Suffer, serf

It’s going to get harder to get proper pain medication, warns Roberta X:

As someone who has (comparatively mild) chronic pain, and who has had worse and been on the stronger stuff for it, I will once more point out the obvious: in general, these drugs are not addictive when they are taken for pain; it’s after the pain is gone and the patient has some left that the trouble can start: without pain to dull, a Vicodin (etc.) has pretty much the effect of a couple of highballs, a nice warm glow. (The stuff’ll stop you up worse than a block of government cheese, too, a side-effect rarely mentioned). It can be insidious.

Is it so dire a threat that making your great-Aunt with trigeminal neuralgia writhe in pain for two-three days is an okay price? As it turns out, neither the pharmacy nor the drug warriors much care. Caring isn’t their job.

Your mileage, of course, may vary. My own experience is much like hers, albeit at a much lower level, since I’ve never actually had to take the darn things for more than a week at a time. As for that rarely-mentioned side effect, well, there are times when that’s the result you want.

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Small frustrations

There are things which will make you tear your hair out, and then there are things which will merely make you drop your comb.

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A large volume of adventures

As you’ve probably heard, Entertainment Weekly’s list of the 100 Greatest Novels Ever is headed by Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which was a relatively safe choice, but not an obvious one. Down at #89 was one of my favorites: Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, which I read at fifteen while everyone else was tackling The Great Gatsby (a socially promoted #2). Says the mag of Tristram:

The original anti-novel. An outrageous account of the life of the titular character, whose hilariously meandering digressions ensure that it’s hundreds of pages before he even reaches his birth. This is postmodern literature written before modernism even existed.

That word “modernism” must have thrown them off, because they listed the book as having been published in 1895, which is off by thirteen decades or so. (The first two volumes — there are nine — appeared in 1759; the last dates to 1767.)

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Strange search-engine queries (387)

You’d think the people would have had enough of silly search strings, but I look at my Monday visitor stats, and I see it isn’t so.

“we built this city on basketball:”  If you’re talking Detroit, you need help. Fast. Like before next season.

vs bra haul:  I guess this would be useful if you have one of those mileage-at-any-cost vehicles with a towing capacity of 42 lb.

invisible woman lover:  On the upside, she’d be pretty easy to sneak past the doorman.

susanna hoffs genetics:  Judging by the looks of her, she had some of the best.

wandering eyes solution:  Paste pictures of Susanna Hoffs to the inside of your contact lenses.

real usable brave little toaster that toasts bread:  And, in a pinch, can rescue danish in distress.

chevrolet warrenty homophobic:  More propaganda from the people carrying those “GOD HATES FORDS” signs.

wet pussy driving car:  Okay, who dunked Toonces in the koi pond?

kickass proxy ann breen not my mother’s pearls:  If you work with networks for any extended period, you learn that no proxy is truly kickass.

ralph nader auto ventilation:  Nader owns no car, so keeping one ventilated is not an issue — at least, not personally.

beware the righteous man:  Especially if he owns no car.

It’s A Disaster itunes:  Another happy 11.0 user.

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Digital Botox

It’s a facelift for the Oklahoman, and editor Kelly Dyer Fry makes the pitch:

I hope you have noticed a difference in our style over the last several weeks. We know you are inundated with news throughout your day, so we are working hard to bring you new perspectives each morning. We want to focus on what matters to you, your family, your job and your community.

We are focusing on stories that have an impact. We want to bring you articles that help you understand, help you make sense of the world around you, and help bring you closer to the scene.

And by “you” I presume they don’t mean me, since I make a point of not being inundated by news, or even by “news.”

Which is why I was a fan of afternoon papers for so long: it’s much easier for me to give my attention to the product while sleepwalking my way through dinner. But that’s not going to happen ever again: news providers reason, probably correctly, that what with constant online updates, afternoon papers are deader than pocket squares.

And this bothers me:

We want to bring you stories with heart, stories with soul.

Screw that. I want to see some stories with brains. At least they’re occasionally importing some good stuff from the Tulsa World.

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When it doesn’t pay to come out of the dugout

It was a “nightmarish start,” said the Kansas City Star of Wade Davis’ 69-pitch performance against the Twins last night, during which Davis managed to get only three batters out.

It didn’t seem so bad at the beginning. Clete Davis flied out to left; Brian Dozier drew a walk. Then things got complicated. Joe Mauer walked, sending Dozier to second; Justin Morneau doubled to deep center, scoring Dozier and Mauer; Trevor Plouffe homered, scoring Morneau and himself. At least the bases are empty, Davis might have thought, and surely he felt better when Oswaldo Arcia struck out. Then Chris Parmelee walked, and Jamey Carroll singled to second, sending Parmelee to third. Pedro Florimon singled to second, bringing home Parmelee and moving Carroll to third. Finally, Clete Davis came back; he went down swinging. Fifty-three pitches in all.

The second inning? Well, Dozier singled to right center, Mauer walked, Morneau walked, and with the bases loaded, Davis was sent off to Showerville, leaving Will Smith to get out of the inning. (Plouffe sacrificed to right, scoring Dozier, and then Arcia obligingly grounded into a double play.)

Said Davis afterwards:

“I tried a bunch of different things. I tried slowing it down and speeding it up. Different arm angles. It’s just one of those [things] that sucks.”

Says, this is a record level of futility, breaking the previous record (67) for most pitches for three outs or fewer.

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Gotta get down on fried eggs

That old egg-on-the-sidewalk thing is so last summer. Instead, mix up a batch of cookie dough, then proceed as follows:

Set the sections of dough several inches from one another on a standard cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet on the dashboard of a minivan without tinted windows. Drive to downtown Phoenix on the hottest day of the year. Bake for two to four hours at 116° (47°C). Make sure news media are on hand.

Caution: Product will be hot.

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Dealer, schmealer

In North Carolina, it’s Tesla 1, Franchised Dealers 0:

The North Carolina Automobile Dealers — concerned about competition — set its sights on the green car company last month when it endorsed a bill that would’ve significantly curtailed Tesla’s ability to sell vehicles in the state. The legislation, supported by the Senate’s Commerce Committee, targeted direct-to-consumer sales which eliminate the need for dealerships.

The measure didn’t call out Tesla specifically — it was rolled into an omnibus bill updating a stack of business regulations — but everyone, including Tesla bossman Elon Musk, knew what was up. And Musk took action:

Tesla took both North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and House Speaker Thom Tillis on test drives to show off the car’s capabilities. Musk’s strategy seems to have paid off, as the North Carolina House of Representatives struck down the bill.

Tesla has opened a service center in Raleigh; a full-fledged factory store will likely follow.

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Don’t think once, it’s all right

For some reason known but to Pat Garrett and/or Billy the Kid, Rolling Stone is asking “What is Bob Dylan’s worst song?”

“Worst?” you ask. Then again, not all eleventy-hundred known Dylan compositions are as good as “Forever Young” or “Tangled Up in Blue” or especially “Like a Rolling Stone,” so if there are Best Songs, there must be Worst Songs, right?

My first impulse was to name “All the Tired Horses,” the lead-off track from Self-Portrait, which has two lines of words, one line of humming, and almost no actual Dylan presence. But then, this is a track I actually sing along with when it comes up in the rotation, so I can’t very well call it Worst. So I figured I’d go to something unsingable, the endless (8:33) “Hurricane,” Dylan’s 1975 attempt to raise awareness of the case of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, then serving time for a triple murder. Ten years later, Carter was freed; Dylan had been right all along. But the song is a screechy screed, a testimonial to Tom Lehrer’s insistence that “it don’t matter if you put a couple of extra syllables into a line,” containing lines like “We want to put his ass in stir / We want to pin this triple mur- / Der on him / He ain’t no Gentleman Jim.”

And since I’m in a Zimmermanesque mode, here are two reworkings of “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” one by the (former) Raving Atheist based on a book by Dawn Eden, and one by Replacer based on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Maybe this was Dylan’s best song: it’s not easy to cover, even if you’re as brilliant as “Weird Al” Yankovic, which of course you’re not.

Then there’s “Friday,” best known in its late-2010 recording by Rebecca Black. Dylan is credited as the composer on his own recording (Columbia 45409), which inevitably spawned a cover by the Byrds, who’d been successful with Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and would later record his “My Back Pages.” (Dylan, according to these sources, also wrote Black’s second hit, “My Moment.”)

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Now you’ve done it

She was twelve, and she was horrified to see this … this stuff growing on her:

And so one afternoon when my dad wasn’t home and my mother was on the phone downstairs, I sat in the bathtub, stole one of my mom’s razor blades and grazed it over my shins. I watched my tiny, blonde hairs fall into the tub and I washed them away. I did not cut myself once.

The following afternoon, my mother drove me to a piano lesson. I wore shorts and sat in the passenger seat. Nervous she would notice my legs, I slouched, pushing them towards the windshield.

What are the chances Mom will notice? If you were ever twelve, you know the answer is “One hundred percent”:

“Did you shave your legs?” she asked me, accusatory in tone.

“I don’t know,” I responded. Seriously, I said that. It is the worst possible answer to give when questioned about an action you have clearly, demonstratively taken.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” my mom said, glancing at the smooth legs I was so proud of. “It will just make the hair grow back faster. Now you have to do that for the rest of your life.”

Obviously I have no personal experience with this, but I’ve heard that “rest of your life” warning before, so I’m assuming that it’s a standard rite of passage for girls.

I remember one girl from high school who apparently had been forbidden to so much as look at a razor, and she wasn’t even slightly blonde. What’s more, she was growing the stuff even faster than I was, and the prescribed school uniforms insured that it was always on display. If it bothered her, though, she never said so, and I never considered it my place to ask.

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Dust to be bitten

It was AltaVista, on 19 April 1996, that first noticed my existence in this cyberbackwater and added my then-handful of Web pages to their mighty index. (Yes, folks, I was Googling myself before there was even a Google; at that time, Sergey Brin and Larry Page had only just begun work on their own little project, which was then known as BackRub.)

I’m still here, but AltaVista, now largely forgotten, is not long for this world: owner Yahoo! is putting AltaVista out of its misery on the 8th of July. It was perhaps inevitable: over the last few years, AltaVista has served mostly as a front end for Yahoo! Search, and Marissa Mayer needs to cut costs.

In other news, HotBot is still up.

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When the letter killeth

Flirt with “modernity” however it may, Catholicism is still guided by Scripture and by two thousand years of accumulated wisdom, not necessarily in that order. Now which of these traditions, do you think, prohibits a gluten-free Eucharist? Both of them, apparently:

A great theologian of the Church during the 1200s, St. Thomas Aquinas, was one of the first Church theologians to describe clearly what valid matter is for the Eucharist: “Now among other breads, wheaten bread is more commonly used by men; since other breads seem to be employed when this fails. And, consequently, Christ is believed to have instituted this sacrament under this species of bread. Moreover, this bread strengthens man, and so it denotes more suitably the effect of this sacrament. Consequently, the proper matter for this sacrament is wheaten bread.” Accordingly, Canon Law specifies the use of wheat bread, stating that the Eucharistic species must include unleavened wheat.

It is possible, however, to meet the specifications of Canon Law — if not necessarily the requirements of the most severe celiac sufferers — with low-gluten breads for the sacrament.

(From Improbable Research via this Jennifer Ouellette tweet.)

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Follow you, follow them

Twitter’s Follow recommendations are, often as not, comically absurd; a substantial percentage of my timeline every day is taken up by people reacting to them with variations on a theme in the key of WTF. Having handed over most of my tweetwork to TweetDeck, I don’t often see the recommendations posted on my actual Twitter page. However, Twitter is more than happy to notice whom I’ve most recently followed, and thus suggest (via email) “accounts similar.”

So, day before yesterday, I decided I would follow teen heartthrob turned respected mathematician and author Danica McKellar, probably because I saw someone I was already following retweeting something she’d said and I went “Oh, she’s on here?”

The following (urp) afternoon, Twitter dispatched the following list of recommendations:

Now all these folks have something to recommend them, although their relationship to Danica McKellar is unclear — except, obviously, in the case of Fred Savage.

Oh, well. As long as we’re up, here’s a gratuitous photo of The Actress Probably Still Revered As Winnie Cooper:

Danica McKellar circa 2009

The least obvious, I suppose, is Jewel Staite, unless Twitter is trying to remind me that she played Jennifer Keller (!) on Stargate Atlantis.

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Far from the Columbia

The following paragraph was diverted into Akismet’s spam trap:

Mr. Owsley, then, may be right after all. The Kennewick case is about “American history.” But perhaps not quite in the way he intended. Our route to the ancient history of the continent is troubled by the history of the last five hundred years. Past relationships haunt the current dispute. Sometime this fall, Magistrate Jelderks will decide how best to dispose of the ancient remains. When the case is closed, Kennewick Man likely will have taught us nearly as much about who we are as a people as about who the people were who dwelled on the banks of the Columbia River nine thousand years ago.

This being far more coherent than the usual sort of comment-spam text, I suspected that it had been swiped, and in about 45 seconds I had the source: “Bones of Contention” by Ann Fabian, in the January ’01 issue of Common-place.

Its relevance to the post for which it was intended, which had to do with the Incredible Shrinking Paper Package, is of course nil. And a quick check of the intended link (on revealed that the account in question had already been TOS’ed.

As for the remains of Kennewick Man, Wikipedia reports that they’re now in the custody of the University of Washington, and that the US Army Corps of Engineers, on whose land they were found, is considered the legal owner.

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The past is at hand

In this autobiographical bit, the part of the Disembodied Hand is played by Rebecca Black:

Yes, “Draw My Life” is a Thing.

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Quote of the week

Roberta X on the demise of the Defense of Marriage Act:

“What’s to stop cousins and siblings from marrying, then?” — Hell, I dunno. “Decorum and good taste” is probably out and if they lack socially-normal ingrained abhorrence of inbreeding, they probably are reinforcing recessives already. So the question is really about your right to not be squicked by social deviates; you’re fine if they’ve got to sneak around.

“What’s to stop polygamous marriages? Group marriages?” Bloody-minded prejudice, if you asked the LDS at the right point in history, and that probably motivated by fear of being out-earned and out-bred. Also, these days we have plenty of TV shows demonstrating the pros and cons of one version of polygamy — I wouldn’t sign up for it on a bet. But there’s no rational basis at all to limit wedlock to only two people. And we’ve got lots of divorce lawyers who’d welcome the work. (Man, they’d get fat on it!)

“How about an adult marrying a minor or horse?” (or “…a chair?” etc.) Aha! That, there’s a basis to deny: none of those entities can give meaningful consent or enter into a binding contract.

Now there is what appears to be a concerted effort to lower, or even obliterate, the age of consent; but I suspect the culprits engaged therein are less interested in long-term relationships — children eventually grow up, after all — than in simply getting their hands into some poor kid’s Garanimals.

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