Memo from the Shipping Department

If you’ve never paid any attention to fanfiction, like roughly 98.9 percent of the known world, you’ll need to know that “shipping” in this context is a truncated form of “relationshipping,” which is the practice of pairing off existing fictional characters in a way presumably not intended by the original creator(s) of those characters. Perhaps unsurprisingly, not all such configurations work well:

I admit some of the fan “shippings” — most of them, in fact — don’t really work for me, but I could see Fluttershy and Big Macintosh slowly noticing each other over the months, and somehow eventually shyly starting to date… And I think she’d be a much better match for him than Cheerilee would.)

Of course, given the preponderance of female characters on MLP:FiM — or, more precisely, the dearth of male characters — rather a lot of ships are written specifically for that sweet mare-on-mare action. Or something like that.

I have, you may safely assume, read entirely too much of this stuff over the past several months. Of the pairings Generally Regarded As Straight, Fluttermac (to give it its standard abbreviation) is one of the more popular ones, simply because it’s one of the more plausible ones: both of them are somewhat reticent, dutiful and, yes, shy, and there’s no reason to think that either of them is simply looking for a Good Time. (Twimac works similarly, though this is based on the notion that Twilight Sparkle is utterly clueless about matters of the heart, a characteristic with only the vaguest roots in series canon.)

Then again, you might also assume that I have written entirely too much of this stuff over the past several months. I got an actual trilogy (three installments, 40k words) out of what originated as a human/pony pairing.

(Aside: Anent said trilogy, I mentioned to a friend earlier this weekend that I’d written a human/pony romance. “Which pony?” she asked. Upon being told that it was Twilight Sparkle, she said simply “Of course.”)

A later 10k-word effort set up a chance meeting between Twist, one of the grade-school fillies in the series, and a colt (an original character of my design) whose family vacation brought him to Ponyville. “Half a lifetime later,” says the pitch, “she still haunts his dreams.” Anyone who knows me might legitimately wonder why I didn’t write that one first.

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Detroit responds

Five years ago, I set out to save the American auto industry from itself. Did they heed me? Not much.

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You have to feel for the New Orleans Hornets, especially if you were a fan during the Chris Paul/David West years. With both those guys gone, just about every season since has been devoted to rebuilding, and with both stalwart Eric Gordon and hotshot rookie Anthony Davis sidelined — well, it’s hard times in the Big Easy. Seldom did it look more so than in the third quarter, when the Thunder shut them down to the tune of 30-13, running a ten-point lead out to a 27-point lead and holding on to win 100-79.

The only OKC starter who got any minutes in the fourth quarter was Thabo Sefolosha, and he retired fairly quickly. The Thunder shot almost 51 percent, which always helps; nine of twelve players recorded at least one block, which helps even more. And there was another highly Westbrookish Russell Westbrook line: 18 points, 10 dimes, five boards, five turnovers, three steals. The Two Kevins split 39 points almost down the middle (Durant 20, Martin 19). And there’s Kendrick Perkins in double figures again, with ten.

Still, the Hornets had the game-high player: Ryan Anderson, who dropped in 21 points and retrieved 10 rebounds. Endless swats took care of New Orleans’ usually-formidable three-point game: only six of 24 treys fell in. The Bees weren’t that much better from inside the arc, either, shooting 37 percent. Local (to OKC, anyway) favorite Xavier Henry got some bonus time in a lost cause; he got four points in the last 11 minutes.

This is the last Thunder trip to New Orleans for the season. They’ll hang around tonight — wouldn’t you? — and will eventually find their way to Brooklyn, where on Tuesday Dem Nets propose to give them a much rougher time.

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Cindi Mayweather is out of uniform

Today is the 27th birthday of singer/songwriter/visionary Janelle Monáe, one of those women who looks great in a tuxedo:

I bathe in it, I swim in it, and I could be buried in it. A tux is such a standard uniform, it’s so classy and it’s a lifestyle I enjoy. The tux keeps me balanced. I look at myself as a canvas. I don’t want to cloud myself with too many colors or I’ll go crazy. It’s an experiment I’m doing.

Contrarian that I am, I bring you Janelle Monáe, not in a tux:

“Cold War” is the last (so far) single from The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III), which you presumably have already bought.

A search for “Janelle Monáe not in a tux” turned up this stirring still:

Janelle Monae not in a tux

Wikipedia’s stories on musicians inevitably cite a genre. This is how they describe Monáe: “Neo-soul, funk, art rock, dance-punk, experimental alternative rock”. If you can pull off a fusion like that, you can wear pretty much any damn thing you want.

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Somewhat rounded off

I did drop in at the Merry Market today, to snag one of these calendars, and I noticed that the vendor had a little plastic square stuck to the top of her mobile phone.

“You’re using Square?” I asked.

“Why, yes, we are.”

“I have to see this,” I said, and pulled out the trusty Visa card. We went through several swipes with no result; I proffered Amex instead, with the same results.

The reasons why, we couldn’t tell. The teensy card reader, she opined, might not be picking up enough of a trace. Maybe if it were longer … but no. If they made it longer, they’d also have to make it taller, or they couldn’t very well call it “Square,” could they?

In retrospect, I’m thinking that maybe the reader was working just fine, and it was a lack of outgoing signal from the phone that was causing the failure. Cell service is spotty in some parts of town, especially indoors. And Square says upfront that WiFi is to be preferred to cell transmission. Not knowing how she had her phone set, I can’t swear to anything, but this makes sense to me.

And no, she didn’t lose the sale: I forked over a twenty, and that was that.

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Shrinkage averted

Last year, I noted for record that the Consumer Reports Annual Buying Guide Issue had shrunk by over 130 pages over a five-year period.

Be it noted that the 2013 issue has in fact two pages more than the 2012 edition. Then again, I am not withdrawing this prediction:

By 2015 at the latest, you’ll have to be subscribing to their Web site and/or installing their app to get any of this information. Count on it.

During the past year, entreaties to sign up for the Web site have increased an estimated 15 percent.

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This very morning

A four-hour “pop-up shop,” and more besides:

Mayfair Heights Merry Market

4932 is about in the middle of the east side of Mayfair Village, south of NW 50th and May; if I remember correctly, this was once Interior Fabrics. Stein Mart is 4916, and Michael’s is 5012, if that helps.

Here’s what’s on offer.

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Utah stubborn

The Jazz seldom if ever go easily. Down eighteen at one point in the second half, they fought back to within five, but the Thunder weren’t in the mood to give anything away and dispatched the Utahns, 106-94, dropping them to four games back in the Northwest.

Bereft of superstars, the Jazz were more than happy to come from all directions. Six of them hit double figures, and second-year center Enas Kanter had his best game ever: 18 points on 8-11 shooting and seven rebounds — in fifteen minutes. Al Jefferson, quiet in the first half, came alive in the second, winding up with 16 points and 11 boards. Mo Williams played; Marvin Williams got a DNP-CD. Utah hoisted 23 treys, though only seven of them dropped through. They did lead in total assists, though, 24-21. And they tried their darnedest to garner second-chance points, grabbing 21 offensive rebounds. (They had only 19 defensive rebounds.)

Apart from bricking nine free throws for no good reason, the Thunder were hitting well, shooting 52 percent from the floor. (They had one more make than the Jazz, despite taking 17 fewer shots.) As usual, Durant/Westbrook Industries loaded up the net — KD with 25, Russell with 23 and 13 rebounds — and Kevin Martin paced the bench with 19. More surprising, perhaps, was Kendrick Perkins’ line: Perk had 12 points, six boards, and five assists. Apparently Scott Brooks was serious about moving the damn ball, whydoncha. The turnover bug was back — 21 of ’em, eight by Westbrook all by his lonesome — and you have to figure that the team will hear about that on the way to New Orleans tonight.

And hey, being 13-4 after a 1-2 start is nothing to sneeze at. Tuesday, we’re off to see the relocated, rejuvenated Nets.

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Armed and extremely clerical

There was a minor flap over this revelation:

The Oklahoma Insurance Department spent more than $180,000 on high-tech shotguns, bulletproof vests and seven police-package vehicles that agency officials say were needed as part of its expanded focus on criminal insurance fraud.

But the purchases have raised eyebrows among some lawmakers who question why the agency’s nine-member anti-fraud unit — which primarily investigates white-collar crimes — needs equipment typically used by police officers and SWAT teams.

Also raising an eyebrow is Jennifer, who asks:

I have one question for the elected Insurance Commissioner John Doak. When you spend $180,000 with the super ninja tactical outfitters, do they throw in the jackboots for free as an incentive?

Doak’s office put out a press release at 5:03, too late for the 5-pm news, explaining the purpose of this unit:

They are some of the most experienced criminal investigators in the state of Oklahoma. They investigate serious crimes including embezzlement, exploitation of the elderly and fraud. We’ve had cases where victims lost their life savings. We helped track that individual all the way to Florida where he was arrested. Our investigators also respond to natural disaster scenes, looking for unscrupulous contractors and making sure vulnerable consumers aren’t victimized for a second time.

I tell you, some of those embezzlers are downright dangerous.

Doak also says that his department is turning a profit making deposits into the Treasury:

In FY 2011, the OID deposited $121,055,455 into the General Revenue Fund, $59,884,843 into the Firefighter’s Pension Fund and $24,648,957 into the Police Pension Fund.

Exactly how much of future sums might be creditable to the Stoßtruppen, he didn’t say.

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In fact, it’s downright weird

Love, they say, is strange, and by “they” I mean Mickey and Sylvia:

This song was strange in several regards. For one, it came out in 1956 on Groove Records, the RCA Victor R&B label, and who knew RCA Victor even had an R&B label? It was an enormous hit, and for some reason RCA closed down Groove shortly thereafter, only to reopen it as a country label. For another, according to the record label, McHouston (Mickey’s real name) Baker and Ethel Smith wrote it. This matters only if you know that (1) Bo Diddley recorded this song first, though his recording remained unreleased until 2007, and (2) Bo Diddley, about this time, was married to a woman named Ethel Smith.

Sylvia, whose last name was Vanderpool, married a fellow named Joe Robinson; in 1973 she recorded something called “Pillow Talk,” which is nearly as brilliant a blend of the erotic and the hilarious as “Love Is Strange.” (She’d offered the song to Al Green, but Reverend Al wouldn’t touch it.) She and Joe later set up Sugar Hill Records, among the oldest of the old-school hip-hop labels.

Sylvia died in 2011; Mickey, who had moved to France in the 1960s, died last Tuesday.

And if you think you might have heard that guitar riff from “Love Is Strange” somewhere else, let me assure you that you did.

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The 50-cent solution

Remember unit pricing? It usually was more sensible than this:

Spirit by J. P. Stevens

J. P. Stevens ran a series of ads with this theme in the late 1960s. Of course, you couldn’t actually buy them one at a time, but you weren’t supposed to think about that.

And whatever happened to J. P. Stevens?

In the mid-1980s Stevens ran 59 textile plants employing 27,800, 10,000 of whom were in South Carolina, where it based its operations center, making it the state’s third largest employer. Stevens had also become renowned for its opposition to unions, and its intractability in labor negotiations was met with a well-publicized consumer boycott. Struggles at one Stevens plant were dramatized in the 1979 Academy Award-winning movie Norma Rae.

But that was then. This is now:

In 1988, J. P. Stevens home fashions businesses were acquired by WestPoint Pepperell. The remaining Stevens business segments, including fiberglass, were organized into a new company known as JPS Textiles, Inc. Over the next two decades, the plant underwent many improvements through continued capitalization making it one of the most advanced fiberglass weaving operations in the world.

Today, the company is known as JPS Composite Materials Corporation.

And they probably don’t have anything selling for a quarter.

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And after all that

So far this week, Rebecca Black has disclosed the actual title to her still-not-completed album (After All), the fact that she has yet to put to use the surfboard she got as a Teen Choice Award winner, and that she got an exceedingly informal marriage proposal during her Australian visit.

And that was just in these three minutes, not including her talk with Teen Vogue.

Nonfans, of course, are still loath to say anything actually nice about her, though occasionally one will concede that her new single “won’t make your ears bleed.”

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Quote of the week

Richey Piiparinen on one of the uncelebrated advantages of the Rust Belt:

[B]eing born into post-industry is a good first lesson. Life is an obstacle. Cleveland prepares you.

For what?

Bullshit, or at least the proclivity of it.

Aspirations abound now. If you were only creative enough, rich enough, worldly and knowledgeable enough, then: you can become something, a star — evolved from your basic beginnings. Fine. But it’s this ambition-before-all-else mindset that has also extended our eyes from our feet, or our aspirations from our selves, and so for long the country has left its principles behind to build castles in the air with no foundation. Consequently, our culture — our sense of being from somewhere, of bleeding the aesthetic of someplace — has taken a hit. It’s no surprise, then, that our castles keep falling down into a pile of broken promises that never seem to be able to feed, clothe, or employ us properly.

To hell with it. Time to be proud in the gift of being grounded. It is the only way up.

Note that phrase “ambition before all else.” It’s killed this town once before, and it may do it again, as we try to graft A-level amenities onto a solid B-list community. It’s why we’re going to put roughly a third of a billion dollars into a convention center just in time to watch the industry’s death throes. It’s why we’re going to scrape our one legitimate architectural landmark off the ground entirely and replace it with God knows what. And it’s why we’re desperate for more skyscrapers when what we really need around here is more pedestrians.

Kevin Durant gets this town better than the movers and shakers do. I’m starting to think it’s because (1) he’s only 24 and (2) he wasn’t born here. KD is grounded in a way that I wish I was, that the Chamber of Commerce never will be.

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Semipanic mode

It was a busy morning at the shop yesterday, so I barely had enough time for a myocardial infarction when I discovered that every last post — 12,700 of them — had been sheared of its category and tag information. Worse yet, the View All Posts function in the WordPress admin showed no posts to view. Despite this, permalinks were working and comments were being posted.

Okay, fine. I’ll bring up phpMyAdmin and look at the database. “Like hell you will,” said the application. (Well, technically, what it said was “#1030 – Got error 28 from storage engine.”) A bit of poking around MySQL stuff, and I discovered a likely explanation: the /tmp directory on the server had so much crap in it that writes were being refused for lack of disk space.

Okay, fine, part deux. I’ll — um, no, I won’t, I don’t have a proper SSH client on this box. In the time it would take me to install (and recall how to use) PuTTY, I could turn in a trouble ticket, and so I did. Things were back to normal in about 45 minutes.

As it happens, the 29th of November is normally the day I renew the hosting deal for another year, so the first thing I thought, actually, was “Holy flurking schnitt, they’re taking me down.” Not so.

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Zoom 2.0

It’s out of my price range for the immediate future, but this definitely goes on the Automotive Wish List:

[T]he 2.2L Skyactiv diesel engine will power the 2014 Mazda6. With 173 horsepower and 310 lb-ft, the oil burning Mazda should be an interesting alternative to the VW Passat TDI.

Not an enormous number of ponies, but 310 lb-ft? An Infiniti G37 has 270 at the outside.

And apparently it doesn’t require a tank of blue goo every 10k miles, either.

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A favorite from the “It is written” file, by Alice Kahn: “For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press 3.”

Morgan Freeberg explores similar turf on your desktop:

I’m seeing a lot of job postings for programmers in C#, .NET, Java. So … web development. And when I consume the web, what new technology do I see being developed, you know, on the web? Advertisements. Popup windows. Videos that auto-play, with sound and music. Little applets and widgets that wait until you’ve managed to call up the article you wanted to read … and then explode in your face with useless bits of nonsense. Refinance your house, pull in those chicks with some testosterone, make your dick bigger. Obama wants to send you back to school, find out if you qualify.

Which goes back to an earlier statement of his:

I swear, if we could leverage technology to actually do productive things, as efficiently as we can leverage technology to go bothering each other, by this time we would have journeyed off to the brightest star in the Sirius constellation, dragged it back here in a great big net, and ground it up in a giant food processor to make a delightful sweetening powder for our corn flakes.

Actually, Sirius is the star, Canis Major the constellation, but I get the idea.

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