In the sweet buy and buy

A couple of Very Smart Brothas pose the following question:

“Since there are obvious long-term social, emotional, financial, and even physiological benefits to being attractive, would you pay to be more attractive?”

Basically, if you were somehow given the ability to pay money to be 25% cuter or four inches taller or four inches longer or to reshape the head you’ve always been self-conscious about or possess that hour glass frame you’ve always coveted, would you do it?

And, if so, how much would this service be worth to you?

What I need, of course, is to be 20 percent cooler.

The Brothas were wise, I think, to avoid mentioning anything that’s achievable with mere cosmetic surgery: you can get actual pricing for that with not too much effort. But I think they perhaps might be overestimating the value of physical attractiveness. While it seems pretty inarguable to me that beauty is a sort of currency, it is by no means the only acceptable medium of exchange, unless you happen to live in a beer commercial, in which case you have my sympathies (if female) / the damnedest luck (if male).

And they also assert up front that “attractive women lead the ‘easiest’ lives,” which prompts a counter from Andrea Harris:

[L]ook at it from a woman’s point of view. There are times when a pretty girl just wants to be left alone. There are even pretty girls who have other interests that don’t depend on men noticing how they look. To women such as these, male attention is an annoyance if not a positive hindrance to them getting through their day. It is assumed by our culture that pretty women are always outwardly focused — that they want and need attention from others, and that since they are pretty and will get it, this is better.

A staple of the lad mags is the pictorial-worthy young lady who, despite her near-supermodel appearance, can’t get any dates, because guys, assuming she’s booked up until the turn of the century, don’t even try. Of course, the very purpose of a lad mag, other than to sell you stuff — Maxim has a section called “Stuff” that briefly was spun off into an entire freaking magazine — is to encourage its presumably basement-dwelling readership to come out into the light and engage the babes, if not to the point of actual engagement of course, so these pieces do not necessarily resound with credibility.

But returning to the original question: even if I could spend enough money to become Brad Pitt, there’s no reason to assume that Shania will be much impressed. And I prefer to avoid purely speculative investments.

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I was so delighted, a week and a half into the existence of this site, to find myself actually listed in the colossal AltaVista database: they found me in a mere ten days? How did they do that?

Fifteen years and odd later, AltaVista is dead — Yahoo! bought it and put it out of its misery — and I put up this post, which had been sitting in the can for a day and a half, at 4:26 yesterday afternoon.

At 4:40 a Googler showed up in the log, looking for two of the three tags I’d set (“Peter Todd” and “bonk”). Which means that the mighty Googlebot had already spidered its way to that post in no more than fourteen minutes.

Now I thought this level of attention was reserved for, um, important sites. Shows you how much I know.

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Suits, them

Last year, I quoted Professor Charles Hill (no relation) of Yale on the contemporary depthlessness being inflicted on college students:

“[D]uring the upheavals of the sixties, when the curriculum was changed, things got smaller. So as American involvement in the world got larger, our education was shrinking.”

In recent years, a quarter of Yale graduates have gone on to consultancy or finance, which Professor Hill might say is a reflection of that shrinkage:

[He] sees the job world as split into two categories: primary functions and secondary functions; productive and unproductive. Unlike straight-up corporations, he doesn’t see … banks or consultant agencies as contributing to the world in a primary, meaningful way.

On consultants generally:

When the economy goes down, corporations cut back on the use of consultants — Hill argues that if their services were truly needed, the exact opposite would occur (i.e. the corporate use of consultants would increase).

And why are graduates flocking to these fields? It’s that leftover ideology from the Sixties:

“Students have these ideologies dropped down on them from the ’60s and ’70s about corporations being evil,” he said. “For some reason people will work for consultants and banks but not for PepsiCo or General Motors.” As for the non-profit world, Hill sees it as a waste of our talents. “It’s a question of grand strategy,” he said, insisting that our energy is better spent elsewhere.

The appeal of banks may drop by one percent or so this year, what with all the Occupy BFE going on, but I don’t see things really changing until the Ivies, and by extension the rest of higher education, start losing some of these I Wanna Change The World types.

(Via this Megan McArdle tweet.)

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They can’t be beet

Two years ago, Necco wafers were reformulated with natural colorings and flavorings like beet juice and turmeric, the better to appeal to customers who insist on that sort of thing.

Demand promptly landed in the dirt, and now we’re back to Necco Classic:

“There were stacks and stacks of letters and e-mails that said, ‘Why did you do this? You ruined it’,” recalled Steve Ornell, Necco’s vice president of sales… [T]wo years after going all natural, the Revere company has gone back to its original recipe in hopes of recouping lost sales and loyal fans of the 164-year-old candy.

Sales dropped 35 percent during the Unfortunate Experiment. The project’s one defender turns out to be chalk-eating buffoon Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who said:

“The unfortunate experience indicates the need for national action,” he said. “People’s perceptions would change if artificial coloring were removed from all foods.”

After issuing his statement, Jacobson slunk off to the broom closet, where he’s kept two McRibs on ice since last November.

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Running an open campaign

Perhaps “skeleton in the closet” is not the phrase we’re looking for here:

Frank Mezzapelle’s quest to be a city commissioner in Stuart has been complicated by a former girlfriend. The 58-year-old Mezzapelle wants to talk about city business, but a woman he met on an Internet dating site wants to talk about the candidate’s fondness for nude recreation.

“I had only known him about eight weeks when he started sending me this stuff,” said Ruth Schaeffer, 61, of Port St. Lucie. Mezzapelle, who runs in nude 5K races, sent his then-girlfriend a link to a “Euro Naturist” website.

So why is she bringing this up now?

Her former boyfriend’s leisure pursuits displayed “a flavor of narcissism, lack of maturity, values, morals, judgment, ethics, integrity and conduct,” she said.

And so she dumped him immediately, right? Um, no:

“We’ve both moved on. I’m dating someone else,” she said. “But it was just eating away at me that he would be somebody who might be representing other people.”

Anyway, here’s Frank’s Facebook page. I didn’t go digging through his photos. And he says if he’s elected, he will probably give up the Fun Runs and such.

(Via this nudiarist tweet.)

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Run the wheels off ‘em

This situation seems so familiar:

[M]y car is now 12 years old, a 1999 Audi A4 Quattro that is starting to feel its age, especially in the suspension. The rest of the car is great though, the interior still looks only a couple of years old, the body is perfect except for some side mouldings that are falling off (but who cares at this point), the motor runs great, still has the original (stainless steel) exhaust, even the climate control and electric window and power seat motors all still work fine (knock wood).

Bought it used in 2005 with just under 40k miles, and have only put another 45k on it over those six years. Best quality car I’ve ever owned, end of discussion. Which is probably why I still have it, and even today, would still pay to fix the suspension, if it wasn’t going to cost me at least half of what the car is worth at this point.

On my 11-year-old ride with 132k miles, I’ve already redone the suspension and most of the emissions stuff. The driver’s seat slides, the passenger’s doesn’t; it’s positioned well enough for Trini that it’s never occurred to me to have it fixed.

And then there are the electronically-controlled engine mounts, which I didn’t even know I had until I’d had the car for a year:

A 2-chamber mount works in conjunction with the engine’s Engine Control Module (ECM) to vary the volume of fluid in the mount, based on engine rpm. It does this by opening or closing a valve between two chambers inside the engine mount. At low rpm, the volume of fluid is increased to provide maximum damping. At higher rpm the volume is decreased, providing the firmness needed for optimum feedback to the driver.

Until, of course, it doesn’t do that anymore, necessitating the writing of a large check — or two large checks, in case the failure of the mount also just happened to take out the ECM.

What I find amusing about this is that these gizmos seem to be optional on the pricier Porsche 911s, and yet they were standard on a comparatively-ancient Japanese luxobarge. God knows what Stuttgart is asking for such things, though I’m sure the phrase “large check” somewhere applies.

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I can’t get no, um, satisfiction

Wired this month has a sidebar on “satisficing,” purportedly a blend of “satify” and “suffice,” defined as “getting a good enough outcome when you’re lacking complete information about your options.”

The precise conjugation of that verb, I couldn’t tell you, but its applicability to dating seems obvious. Peter Todd, professor of informatics and cognitive science at Indiana University:

“Do you keep searching and hope something better will come along, or do you stop searching when you find something that looks pretty good?”

Women will recognize this instantly as the dilemma of Mr Right vs Mr Right Now. Professor Todd proposes a Twelve-Bonk Rule:

[T]he best strategy for picking a mate is to date enough people to establish some baseline standards, then settle down with the next person you meet who exceeds the bar. According to Todd, you should have a baseline after dating roughly 12 people.

Which is, I hasten to add, not the same as dating 12 people roughly.

At the present rate of activity, I should have accumulated enough data for statistical significance around the year 2036. Whether it will matter at that point, I couldn’t tell you.

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Nice work, Kathy Beth

It’s Katy Perry’s birthday, and, well, I don’t have any shots of her in her birthday suit or anything like that, but I did stumble across this shot from the ’08 MTV Europe Music Awards:

Katy Perry at the 2008 MTV Europe Music Awards

This struck me as a nicely unforced pose, and for once she’s not overdoing the pink, which isn’t even a color anyway. Further, as with the last Katy Perry picture I posted, you don’t see her alleged doppelgänger looking back at you. But after I was finishing off the FTP, I took one last look, and holy cereal bowl, she looks kind of like Rebecca Black — who, incidentally, appeared in Katy’s music video for “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” about two and a half years after this picture was taken. Make of that what you will. (“Kathy Beth Terry” was Katy’s übernerd alter-ego, featured in said video.)

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Utterly maized

Pizza, you say? Forget about it. Herman Cain’s strength is cornbread:

I’m starting to like Herman Cain more and more, not because I’m in ardent agreement with any of his policies, but because every time the man opens his mouth, entire public university American Studies departments melt down. Only Herman Cain has the capacity to put an entire segment of the journalist population on heavy anti-depressive medications. Only Herman Cain can re-purpose the Democrats’ own race-baiting language to serve his needs.

With the exception of the need for a running mate:

If Michele Bachmann had held off the voices in her head for two more months, they could have run on the same ticket and then everyone in America who identifies as a “progressive” would be stockpiling canned food and rubber pellet guns and preparing for the apocalypse.

Incidentally, before you ask, I would just as soon not have sugar added to my cornbread. But that’s just me.

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Mass historia

By now, Jennifer is ready to bring back the Hitler Channel:

[A]t least Hitler and the Nazis were actual history (if not necessarily the sum total of it), as were “Hitler’s Bodyguards” and “Hitler’s Inner Circle,” “Hitler’s Rise to Power” and “Hitler’s Fall from Power” and even “Hitler’s Dry Cleaner,” if that’s what they’re reduced to. But I just went through what my cable-on-demand calls “history” offerings, and found nothing remotely historical about any of it. Screw ice road truckers, screw pawn shops, screw hairy bikers and double-screw anyone who takes Nostradamus or Mayan Apocalypse 2012 seriously … just because such shows deserve to be history doesn’t justify their presence on that channel.

It’s not just History, either. Remember when A&E was, of all things, “Arts and Entertainment”? These days — well, let Maury Chaykin tell you:

“I worked on a fantastic show once called Nero Wolfe, but at the time A&E was transforming from the premiere intellectual cable network in America to one that airs Dog the Bounty Hunter on repeat, so it was never promoted and eventually went off the air.”

I’m wondering how I’m going to break it to the grandchildren that MTV used to run music videos 24/7.

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Long-distance drivearound

Last time anyone looked, Joe LoCicero’s ’90 Honda Accord had 1,000,075 miles on it.

Honda, happy to promote this remarkable feat of automotive longevity, threw a street party for Joe and his car, following which they presented him with the keys to a ’12 Accord.

Honda’s official recognition of the feat:

So how did Joe do it? For starters, he’s read and followed his owner’s manual and maintenance schedule to the letter. He’s also a stickler for fluids, he checked them weekly, switching them seasonally (10W-30 in summer and 5W-30 in winter), and changed them every 5,000 miles. He’s been loyal to the same brand of oil and never let it go below a quart low.

You know how most people let their fuel go to almost empty? Joe never did. He’s also a creature of habit, using only Honda air, oil and fuel filters. Joe never rode heavy on the brakes, and changed the fluid every few years. He’s also replaced the fuel pump, both cooling fans and the radiator twice.

Besides his fastidious maintenance, Joe’s Accord made it to one million miles because he’s loved it. He’s treated it with respect and always drove it responsibly. In fact, Joe has only gotten one speeding ticket in a million miles—that must be some kind of record.

There have been upholstery updates as well, which should surprise no one. The engine’s been apart once, said Joe, but only the once, and it didn’t need rebuilding. I think it’s probably a safe bet that it has the 5-speed stick: automatics just don’t last this long.

What does the local Honda dealer think?

“Joe is a testament to what you can do if you maintain your car,” said Ron Russell, Darling’s director of operations in Bangor. “Thankfully, not many people do it, or we’d be out of business.”

Um, yeah.

(Via Fark.)

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For their eyes only

We begin with this:

In a recent case brought by the ACLU of Southern California, the FBI denied the existence of documents. But the court later discovered that the documents did exist. In an amended order, U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney wrote that the “Government cannot, under any circumstance, affirmatively mislead the Court.”

The most transparent Administration in history now replies “Yes, we can”:

A proposed rule to the Freedom of Information Act would allow federal agencies to tell people requesting certain law-enforcement or national security documents that records don’t exist — even when they do.

Under current FOIA practice, the government may withhold information and issue what’s known as a Glomar denial that says it can neither confirm nor deny the existence of records.

The new proposal — part of a lengthy rule revision by the Department of Justice — would direct government agencies to “respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist.”

This is of course wonderful, if you’re a lying sack of shit: previously you could deny lying, or that whole “shit” part, but now you don’t even have to admit to the existence of a sack. No wonder Justice is embracing the concept.

At this point, we’re going to have to nuke DOJ from orbit.

(Via this Poynter tweet, pushed forward by Don Mecoy.)

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Some of these are patently absurd

Miriam contemplates the state of the art, and some things, she concludes, are just not ready for prime time:

Great inventions: Flat screen tvs, dishwashers, air conditioning, microwaves, eyeglasses, and above all iPhones all do what they are expected to do and then some.

Need more work: garbage disposals, digital thermostats, electric cooktops, hearing aids, Bluetooth devices, and above all, pantyhose.

You already know what I think about digital thermostats. I’ve pretty much made my peace with the garbage disposal, and I own three Bluetooth headsets, not one of which I have bothered to pair with my phone, and maybe two of which I can actually find.

I complain occasionally about microwaves, but this is usually because I was dumb and set the product directly in the center of the turntable, which does next to nothing to insure actual even cooking.

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Anything we can’t stop them from doing

My current Book at Bedtime is the memoir Yossarian Slept Here by Erica Heller — yes, Joseph’s daughter, about my age — and I must pass along this particular paragraph, since it seems as implausible as some of her dad’s own:

The living room on the tenth floor seemed to scream “piano,” so we got one, a Mason & Hamlin grand with a slightly cracked sounding board. Somehow it was decided that I’d be the logical one to take lessons. So one day, a petite, soft-spoken, gentle Russian woman named Essie Gilado arrived and began giving me piano lessons, poor woman. I recall an endless amount of Scarlatti sonatas and the classic arguments with my parents about insufficient practicing. I struggled a bit learning to read music, although I could play by ear. One afternoon, right in the middle of my lesson, my father came in. He asked to sit down at the piano bench, then placed his hands on the keyboard and immediately played the piece through to perfection. Essie applauded. I gaped in stunned surprise. He didn’t play the piano. In fact, so far as any of us knew, he’d never played any instrument. How could he have possibly known not only how to play but also so effortlessly and with such aplomb?

The piece is not identified, but I assume it was in a Major Major key.

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Line up and get your bubble

“It is not the desire for security that causes our ruin,” says Cobb. “It is the implacable demand for it.”

Listen to the rhetoric and you will see the fragile state of the American soul. We demand infinite recourse against all slights and offenses. Against fat in the food at McDonald’s. Against incompetence in the teachers in free public schools. Against offensive remarks and jokes. Against the very presence of unwanted people from undesirable countries. Against unbelievers. Against believers. Against the possibility of dying of cancer. Against the belly fat you get from AIDS medication. We have become a nation of infants with zero tolerance for pain. So somebody has got to pay.

Needless to say, someone profits from this state of affairs:

Today is a good day to be a grifter. That is because all the yellers and screamers want to hear is how somebody screwed up and made their life miserable. All a grifter has to do is agree and sell them an insurance policy against that somebody, write up some legal fine print that says “you take your chances” and voilà — there’s an app for that.

“Democracy,” said Mencken, “is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” He said that ninety-five years ago, but it could have been said ninety-five minutes ago with equal validity.

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So proudly she hailed

Zooey Deschanel takes on the National Anthem:

Allow me, please, a Marv Albert-ian YES!

(Since it’s their actual embed code, I think we can safely assume that this presentation has the express written consent of Major League Baseball.)

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