Tepid mess

Malk now with Vitamin RAs a schoolboy, I occasionally got to carry a proper metal lunchbox, though my dominant Oaf gene made it inadvisable to carry a Thermos bottle with it. (I fragged at least two, maybe more. So much of that era is a blur.) When I was old enough to earn the right to travel off campus, I walked the seven or eight blocks to Woolworth’s and blew 25 cents on a couple of chicken wings, which I ate on the return trip. (Just one of the slightly-wonderful aspects of going to school downtown, if you ask me.) At my previous school, I spent most lunch periods playing gin rummy, which is of course perfectly acceptable. So I don’t have much personal experience with Ghastly Cafeteria Food, but apparently it’s for real, and you don’t have to ask Principal Skinner for verification:

“The bagel dog (a hot dog encased in soggy dough) came in a plastic package with the words “Barkin’ Bagel” written across the front. Tough on the outside and mushy on the inside, it was like no bagel I had ever tasted. The hot dog was bland, not juicy. The wimpy tater tots (which counted as that day’s federally mandated vegetable) were pale and wilted in my mouth. Instead of a piece of fruit, like the crunchy apple I would have packed if I’d had time that day, I was given a few cubes of pear suspended in bright red jello.”

This called for action:

It wasn’t anything she herself would feed her child, and certainly nothing she’d want to eat. But the number of children eating free and reduced-price lunches in Mrs. Q’s school was “well over 90%” that year. For many, the Barkin’ Bagel and the soggy tots might be the most complete meal they ate all day. The outraged Mrs. Q became a secret activist. She bought her school lunch every day, took a picture, and, in the tradition of Morgan Spurlock, actually ate it. And she blogged about it.

And now it’s a book. You might not want to read it at dinnertime.

(Via Joanne Jacobs.)

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Electric youth takes a seat

Because I have to do something with this picture, here’s former teen dream Debbie Gibson, who turned forty-one this year, showing the proper respect for Professor Rubik:

Debbie Gibson atop Rubik's Cube

The trick, of course, is to solve it without dislodging her.

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Out of the doorway, the bullets rip

Actually, I don’t think this measure mandates a doorway, but there presumably would be bullets:

A bill filed Tuesday by Rep. Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna, would allow for executions by firing squad. HB 325 would eliminate Florida’s standard method of execution, lethal injection, and allow for executions only by electrocution or firing squad.

He said he filed the bill after overhearing a conversation in his district this past month while [the] U.S. Supreme Court deliberated over the fate of Manuel Valle, convicted in the 1978 murder of a Coral Gables police officer. Valle’s lawyers filed numerous appeals, the last few of which centered around the use of a drug used in lethal injections.

So Rep. Drake prefers high-velocity lead injections. On second thought, no, he doesn’t:

“There shouldn’t be anything controversial about a .45-caliber bullet. If it were up to me we would just throw them off the Sunshine Skyway bridge and be done with it,” Drake said.

It was my great good fortune to arrive at the Sunshine Skyway just a few hours after it plunged into Tampa Bay, and I can assure you, I was pretty much scared spitless coming up the approach. So in one case, at least, that’s a deterrent. Then again, I am not a resident of Florida and plan to commit no capital crimes there.

The only state that currently permits execution via firing squad is, um, Oklahoma, and then only if lethal injection and electrocution are ruled unconstitutional. (O.S.T. §22-1014, if you’re keeping score.) I assume this is okay with Drake, though I’m not inviting him over for Trivial Pursuit:

“In the words of Humphrey Bogart, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’ I am so tired of being humane to inhumane people.”

I suspect he’s also tired of having to attribute quotes correctly.

(Via Mike Riggs at H&R.)

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If you were planning to order a vanity plate in honor of the late Steve Jobs, you might just want to hang a blank rectangle back there:

For years, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs drove around Silicon Valley in a silver 2007 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG without a license plate.

He apparently didn’t drive it much, though: in August it was reported by Carfax — someone identified as “a blogger” somehow got the VIN — to have 21,800 miles. An executive at R. L. Polk, which owns Carfax, pointed out:

“No personal information can be gleaned from a license-plate number. The best way to remain anonymous would be to keep the plates on. And this, in the end, is the great paradox of the mystery. Not displaying plates made Steve Jobs’ car just as conspicuous and identifiable as a man who, say, always wore jeans, a black turtleneck and New Balance sneakers.”

I’m figuring, though, that he spent enough time in the Benz to justify informing the Apple engineering staff that any future products would have to be less fussy than Mercedes’ then-cumbersome COMAND system.

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1492 and all that

This being the canonical Columbus Day — a pox on Monday holidays, or at least the ones on which I have to work — it seems like a reasonable time to mention that a century ago, Chris C. himself was not only not thought of as a despoiler of worlds, but was actually being pushed for inclusion in the Calendar of Saints. From The New York Times, 31 October 1909:

Patrick John Ryan, Archbishop of Philadelphia, and the Knights of Columbus have petitioned the Pope to canonize Christopher Columbus, according to a report from Rome, but “a distinguished prelate of the Congregation of Rites” is quoted as declaring that the petitioners are unlikely to obtain satisfaction. “Too many weaknesses,” he said, “marred the life of Columbus for canonization to be possible.” This view is not shared by all. From Spain and Italy as well as from the United States have come requests that the process be begun here.

Uncertainty about where Columbus was born is a problem, because “the first step in the process of canonization has to be taken by the Bishop of the diocese to which the possible saint belonged.” Many places claim the nativity of Columbus, including Genoa, Savona and Montserrat.

The Times didn’t mention all the “weaknesses” cited, but Columbus’ participation in the encomienda surely didn’t count in his favor.

That said, enough of the movement persists today to support a Facebook page.

(Via Pentimento.)

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In which life almost imitates a beer commercial

Roberta X has, if not specifically fond, certainly specific memories of One of the Most Interesting Men in the World:

A ruggedly handsome, supremely self-confident man who’d done fascinating, challenging things and kept right on doing them as he years rolled by. He owned the garage where my MGB got the difficult work done; he’d show up sometimes with a book, an antique range (or something), an unusual car, a stack of photos from vacations in exotic places with fascinating people. He spoke several languages. A terribly interesting man and he was kind of sweet on me. Oh, my blushes!

Which doesn’t sound too different from the character played by Jonathan Goldsmith in those Dos Equis ads:

“He’s a man that has had life experience, and has been there, and done that, and beyond… If you’re not interested, you will not be interesting. If you don’t experience life, you won’t be a participant — you’ll just be a voyeur; you’ll watch it go by like a parade you’re not involved in.”

I briefly tried pitching myself as the Least Interesting Man in the World, until someone helpfully pointed out that being the Least Interesting was itself a distinction, and therefore, well, Interesting. Things wound up in an infinite loop shortly thereafter. Perhaps I should try to send bricks to sleep by hypnosis.

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Hoopla up to one’s knees

“We Built This City” the worst song of the Eighties? Hardly. In fact, Brian J. will argue that it wasn’t even Starship’s worst song of the Eighties.

As for their best song of the Eighties, I have to beg off, since my favorite of the bunch came out in 1979, which, barring unsuspected neutrino activity, was technically before the Eighties, not to mention before the ritual deJeffersonization of the band.

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Patriarchy Cola

Oh, sorry. It’s not a cola, or a root beer. It’s Dr Pepper Ten, and no girls allowed:

[T]hat’s the idea behind Dr Pepper Ten, a 10-calorie soft drink Dr Pepper Snapple Group is rolling out on Monday with a macho ad campaign that proclaims “It’s not for women.” The soft drink was developed after the company’s research found that men shy away from diet drinks that aren’t perceived as “manly” enough.

This promotion can’t lose, says Lynn:

The only women seriously offended will be those in the Perpetually Pissed Off At Men Brigade. The rest of us will either roll our eyes at the silliness of it all or be enticed to try it because we’re told it’s for men only.

Me, I’d use it to wash down a Yorkie bar.

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We don’t care if you want fries with that

“France must be an example to the world in the quality of its food, starting with its children,” said Bruno Le Maire, the agriculture and food minister for the French Republic, which has now issued a partial ban on ketchup in school cafeterias.

By “partial,” they mean it’s allowed only on, um, French fries, and only once a week. In general:

The rules call for school officials to cut down on fatty foods and introduce more vegetables, fruit and dairy products. Four or five dishes must be offered each day with a serving of cooked or raw vegetables, preferably seasonal. Pupils can have unlimited amounts of bread and water.

Ah, yes, bread and water. Won’t that be comforting?

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Meanwhile under the smogberry trees

Well, Dementians and Dementites, it’s actually happened: Dr. Demento has started a blog.

I can, of course, sympathize with this:

I never used to enjoy writing. I used to put it off and put it off, until it couldn’t wait any longer, and then I’d rush something out, which I’d invariably have to revise and re-write. Plus, I’m not an accurate typist (I do it mostly with four fingers) so I went through Liquid Paper by the quart.

I can work up to six fingers if I have to, but usually I don’t have to.

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High weirdness again

There is no official WordPress file with the name main.css in the wp-includes directory.

I mention this because I found one in my wp-includes directory, and it looks highly suspicious. (It has, of course, been removed.)

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Kristi Harrison at Cracked.com (what, them again?) apparently suffers from Why Do Guys Fall For This Type When I’m Right Here? Syndrome.

And by This Type, she means, well, this type:

Zooey Deschanel getting out of her car

The plaint:

If “cute” was a commodity Zooey would be the Federal Reserve. Scratch that. She’d be China and the rest of us girls would be used food stamps that once doubled as Clue scorecards. THANK GOD cute is not a commodity is what I’m saying.

Do you remember back when Friends was big, and every girl you knew had Rachel’s haircut? (AC)ZD is the Rachel of girl people right now. If you’re of the female persuasion and you don’t want to dress like syphilis in a tube top, this is who you’re probably getting some fashion cues from. And if you’re a guy, a reasonable facsimile of this girl is who you’re trying to meet, not to have dirty, filthy sex with, but to marry and make babies and dirty, filthy noodle casseroles with.

But you never, ever will. Everevereverever. You have a better chance of meeting a meatball lady and making SpaghettiO babies with her. Here’s why.

There follow various minor issues, but the real one seems to be this:

What made the nerds of the world ever think she was one of them?

At what point did ordinary guys who were maaaaaybe a little too into video games or anime or not-sports look at a girl with perfect skin, a tiny little figure, a face that’s pretty by every measurable standard we’ve got and say, “Yeah, that’s attainable.”

Ben GibbardNow answer me this: What is the color of the sky on that hitherto-undetected planet on which Ben Gibbard, front man of the indie band Death Cab for Cutie, who grew up in the midst of the Pacific Northwest grunge explosion in the Nineties, who has a college degree in Environmental Chemistry fercrissake, is not a nerd? And we know what the Z-girl thinks of him: she married him. For all I know, they’re making filthy casseroles together at this very moment, while Kristin drops another $7 at Panera and sobs into her tea.

(Not surprisingly, a lot of people sent me this link, though Dave was first.)

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Boyle’s law of musical choices

The one thing about Susan Boyle I absolutely adore is that she covered a Lou Reed song. As Track One. For a Christmas album.

Okay, it was “Perfect Day.” She obviously wasn’t going to do, say, “Lady Godiva’s Operation.” Still, she’s never cared a whole lot for genre barriers: her first album contained several hymns, “Daydream Believer” and “Wild Horses.” (I bought both those albums, of course.)

Now (well, the first of November) comes Someone to Watch Over Me, and yes, that Gershwin tune is on it. But the eclecticism continues: covers of Joni Mitchell, Tears for Fears and Depeche Mode. (There exists an authorized audio-only version of “Enjoy the Silence” on YouTube, though the single isn’t out for download yet.)

Incidentally, during the 2010 Grammys, Stephen Colbert reminded the audience: “This year your industry was saved by a 48-year-old Scottish cat lady in sensible shoes.” What Joni once called “the star-making machinery behind the popular song” is now way past its design life, I’m starting to think.

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Also, that’s not a knife

If you’re an aspiring tourist, you’re curious about your intended destination: that’s a given.

A Web site promoting Australian tourism apparently took questions from would-be visitors to Down Under, and then gave them wonderfully-snarky answers. A sample:

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV. How do the plants grow? (UK)

A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

Q: Which direction is North in Australia? (USA)

A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we’ll send the rest of the directions.

This gets a stronger-than-usual Read The Whole Thing recommendation, not least for the map of special attractions.

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That mule won’t work

Celine, the Shoe Girl, discovers that one of her idols may have, you should pardon the expression, feet of clay:

EVERY DAY I’ve been checking Vogue.com to see if the latest Miu Miu runway collection had been posted yet. Miu Miu is my current favorite as far as shoes go and I haven’t been disappointed… until… today.

Mule by Miu MiuThere follow pictures of new shoes in the (presumably spring/summer ’12) collection, each one just a little more ghastly than the one before, until finally she just can’t take it anymore:

I’m sorry and I HATE saying negative things about a designer I respect SO much and look up to immensely but I just don’t have any positives here. I don’t like the shape, the colors, the details… I’m so confused!

These ones are the worst! Putty/tan/beige??? A MULE??? Oh say it isn’t so!

Her commenters weren’t particularly impressed either, which suggested that mine would be utterly revolted — or maybe not. We’re an eclectic bunch around here.

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Where ice seems redundant

Now and then things just jump out at you, or at least at me. The opening paragraph here is definitely a grabber:

397 km (247 mi) off the north coast of Norway and 235 km (146 mi) south of Svalbard lies an isolated, lonely 178 km² (68.7 sq mi) chunk of land known in English as Bear Island and in Norwegian as Bjørnøya (we’ll use both terms in this article, as the names are interchangeable in most parlance). Why is such a randomly isolated chunk of land present in this part of the Arctic Ocean and, perhaps more importantly, why is this remote island with a population of nine home to the world’s most northerly skinny-dippers association (one with over 2000 members, at that)?

I looked at a map, and came up with the dubious notion that “Maybe it’s not that cold.” Wikipedia bears me out, so to speak:

A branch of the North Atlantic current carries warm water to Svalbard, creating a climate much warmer than that of other regions at similar latitude. Bear Island’s climate is maritime-polar with relatively mild temperatures during the winter. January is the coldest month, with a mean temperature of -8.1°C (17.4°F) (base period 1961-1990). July and August are the warmest months, with mean temperatures of 4.4°C (39.9°F).

So it’s not exactly ice-cold, but certainly cold enough. About those skinny-dippers:

It wasn’t until 1947 that a radio meteorological station was at Herlighanna. It is this 20-building post that hosts the nine permanent residents of the island; a crew that changes over twice per year (and which maintains an entertaining blog). It is these brave (and occasionally bored) souls who inaugurated the Bjørnøya nakenbadeforening — the Bear Island Naked Beach Club. The only way to enter the club and obtain your membership diploma is to take it all off (in the presence of a member of the opposite gender, they’ll remind you) and brave a dip in the cold Arctic water. Thanks to the twice-per-year staff turnover, visits from the occasional Arctic cruise ship en route to Svalbard, and visits from Norwegian cabinet ministers and government personnel, the membership is well over 2100 people at this point. Even at this latitude, water temperatures can reach 10°C (50°F), but that’s only sometimes; when Minster of Justice and Police Knut Storberget was inducted into the club, his dip was taken at a bonechilling 3.8°C (39°F), which is likely more typical. Keep in mind, this was in August at the height of summer.

Go ahead and shiver. I certainly will.

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