Opening remarks

Truly a grabber:

As the sun dropped below the horizon, the safari guide confirmed the approaching cape buffaloes were herbivores, which calmed everyone in the group, except for Herb, of course.

A wonderful story opening by Ron D. Smith, which inexplicably did not win the 2013 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

Then again, Chris Wieloch did himself proud with this one, which did:

She strutted into my office wearing a dress that clung to her like Saran Wrap to a sloppily butchered pork knuckle, bone and sinew jutting and lurching asymmetrically beneath its folds, the tightness exaggerating the granularity of the suet and causing what little palatable meat there was to sweat, its transparency the thief of imagination.

Sounds like the detective has been hitting the sauce, and I mean A.1 Sauce.

This competition always leaves me in something of a funk, since my own story openings are never, ever terrible enough.

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Macon money from motorists

Bankrate has issued a chart of Car-Ownership Costs By State, and at the Most Expensive end, inexplicably, is not some high-priced spread like New York (which placed second), but decidedly middle-American Georgia, with an annual cost figure of $4223, nearly $300 higher than the Vampire State. And the major contributing factor, apparently, is taxation, Georgia asking $1952 a year while New York settles for a mere $1809.

Something’s screwy here, and I think it’s this:

Motor vehicles purchased on or after March 1, 2013 and titled in this state are exempt from sales and use tax and annual ad valorem tax, also known as the “birthday tax”. These taxes are replaced by a one-time tax that is imposed on the fair market value of the vehicle called the title ad valorem tax fee (“TAVT”). The fair market value is the taxable base of the motor vehicle. The manner in which fair market value is determined depends on whether the motor vehicle is new or used.

Now would I be wrong in assuming that the TAVT is going to make up for several years’ worth of no-longer-assessed “birthday tax,” and that this distorts the Georgia figures for the first year? Bankrate is saying they got their numbers from Kelley Blue Book.

At the other extreme: Oregon, at $2204 a year, with notably low taxes. In the middle: Oklahoma, $3221 a year.

Maybe next year’s numbers will tell us something.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man. Note that his commenters are also suspicious of some of the conclusions.)

Update, 21 October: Steven Lang calls shenanigans.

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To the writer of romance stories

Which means, I suppose, that this is here primarily for my benefit:

Romance requires an obstacle, eroticism requires a trespass. Don’t bother looking that up, I came up with it. A story about two people hooking up at a bar has no romance in it, not because of the trashy aspects, but because there’s nothing for the lovers to overcome.

Which may be why, as Lisa Simpson insists, “romance is dead: it was acquired in a hostile takeover by Hallmark and Disney, homogenized, and sold off piece by piece.”

So what we need would be more obstacles, right?

One time I hit the complete jackpot in that regard when I met a married woman who lived four hundred miles away and who hated my guts so much already she’d created fake accounts on a popular car forum for the sole purpose of slandering me. Oh yeah, plus she was a decade younger than I was and so medically depressed I continually worried she was going to jump out of her condo window. Talk about obstacles stacked on top of obstacles. The stage was definitely set for romance, although the resulting relationship was basically an Amtrak off the side of a mountain. Doesn’t matter. The journey, not the destination, and all that.

There is, I am assured, a thin line between love and hate. I figure I’m far too clumsy to be trusted anywhere in its vicinity.

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Zooeypalooza 19!

This being Labor Day, be assured I have labored long and hard for this moment.

Zooeypalooza 19!

Per possibly permanent Palooza practice, click to embiggen.

Previous Paloozas: ZP 1, ZP 2, ZP 3, ZP 4, ZP 5, ZP 6, ZP 7, ZP 8, ZP 9, ZP 10, ZP 11, ZP 12, ZP 13, ZP 14, ZP 15, ZP 16, ZP 17, ZP 18.

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And the string is broken

I’ve gotten so used to backing successful Kickstarter drives that it almost pains me to mention one that didn’t quite make it:

Laika Believes is a 2D action platformer in the same vein as Cave Story and Iji with some Metroid and Deus Ex influences as well. What makes Laika Believes unique?

  • Massive, nonlinear levels that model the layouts of real locations in a way not yet seen in other platformers
  • Large, choice-rich skill trees that let players approach the game the way they want to
  • A novel defensive mechanic that lets players turn the firepower of Laika’s enemies against them
  • Use combinations of offensive and defensive techniques in unique and exciting ways
  • Smoothly flowing, fast-paced shooting action
  • A story of struggle and hope, full of twists and revelations
  • Rich, evocative art depicting a world dominated by a technologically ascendant Soviet empire
  • Secrets and rewards hidden in every corner for the determined player

I am by no means a gamer, but the narrative was attractive, and I figured all the tech advances would eventually creep into things I need, so I tossed a few bucks into the kitty. And they were tossed right back when the drive stalled out.

To borrow a phrase, you can’t win ’em all.

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What would I do with this?

Big Dick toy machine gun

Little Folks was published from 1897 to 1923 by Samuel Edson Cassino; it was edited by his daughter Marguerite Cassino Osborne. This ad is from the December 1918 issue — not that anyone had any reason to be thinking about guns in December 1918, of course.

(See also Arnold Zwicky’s commentary.)

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The birds and bees are doing fine

Another example of how songwriting credits do not necessarily coincide with actual songwriters:

Over the years, “Money” has generated millions of dollars in publishing royalties. It was recorded by both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, has been widely used in films and advertisements and is now featured in Motown: The Musical on Broadway. But the pianist and singer Barrett Strong, who first recorded “Money” and, according to records at the United States Copyright Office in Washington, was originally listed as a writer of the song, says that he has never seen a penny of those profits.

Unbeknown to Mr. Strong, who also helped write many other Motown hits, his name was removed from the copyright registration for “Money” three years after the song was written, restored in 1987 when the copyright was renewed, then removed again the next year — his name literally crossed out.

Documents at the copyright office show that all of these moves came at the direction of Motown executives, who dispute Mr. Strong’s claim of authorship. Berry Gordy Jr., Motown’s founder, declined requests for an interview, but his lawyers contend that the original registration resulted from a clerical error, and that Mr. Strong passed up numerous opportunities to assert his claim.

I checked my own copy — not an Anna 1111 or Tamla 54027 original, but a reissue — and the songwriters are indeed listed as Berry Gordy Jr., Motown founder, and Janie Bradford, then the Motown receptionist. (Bradford did establish herself as a songwriter; for instance, her name’s on “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby,” a Marvin Gaye classic written with Norman Whitfield and, um, Barrett Strong.)

Matthew Fisher’s similar case in re “A Whiter Shade of Pale” should probably not be viewed as a precedent.

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Strange search-engine queries (396)

Supposedly, this is the end of summer, though most of the kids are back in school already and the equinox is still almost three weeks away. Change is in the air — except here, where we have yet another batch of odd search strings.

this is not a usual occurrence:  Oh, sure it is. Three hundred ninety-six of these. That’s pretty darn usual.

micrometer gdansk:  Your friends don’t Gdansk and if they don’t Gdansk then they’re no friends of mine.

Where did the ethnic Chubbo migrated from:  From behind the Taco Bell on Route 13.

why does my throttle body have two cables on a 1991 Mazda 626 lx:  Why doncha pull one off and see what happens, Chubbo?

100000 leagues under my nutsack wiki:  Arguably, the scariest word of the lot is “wiki.”

art garfunkel “mean meat”:  Which makes Paul Simon the vexed veggie, I suppose.

“the song” “abortion”:  Available for a limited time, and void where prohibited by law.

what words are no longer modern:  Fain would we tell thee, sirrah, but we’re busy twerking over here.

while wild in wood the noble savage ran:  At least he didn’t twerk.

We at the Internal Revenue Service would like to inform you that you have qualified for 2013 subsidy benefit. Simply reply to this secure message with the following details:  Which will then be pasted into the definition of “gullible” at

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From yesterday’s tweetstream:

If that suggests mixed emotions to you, welcome to the club.

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Grab this, pal

From last night’s spam harvest:

That is really attention-grabbing, You are an overly skilled blogger. I have joined your feed and sit up for searching for more of your wonderful post. Additionally, I’ve shared your website in my social networks!

You have no social networks. You’re just a bot, and an ineffective one at that. I know this because I am overly skilled.

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We just don’t give a [bleep]

In fact, for all you fans of Life in the Fast Lane, we take out the whole doggone line:

But on 101.3 FM, this is what we heard instead: We’ve been up and down this highway / there were lines on the mirror, lines on her face … Yup. They cut out the entire line mentioning the word “goddamned.”

This is not precisely what Pink Floyd called “goody-good bull—,” but I suppose it could have been.

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Cleanliness is next to impossible

Armor All is selling what appears to be a baby wipe — the sort that usually comes in one of those pop-up plastic canisters — for automotive purposes. Jeffro is not impressed:

Are you kidding me? All you get done is to clean some of it off, then smear the rest of the dirt around. When it dries, it looks like crap. So, lather, rinse and repeat until it becomes obvious that it will never get clean — those little white sheets are gonna come up dirty each and every time you wipe it across that door panel you’ve already wiped off about thirty seven times.

This is consistent with the Law of Conservation of Filth, which states that to get something clean, you must get something else dirty. Anyone who’s had a baby knows that.

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One of the last of the breed

Peter Egan says he’s ready to retire:

Not completely, mind you; I’ve asked editors Larry Webster and Mark Hoyer if I could continue to contribute feature stories to my two favorite magazines [Road & Track and Cycle World respectively], but I’d like to pull back from the monthly-column routine and have more free time to wander about the country, visiting friends and family and exploring the hinterlands. Just feels like time. I also have a couple of moderately serious health problems (tainted with the usual whiff of hypochondria and sloth) and feel the need to step down onto a slightly slower treadmill.

After thirty years of the routine, I don’t blame him. And this is a position I can appreciate, as I’m only five years younger than Egan and have done my own routine for twenty-three.

R&T has been even skinner than corporate sister Car and Driver of late; I can remember when they were properly stapled instead of perfect-bound and were so thick you could barely bend them into the typical mail slot. (Advertising, or the lack of same, is the name of the game: the 900-page September issue of Vogue, about as bendable as a volume of Britannica, costs the same $5.99 on the stand as either of the car mags.)

Perhaps Egan and I will meet up somewhere down the road. It’s something I, if not necessarily he, would look forward to.

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Probably the last Twinkie report

Scored a box of ten gen-u-wine Hostess Twinkies today at Crest, NW 23rd and Meridian. (They had seven.) For the record, I paid $2.98.

This is called “getting it out of one’s system.” I normally don’t fixate on food of this sort, with the honorable exception of the McRib — and I know where those will be.

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Some of those Immaterial Girls

For the last several days I have been deluged in bogus come-on messages, ostensibly from women with remarkably uncommon first names and no last names, all claiming addresses at Rocketmail, and all demanding highest priority. A sample subject line, from “Barbara”:

Fwd: Fwd:This place is overrun by bots. Let’s move to reddit.

As though these things would actually be forwarded twice. (And Reddit? Um, no.)

In the body of the message:

I’m still here waiting for you to verify so we can meet up.
Please dont take it personal I have to be careful these days.

click here to verify yourself now

This will work out if your not a creep like that other guy I met. I really hope your legit and I am sorry to be so paranoid but I’m being careful this time.

Prove to me your safe I’m waiting here. I attached a recent pic of myself as well. :)

The “click here” goes to something called, which, if it’s anything like, implies that I don’t even need a companion in these matters. (See also “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “One More Minute”: “I’m stranded all alone in the gas station of love, and I have to use the self service pump.”)

The “recent pic” is named “mis_fotos_666.jpg”. Oh, yeah, I’m gonna click on that.

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Negative potential

I’m not entirely sold by this metric, but it does make you think:

Toyota sold almost 10 million cars last year. Divide the market value of the company by the number of cars and you get around $22,000 per car. Do the same calculation for Mitsubishi, who sold around 600,000 cars last year, and you get $10,000 per car. So people think the Toyota company is twice as good as Mitsubishi.

Do the same calculation for Tesla and you get nearly $1,000,000. That’s one million dollars, 50 times as much as Toyota, and 100 times as much as Mitsubishi. Tesla may be in fashion now, but sooner or later they are going to take a fall, and it’s going to be a big one.

Possible insulation: A substantial portion of Tesla’s income — 12 percent, according to its first-quarter report — came from selling California zero-emission vehicle credits, a market whose sole “product” has zero intrinsic value, and right now they own that market, an exceedingly comfortable position to be in. (Nissan, which has now sold a pretty fair number of Leafs, is the next entrant.)

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