Fark blurb of the week

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Since my last attempt at a neologism didn’t exactly become a household word, here we go again, with an XTLA (Extended Three-Letter Acronym): “Technology Rejected At Goodwill.”

It begins with Harvey’s semi-innocent question: “Which of the following do you still own?”

  1. phonograph turntable (two)
  2. phonograph turntable capable of playing 78s (neither, alas, though I have been known to play things at the wrong speed and then digitally speed them up)
  3. 8 track player (no)
  4. cassette player (four, two component decks, one Walkman, one in the car)
  5. 5 1/4 floppy drive (in my backup machine)
  6. 3 1/2 floppy drive (in all three machines)
  7. a car with a carburetor (not since 1995)
  8. a non-cable-ready TV (two portables)
  9. a dial phone (yes)
  10. a corded phone (yes, same phone as #9)
  11. a winding wristwatch (yes, though it needs repair)
  12. a manual typewriter (not anymore)

Brian J. suggests a few additions. I have no ancient game consoles, but I do have three working VCRs, one of which is Beta format (and Beta Hi-Fi at that), and a LaserDisc player.

And come to think of it, I donated a non-cable-ready TV (19-inch Curtis Mathes, the most expensive television in America, and darn well worth it) to Goodwill circa 2001. Maybe this neologism needs a little fine tuning.

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It is not ours to classify

The librarian known as Screwy Decimal gets asked lots of questions in the course of her workday, and this one seems to be staggeringly popular for some reason:

It’s my guess that every unmarried woman over a certain age gets asked one or two million times in her adult life why she hasn’t yet found a nice guy and settled down already. The subtext of this question is, of course, “What the hell is WRONG with you?”

Being sensible, she ducks:

I give a humorously evasive response — “I’m saving myself for Robert Downey Jr.!” — and then I change the subject.

Which is perhaps better for Patron Relations than “What the hell business is it of yours, anyway?”

Besides, what’s wrong with her life? She loves her work, and she’s in a band, fercryingoutloud. I can tell you that she does a highly-creditable version of McCartney’s “Oh! Darling,” though I am in no position to address her claim to possession of “unspectacular legs.”

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Passing Stange

You’re looking at Dutch model Iekeliene Stange:

Iekeliene Stange

Why is she here today? Well, it’s her 27th birthday, but there are more interesting stories to tell. She once told TeenVogue that she’d originally had no particular interest in fashion:

I was never really into fashion before being scouted in Holland. I was a little punk rocker with red dreadlocks, a nose ring, and covered in rainbow bracelets.

This sort of attitude may have benefited her in the fall of ’06, during which she came this close to a fall of another kind. She was working Marc Jacobs’ Spring 2007 show, and the combination of slick catwalk and absurd shoes nearly tripped her up. Screw this, she evidently thought: she took off those damnable shoes, drawing cheers from the crowd, and finished the walk barefoot. (We won’t discuss her headgear, which at a distance looked like a pair of colanders working busily to produce offspring.)

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Flashing your Visa

I have a webcam, kinda sorta. Well, yes, I do actually have one. I plugged it in long enough to verify that it worked, then put it away, and haven’t used it since.

And I don’t think I’d want to use it for this:

Startup company Jumio has debuted its new technology, called Netswipe, that can not only read the numbers off your [credit] card — a process that some smartphone apps already do — but also claims to add a higher level of security to the transaction.

By “higher level of security,” they mean that they can tell, or at least that they think they can tell, whether a proffered card is the genuine article or one cranked out by a fraudster. And you’ll still have to key in your CVV, though you’d use their touchscreen rather than your own keypad, just in case someone is recording your keystrokes.

Commenter Eyebrows McGee rejects the technology out of hand:

This would cut into my drunk, naked shopping time, so no.

Um, okay. So noted.

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Extra! Human Torch in Flame War!

You might recall this from the spring of ’07:

Not one of the San Francisco Giants is over six-foot-five. Talk about unrepresentative.

Some people take things like that entirely too seriously. Take, for instance, this poor soul, reduced to finding inconsistencies between Real Life and the Marvel Universe:

Captain America: First Avenger pretends segregation didn’t exist in the 1940s.

In the comic books, Gabe Jones, one of Marvel’s “Howling Commandos,” is the first black soldier to serve in Nick Fury’s integrated unit. This rewires American history a bit seeing as though integration didn’t begin to take place until President Harry Truman’s 1948 executive order, but at least it acknowledges that it is rewriting history.

And, of course, had they waited until 1949, they could have seen the Baxter Building go up at 42nd and Madison in New York.

Christopher Johnson gives this silliness the dismissal it deserves:

That’s what ruined The Ten Commandments for me. All the actors spoke English, a language that didn’t develop until thousands of years after the events of the movie.

And if we’re gonna be nitpicky about Marvel, if Spider-Man does what a spider can, how come he shoots that web stuff out of his wrists? Actual arachnids, um, don’t.

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A high jade content

And not the semiprecious stone, either. We’re talking some seriously jaded people:

[T]he mighty Missouri has been overflowing her banks long enough for it to become a kind of “normal” and allow people time to start formalizing already-held grudges in terms of how they are to be interpreted through the lens of this flood. I sit and read the comments section of the paper, and listen to people talking (myself included), and realize that a long flood is a much different animal than a short flood. The immediate needs of humanity are lost to time and desensitization, the human face of personal tragedy is another dramatic above-the-fold photograph to be thrown out tomorrow, and the meat of it simply becomes a matter of who is going to pay and by god, I’m not going to see my taxes raised to help those people in those big fancy houses who were dumb enough to live by a river.

This is almost certainly not the way things went in Genesis:

I can only imagine the conversation on Noah’s ark, a flood which was, oddly, shorter than the one still going on here and with far fewer angry animals.

Well, except for the ones left to drown. I imagine they weren’t pleased.

Still, if disasters bring out the best in some of us, they bring out the worst in others. That much hasn’t changed since Biblical times, and likely never will.

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Ride the nice, warm bus

I admit to having been slightly nonplussed (does that make me minused?) by the school-supplies displays at the supermarket this past weekend, despite the fact that this is not normally a phenomenon of particular interest, inasmuch as both my children are in their thirties, fercryingoutloud, and they’ll cheerfully admit that we couldn’t teach them much when we had the chance.

Then it hit me the next day, somewhere in the Sunday paper: Oklahoma City Public Schools start on the first of August.

I know a couple of teachers in other states who will stare at that in disbelief, but it’s true.

And since this is bound to come up:

District spokesperson Tierney Cook-Tinnin says all schools in the district have air conditioning, but about 144 classrooms out of the district’s 2,500 are experiencing problems with their cooling units. Cook-Tinnin says if necessary, students will be moved to another location within the school with working air conditioning.

Given the weather we’re having — warmest June in 100 years, on pace for the warmest July — 94 percent operational A/C sounds a lot better than some of the neighborhoods around here.

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Another fine scrape

A question not calculated — but certainly guaranteed — to get my attention:

I wonder what women did back when my grandmother was young, before safety razors. Did they just not worry about it? Or did they have some other method of removal? I know one of my aunts — of whom I am very jealous — has never had to shave her legs because she has very fine, very blonde hair — and the hair on her legs DOES NOT SHOW. But surely there were enough fair skin + dark hair women back in the day that hair on the legs would have been an issue. Or did they just always wear thick stockings and so many layers of undergarments that it didn’t matter? What did the flappers do? I don’t think the safety razor existed in the 1920s…

The very first safety razor — it featured a skin guard of sorts made of very thin wire — was patented in 1888, though it really didn’t make a whole lot of headway until King C. Gillette (of course) went into production circa 1903, and it became pretty much the standard after Gillette provided a razor for every American soldier sent off to the Great War.

Then again, those soldiers were, um, men. How did women get caught up in this? Cecil Adams’ The Straight Dope advises that it was a two-part process, starting with underarms:

Pete Cook of Chicago has sent me a 1982 article from the Journal of American Culture by Christine Hope bearing the grand title “Caucasian Female Body Hair and American Culture.”

To be sure, women had been concerned about the appearance of their hair since time immemorial, but (sensibly) only the stuff you could see. Prior to World War I this meant scalp and, for an unlucky few, facial hair. Around 1915, however, sleeveless dresses became popular, opening up a whole new field of female vulnerability for marketers to exploit.

According to Hope, the underarm campaign began in May, 1915, in Harper’s Bazaar, a magazine aimed at the upper crust. The first ad “featured a waist-up photograph of a young woman who appears to be dressed in a slip with a toga-like outfit covering one shoulder. Her arms are arched over her head revealing perfectly clear armpits. The first part of the ad read ‘Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair’.”

OMG, objectionable hair! Whatever will we do?

Opaque stockings and variable hemlines made leg hair a non-issue for a couple of decades. What happened?

Though Hope doesn’t say so, what may have put the issue over the top was the famous WWII pinup of Betty Grable displaying her awesome gams. Showing off one’s legs became a patriotic act. That plus shorter skirts and sheer stockings, which looked dorky with leg hair beneath, made the anti-hair pitch an easy sell.

Yes, folks, it’s the dreaded Male Gaze. The Patriarchy wins again.

Of course, this assumes that the Patriarchy has put some thought into the matter, which is a lot to assume of a bunch of, well, guys, especially considering that guys have only a few square inches to scrape off every day, if they bother to scrape at all, which a lot of them don’t. And besides, women have a whole lot more surface area to deal with, which boosts the potential for drudgery.

That said, there are women who spurn the razor, and yes, it is possible to do that and not become “unsightly,” though it helps to have a favorable juxtaposition of hair and skin shades. As for the chemical treatments — well, I’ve tried a couple myself, and I disliked them intensely. Imagine that.

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Nobody else but you

As a rule, I tend to be somewhat skeptical of that whole “soulmate” thing; if you’ve locked your heart into There Can Be Only One mode, you’ll be ill-prepared for that other number, the one that’s hollow at the core.

Chele says, sensibly, that it’s all a little too Cinderella for her:

Cindy couldn’t have hooked up with the baker or the butcher to get her up out the rodent-infested attic? She just had to wait on the Prince, huh? Seriously, in dire straits, isn’t the coach driver starting to look real good? I bet the stable boy had a wicked sense of humor and buns of steel. But no, Cindy up in the house waiting on uncomfortable pumps and a high-falutin’ prince. You ever wonder how that happily ever turned out? What if the Prince was a spoiled Mama’s Boy expecting Cindy to prance around in those glass shoes with the tiara on all the time? Hmm? Trust and believe, Cindy’s fairy godmother would have done her a favor by hooking her up with some random dude one kingdom over and being done with it.

You’d think the poor girl might have figured that out, shortly after the stroke of midnight, when the coach turned back into a pumpkin and her diaphragm turned back into a trampoline. I suspect that this is the purpose of “happily ever after”: to forestall questions like Chele’s.

And there’s something wrong with that whole Jerry Maguire “You complete me” business:

Pull your Me, Myself, and I together and make it work. If you are broken, shattered, tattered, halved or torn asunder… can’t no man/woman put you to rights.

And if it should look like you were “completed” by this experience, what happens when it unravels? Do you go to pieces again? (And if so, are they the same pieces, or do you fracture along whole new lines?)

Romance demands that we take an occasional risk. Common sense requires that we look both ways before plunging off the cliff.

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As the inventory shrinks

The Chicago Tribune looks at a new book by a shoplifting expert, and appends a list of Things Most Swiped In British Shops. Some of these things I can understand: Similac (desperation), HP ink cartridges (absurd pricing), energy drinks (boredom).

But how would you sneak a KitchenAid mixer, not a tiny object by any means, out of a High Street store? You’d practically have to be wearing a trench coat with its own built-in trench.

(Via Fark.)

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The dreaded Third Orange

Orange socks, yet, from London’s Jonathan Aston:

Ankle socks by Jonathan Aston

MyTights.com advises that these socks are “incredibly stretchy and really soft. They will look great with your pants or ankle boots and a skirt.”

This completes the Orange Trifecta, unless of course something else comes along that draws my attention.

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The passing of a hero

We will always need people like this:

Kenneth McLeod, who has died aged 92, was captured by the Japanese in the Second World War and was one of the last surviving veterans who worked on the bridge over the River Kwai.

Now his daughter and son are donating his war medals, Glengarry bonnet and sporran to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders museum at Stirling Castle, where he was based more than 70 years ago.

From the Department of Sheer Ingenuity:

[H]e volunteered to go to Siam rather than return to Singapore with the wounded prisoners. This meant he was in No 1 work party which built two bamboo camps before starting the wooden bridge on the north side of the River Kwai at Tamarkan, immortalised in the epic film The Bridge on the River Kwai starring Alec Guinness.

Mr McLeod sabotaged his work by farming termite eggs which he placed at each joint and at the base of every upright.

In the fictionalized film version, Colonel MacEachern (Guinness), the senior Allied officer at the bridge, would not tolerate this sort of thing. However, the real-life British commander, Colonel Philip Toosey, actively encouraged screwing with the Japanese at every turn, including the termite scheme. Once again, Life > Hollywood.

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Not so fast there, Death Star

You may remember that I was basically betting that I’d finish up this new T-Mobile contract extension before the AT&T engulf/devour process takes place.

The FCC has now informed AT&T that there will be just a slight delay:

Within the past week, AT&T has indicated that, since filing its public interest statement supporting its proposed acquisition of T-Mobile and its opposition comments to various petitions to deny the merger, it has developed new models upon which it now relies. Indeed, AT&T is now expressly relying on these models to bolster its arguments concerning the size of the efficiencies made possible by the merger as weighed against the potential anti-competitive effects. We first learned of the scope of these models on July 13, 2011, during an ex parte meeting on economic issues held at the Commission, and now understand that our first opportunity to access the finalized versions of the new models will be on July 25, 2011… As such, the clock has stopped effective today, July 20, 2011. The Commission will restart the clock once the new evidence has been provided to us in a format and with sufficient explanation and back-up information to enable us, and third parties entitled to have access to the information, to adequately evaluate it. We will also allow time before restarting the clock for those third parties to have a meaningful opportunity to comment on the submission.

I have to figure that anything that slows this process down has to be a boon to T-Mo customers.

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Another word for it

Fillyjonk lays down some modest smack on a pretty — but pretty annoying — plant:

On the way out after finding the points, I noticed a population of a wetland plant with magenta-pink flowers … and the first thing I thought was “Purple loosestrife!” Purple loosestrife (well, the one that goes by the scientific name Lythrum salicaria) is a big, bad invasive plant — I remember a few years ago, when I was in Nebraska for some meetings, a lot of the Platt River wetlands were totally choked with it. And there were some areas up near Chicago where the wetland was a monoculture (or so it appeared) of the plant.

Turned out to be something else that she’d found. However, the term “invasive species” itself is apparently not doing the job for some folks:

The call in question was for a survey on behalf of the City of Calgary, designed with the obvious intent of figuring out how to get people to stop planting non-indigenous species that end up spreading throughout the local eco-system. You know the type: wisteria on the North American East Coast and purple loosestrife here in the West. Would we, the survey caller wanted to know, be less likely to introduce a plant into our yard if we knew it was an invasive species — or an aggressive ornamental? Now that you mention it, I think we’ll stay away from the aggressive ornamentals, those lovely but neurotic plants that are prone to outbursts of snarling and clawing at your bare ankles as you walk by. Nor, apparently, do they play well with other plants. They have a tendency to leap over the garden fence and be rather belligerent towards the local flora.

One commenter suggested there might be more enthusiastic compliance with a local ordinance if it spurned both “invasive species” and “aggressive ornamental” in favor of “noxious weed.” No floral relativism here, thank you very much.

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Who buys these things?

Nissan says the Leaf has now sold over 4,000 copies, and has revealed a few bits of demographic information.

Of most interest to me is whether the buyers are using it as their primary vehicle or simply as a commuter/grocery-getter. Says Nissan, most of the buyers are getting by with just the Leaf, though 19 percent of Leafs share a garage with a Toyota Prius. And owners of other Nissan vehicles aren’t flocking to the Leaf: only 14 percent of Leaf buyers are previous Nissan owners. Clearly this is a case where product characteristics outweigh considerations of brand loyalty.

Range anxiety seems to be a minor concern at best: most Leaf drivers travel about 60 miles a day, well within the car’s range — in coastal California, anyway. In places where it gets really cold, the range is reduced a bit. (Damn you, laws of physics!)

The typical Leaf driver, says Nissan, has an annual income of somewhere around $140k, implying that he can afford the two grand for the 220/240V, 40-amp home charging station, which is twice as fast as merely plugging the car into the nearest 110-volt outlet. Then again, given the cost of living in coastal California — but never mind, we won’t go there.

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