Sputtering around

Hanging around in Yahoo! Answers has given me new insights into America’s car smarts, or the lack thereof. I mean, it’s damned near 2013 and people are still whining about a bad tank of gas?

Why, yes, they are:

On the most recent edition of MotorWeek, Pat Goss warned about the dangers of bad fuel. What danger? The last time I encountered a problem with subpar pump gas was almost fifty years ago.

In his best scary, boogeyman’s-gonna-get-ya voice, Goss warned that “problems” can occur when patronizing “low-volume gas stations.” Huh? No such animals exist around here. So many stations have closed over the past 20 years that only the volume guys remain.

But people will cling to this belief, simply because it’s a whole lot easier to swallow than “Some emissions-related thingumabob went out and it’s gonna cost you $300 to fix.” Somewhere in this country, some time this weekend, some poor shlub is going to hear his transmission grenading at 70 mph, and is going to spend the next half hour looking for the fuse box because hey, fuses!

In point of fact, though:

[I]f your car breaks down these days, the only “tools” you need in your vehicle are a charged cell phone, a valid AAA membership and a bottle of wine with a screw top — to consume while you’re waiting for the tow truck to arrive.

And people like this will drive you to drink: “Will a 5 lug spare fit my ford escort 4lug?” I was tempted to tell him that he had to change the lug fuse.

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Take these thumbs and shove ’em

Facebook passed around this note yesterday:

We are also proposing changes to our site governance process for future updates to our Data Use Policy and SRR [Statement of Rights and Responsibilities]. We deeply value the feedback we receive from you during our comment period but have found that the voting mechanism created a system that incentivized quantity of comments over the quality of them. So, we are proposing to end the voting component in order to promote a more meaningful environment for feedback.

Did anyone not see that coming? Besides Facebook, I mean.

Here’s the list of proposed changes. There seems to be a Like button on it.

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No “bullet-nose” reference

Add to the list of Things I Did Not Know the fact that Abraham Lincoln rode around in a Studebaker:

The much-heralded Steven Spielberg film, Lincoln, is generating historic ticket sales along with renewed interest in our 16th US President.

That interest should include the whereabouts of the horse-drawn carriage that transported him to Ford’s Theatre that fateful night in 1865, and later rushed him to medical help nearby after being fatally shot by John Wilkes Boothe.

Lincoln’s presidential carriage was a Studebaker, and it is on display in the Studebaker National Museum in South Bend, Indiana.

So far as I know, he never used it to pursue vampires.

Lincoln, the auto make, didn’t produce any cars until after World War I — they made aircraft engines during the war — and they didn’t supply official Presidential vehicles until 1939, when they delivered a V12-powered convertible to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

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The baking of Mr Paul

It’s sobering to think what might have happened if Chris Paul had had a good night. As it stands, the Clippers collected second-chance points with great vigor and rolled up foul shots in the fourth quarter — even DeAndre Jordan, who never makes free throws, was making free throws — and Jamal Crawford, a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year contender, was living up to his billing. The Thunder got the lead midway through the first quarter, ran it into double digits several times, only to see the Clips tie it with 36 seconds left. A Russell Westbrook jumper clanged short; CP3 was ready to close it out in his own inimitable fashion, but his last-second shot failed to connect. At the time, he was 1-12. (That’s what we have Thabo Sefolosha for.) He ended up at 2-14 as the Clips, who’d garnered 33 points in the fourth quarter, were held to seven in overtime, and the Thunder, sweaty but happy, killed L.A.’s streak at six with a 117-111 win.

Did we mention second-chance points? Los Angeles took 14 more shots than OKC, though they made only four more. Caron Butler was missing in action, but Matt Barnes subbed with distinction, recording 19 points and nine boards before fouling out. Blake Griffin led the Clips with 23, though he posted a team-low -12. Crawford had 20 from the bench. (CP3 scored nine, five of them from the foul line.) And Jordan pulled off a double-double, 12 points and 10 rebounds. On most nights, this would be enough to beat anybody.

But this wasn’t a night like that. The return of Durant/Westbrook as Batman and Robin was the story in the bonus period, accounting for all 15 points (KD had nine, Westbrook six). KD hit his season high: 35 points. Westbrook had 23; Kevin Martin, steady as always, paced the bench with 20; Serge Ibaka collected a double-double (15 points, 12 boards) before fouling out. And something you’ve seldom seen before: Hasheem Thabeet in double figures. Okay, it was just ten, but still: Hasheem the Dream in double figures. Those of us who wondered what Sam Presti was up to, dealing for this guy, will get an extra serving of crow tomorrow.

Still, these Clippers are no slouches. And they’ve pretty much buried the Other Team in L.A. business. (The Clips are now 8-3; the Lakers were 6-5 going into tonight’s game with the Kings.) On the upside, we only have to play them twice more; unfortunately, both those games are at Staples.

Friday at Boston, Saturday at Philadelphia. Winnable, yes; a walk, not even.

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Quite typewriter-y

Deep disclosure from Morgan Freeberg on Facebook:

Just about gave my soon-to-be-wife a heart attack.

I was looking up the phone number of the woman who’s coordinating all these job interviews on my behalf, so for all practical purposes you could say she’s the hiring manager… I realized something, you can type in all the letters of her last name with your left hand, just like with “Freeberg.” Meaning both our last names can be entered while you’re holding a beer! Hey, maybe if I pointed that out to her, you think I’ll get the job?

Score it under “intangibles.” I’d consider that a plus, but no one is likely to ask me to do any hiring any time in the next several decades.

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Prospective perspective

Mixed reviews for Joe Wright’s take on Anna Karenina prompt this idea:

Since everyone is rewriting famous novels from the bad guys’ point of view (from Grendel to the one about Mr Rochester’s wife) maybe someone should write a novel from nerdy but reliable husband’s point of view, or even Vronsky, whose flirtation with a married woman (very common back then) left him saddled with an erratic “wife” who destroyed his career and life … which is why ironically his mother is one of the few in the book who calls Anna an “evil” woman (most of the good people in the book see her as a good woman who fell into evil ways and they want to rescue her from it)…

Is there any demand for nerdy but reliable husbands?

On a semi-unrelated note, there’s a full-page ad for Fifty Shades of Grey in this month’s Maxim. In Maxim, fercrissake!

Then there’s this:

This is, by a not-inconsiderable margin, the most fun I’ve had with a vaguely-semi-crossover-type tale since I abandoned my dream of hooking up Anna Corralnina with old moneybags Count Vronsteed.

I’d say that’s nerdy without being reliable.

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A triumph of the spoils system

Residents of any of the 57 states will happily testify that they have the worst drivers in the nation, and finding egregious examples thereof is child’s play.

For instance, there’s Sheila Burgess:

[She has] had 32 entries on her driving record since 1984.

Those included seven accidents, four speeding violations, two failure-to-stop-for-an-officer citation and one failure-to-wear-a-seat-belt mark.

She’s been on leave from work lately, recovering from a head injury sustained in a one-car accident this past summer. It appears, though, that she’s about to lose her job as Massachusetts’ Director of Highway Safety.

Oh, you wonder how she got this job? Wonder no more:

Burgess is a former fund-raising consultant to high-profile Democratic candidates for public office, including Congressman James McGovern, whose office said on Friday that McGovern asked the newly elected [Deval] Patrick administration in 2007 to hire Burgess, but without suggesting a specific role for her. She is paid $87,000 annually.

I wonder what percentage of that goes to auto insurance.

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I can go for that (no can do)

One of the things that irks me about Halloween is the so-called “fun size” candy bar; as has been pointed out elsewhere, if it were truly “fun” it would be about the size of a loaf of bread.

That said, Fun Size is the title of a film released the weekend before Halloween this year under the auspices of Nickelodeon, which would be worth mentioning just because it carried an actual PG-13 rating, unheard of for Nick’s theatrical releases, but I bring it up here to show you this picture of star Victoria Justice, in Toronto at MuchMusic HQ to promote the film, circa 17 October.

Victoria Justice at MuchMusic

Of course, VJ is insanely cute, but what demanded the inclusion of this picture was her T-shirt, featuring the jacket art for the Daryl Hall/John Oates album Private Eyes, released a mere eleven and a half years before her birth.

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Negative nutrition

Dave Schuler’s annotated list of the ingredients in Hostess Twinkies begins, as all such lists should, with the most prominent ingredient:

Enriched wheat flour is wheat flour from which most of the nutrients have been removed. We make a lot of it here but some is also imported from Canada, Australia, and elsewhere.

Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. Most of the nutrients indeed have been removed; however, a few of them — certainly not all — have been added back in.

And anyway, it’s all in the description. I saw a box of taco shells the other day that boasted “Whole Grain Corn.”

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Message out of a bottle

My Mushy Side — which I’m beginning to think is my front — got all misty about this:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, amid a mess of displaced personal items, a miracle has emerged: 57 vintage love letters were discovered [Thursday] in the debris. Even more surprising is how they found their way to Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey — and that they’re still legible.

The vintage in question: 1942 through 1948.

It was a 14-year-old boy who stumbled upon the soggy notes as he sifted through remnants of belongings along the shore with his mother.

Mom tracked down the original recipient, who’s now 91, and is returning them to her. Apparently she hasn’t seen them in years, and the sender died in 1991.

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Speak your mind, so to speak

For those keeping score, the first day of continuous daily updates here was 23 June 2000. (Number of days missed so far: 0.)

It was just over two years later that I managed to integrate a comment system, which is a neat trick, considering the whole thing was coded by hand. It was clunky enough that after two months I gave up the idea and installed Movable Type, which incorporated its own comment mechanism.

Then again, getting a comment system installed was relatively high on my list of priorities. It’s at the bottom of Kathy Shaidle’s:

[O]ne of the reasons I don’t have comments is because, frankly, by definition just under half the population is below average, and I do not want lesser people cluttering up my blog with evidence of their poor reading comprehension, cliches, limited cultural reference points, junk science, faux outrage, blowhardyness and inability to think logically or even add and subtract simple sums.

Yeah. If I need that kind of clutter I can write it myself. (And from the looks of things, I occasionally do.)

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Well enough not left alone

You may remember this from last month:

Prada Bicolor Rubber Oxford

If you saw that and asked yourself “Self, how could Prada possibly top — or bottom — that?” your answer is below the fold:

Read the rest of this entry »

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A third-rate burglary

So I got to the office at six-thirty or so yesterday, and I couldn’t open my door. And then I looked down and saw this:

Evidence of burglary

He did not gain entrance, but he chewed up a lot of door trim. Some other offices in the building were not quite so resistant to forcible entry.

At least a few moments that morning were spent in contemplation of how much the cleanup bill would have been had I been there to perforate the miserable sumbitch.

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Take a bow, Norma Jean

The December issue of Playboy has Marilyn Monroe on the cover. Now the blonde and the mag go back a long time together — MM was the very first “Sweetheart of the Month,” before Hef decided on “Playmate” as the descriptor — and by “long time,” I mean to the fall of 1953, which I am bound to believe is a long time for personal chronological reasons.

And if the pictures are No Big Deal anymore, people still have something to say about Marilyn. The John Updike commentary I assume is a reprint, inasmuch as he’s been dead for three years, but I don’t remember seeing the Roger Ebert article before, and his last paragraph may be the best thing about the pictorial:

If Marilyn had lived into old age, what might she have become? An elderly parody of herself? I believe she was too intelligent. I believe — or hope — she would have quietly disappeared, as another great star, Doris Day, has chosen to do. Her legacy would never die. From everything I sensed when I saw that first photo and all of her movies, I believe she would have become a sweet little old lady and a good friend.

With that in mind, this is probably my favorite MM picture ever: it’s a press gathering at her house in March 1956, and the balance between sultry and goofy has seldom been so perfect. Her, I can believe as a little old lady of eighty-six.

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Hitting the Brixton

Brian J., motivated by the sound of Eddy Grant, rocks down to Electric Avenue, and gets engrossed by the history thereof:

The song itself refers to the 1981 Brixton Riots, a “confrontation” between residents of Brixton and the police. The Wikipedia entry gives you a full panoply of excuses for the riot, but it’s the usual economically depressed populace of a one race reacts violently to the death of one of their own that they blame on members of the police who are of a different race.

Me, I always wondered if Grant’s 1982 record, a #2 hit in both the US and the UK, had anything to do with Montgomery Ward’s reboot of its appliance and electronics department as “Electric Avenue” three years later, which provided a decade-long boost to the store’s revenues, though the chain didn’t have long to live after that, and died unceremoniously in 2000. (The wards.com Web storefront, now in its second incarnation, dates to 2004.)

Eddy Grant, of course, had been around for a while; his group The Equals crept into the Top 40 in 1968 with a song called “Baby Come Back.”

In 1984 he turned out a theme song for Robert Zemeckis’ film Romancing the Stone, which wasn’t used, except for a teensy bit of the instrumental break halfway through.

Aside: For some reason we have a shopping center in this town called Brixton Square. I hasten to add that it has never had a Montgomery Ward store.

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Don’t even fly over

Tulsa, says Self magazine, is the single most unhealthy city for women in the entire country, and at first I thought it might be the disproportionate number of douchebags roaming Brookside, but no: “Poor habits, high disease risk and life expectancy is falling,” they say. (OKC finished tenth, not that I’m inclined to brag.)

Methodology, so to speak:

We polled a panel of experts to find out which factors most affect a woman’s ability to live her healthiest. The panel considered 58 criteria, including rates of disease such as cancer and depression; factors that affect access to health care, such as the percentage of women covered by insurance; environmental and community measures, such as air quality and crime rates; and the prevalence of habits such as exercise, good diet and smoking. Bert Sperling of Portland, Oregon, founder of BestPlaces.net, helped us gather the most recent and authoritative data for 100 of the nation’s largest metropolitan statistical areas, as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. Numbers are age-adjusted where applicable and women-specific where available. We used the panel’s input to weigh each criterion, and Sperling helped us crunch the numbers.

One of their data sources is the NARAL Pro-Choice America Foundation, which I suspect just might skew their definition of “health care,” but hey, nobody asked me. All such lists, no matter what the criteria or the cultural/political angle, are inevitably slanted toward the direction the “researchers” want them to be: “We want to say X, so we need numbers that add up to Y.”

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