In other news, there’s a Planet Tad book.

Off Tad’s current front page, a post dated the 10th:

From all the ads, it looks pretty clear that The Lone Ranger is about two guys.

I feel like someone needs to have the word “lone” explained to them.

Not that I know anyone who writes like that.

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Muffin to report

Derpy figure by FunkoShe’s one of the sweetest, kindest mares you could ever hope to know. Just the same, things can go horribly wrong:

I recently bought this vinyl figure put out by Funko. While Amazon reviews warned me of a chemical odor that lingered on in the figures of this line, I still wasn’t prepared for the dizzying wave that flooded my room when I removed the packaging. Although I’m not particularly sensitive to smells, it was enough to suggest to my paranoid mind the possibility of becoming a grotesque news item.

Such as, for instance, this one. (At least I resisted the presumably obvious “Funko” joke.)

Derpy then spent the next twelve hours or so alternately placed by an open window and shut up in a cupboard. Now that I’ve let her air out for a bit it’s not so bad.

I suspect she’s been hitting the ol’ Otis Spunkmeyer in her spare time.

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Or so the research would indicate

I suspect this statement of being true:

“Among all respondents, 7.3% reported a pregnancy, although this was more common among females than males.” — Abstinence-Only and Comprehensive Sex Education and the Initiation of Sexual Activity and Teen Pregnancy

(This was Megan McArdle’s Fun Sentence of the Week last week.)

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