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 wordpress.com) 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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Now going into rotation

Trini suggested these to me, and while her taste is impeccable — or at least less peccable than mine — they may not be right up your particular alley, unless you see no conflict between “haunting” and “dubstep”:

Swedish House Mafia, however, was definitely Swedish:

The vocals on “One,” incidentally, are supplied by Pharrell, whom you last heard, perhaps, on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”

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Is there a Do Not Write list?

You can’t persuade me that the putative Do Not Call list has been more than marginally successful — the most cursory glance at my Caller ID box will tell you that much — but every now and then, the Federal Trade Commission scores a scalp, and that’s worth something, I suppose:

The Federal Trade Commission is marking the 10-year anniversary of the “Do Not Call” registry by announcing a $7.5 million civil penalty against a mortgage broker that had allegedly targeted U.S. servicemembers. It’s the largest fee the FTC has ever collected related to the Do Not Call provisions Telemarketing Sales Rule, and also serves as warning to companies trying to push deceptive mortgage ads.

The FTC alleged that Mortgage Investors Corporation, a prominent refinancer of veterans’ home loans, called consumers who were on the Do Not Call list and then wouldn’t remove them from its list when people would demand it do so.

It also says in the complaint that the company would misstate terms of certain loan products during those telemarketing calls.

I like that. “Prominent.” Hell, Al Capone was “prominent.” In his particular line of work, he might even have been pre-eminent. (Now, of course, the government has taken it over.)

For some reason, these particular scuzzbuckets fancy themselves my pen pals; I seriously doubt that the temporary absence of $7.5 million is going to leave their postage meter gasping for breath.

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One Mississippi

I am reasonably certain that this can’t be taken literally:

My AC blows cold on my 93 s10 blazer but my clutch engages and disengages multiple times each SECOND

I mean, obviously he’s not driving: he’s counting.

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Malevolent Scum 2: Electric Boogaloo

To borrow a phrase from a scribe at Car and Driver, there are three sides of the law: wrong, right, and above. Guess which one(s) might apply here:

Jeff Olson, the 40-year-old man who is being prosecuted for scrawling anti-megabank messages on sidewalks in water-soluble chalk last year now faces a 13-year jail sentence. A judge has barred his attorney from mentioning freedom of speech during trial.

According to the San Diego Reader, which reported on Tuesday that a judge had opted to prevent Olson’s attorney from “mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial,” Olson must now stand trial for on 13 counts of vandalism.

In addition to possibly spending years in jail, Olson will also be held liable for fines of up to $13,000 over the anti-big-bank slogans that were left using washable children’s chalk on a sidewalk outside of three San Diego, California branches of Bank of America, the massive conglomerate that received $45 billion in interest-free loans from the US government in 2008-2009 in a bid to keep it solvent after bad bets went south.

Said the judge in question:

“The State’s Vandalism Statute does not mention First Amendment rights,” ruled Judge [Howard] Shore on Tuesday.

Nor does it mention weapons-grade stupidity, evidently:

According to Olson, who spoke with local broadcaster KGTV, one Bank of America branch claimed it had cost $6,000 to clean up the chalk writing.

Six thousand clams to clean up children’s chalk? How are these imbeciles managing to stay in business? As if we didn’t know.

(Via Joanna Blackhart. Previous installments of Malevolent Scum: the original and the first rip-off.)

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Clothed all in Green

Now that Ed Shadid, who represents Ward 2 on City Council, has announced that he’d like the spot in the middle of the horseshoe, Mike McCarville is asking: “Will Dr. Ed Shadid’s involvement in the Green Party come back to bite him as he runs for mayor of Oklahoma City?”

It obviously didn’t hurt him when he ran for Council, and you may be certain that it was brought up. Now Ward 2, which is where I live, is perhaps a hair more, um, progressive than some other parts of town, but the ballot for mayor is officially nonpartisan. That said, if Mick Cornett — who, just incidentally, is a Republican — decides to go for a fourth term, he’ll be hard to beat, even if someone is unkind enough to mention that no previous mayor has served more than three terms. (Oops.)

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Proud and indolent youth

Suzette brainstorms at all hours, unlike some of us:

Early in the morning, I have the sincere belief that I can get everything that I have to do at work done by the end of the day. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and think I should probably send out a few emails. Early in the morning, I acknowledge how deranged that notion is. Last evening at about 6pm ET, I sent a message to a co-worker in Arizona offering to review something complicated that we talked about earlier in the day. It was 4pm where he was. He wrote back to me in all his 27 year old glory and this is what his email said:

“Who needs some work/life balance here? I have about 20 minutes — is that enough time to discuss?”

Being a bit more passive-aggressive than this youngster, I’d have probably written up an answer and timed it to be sent at 5:59 am. But my sympathy for his position does not in any way change her position:

Dude, this is the reason why your generation is not going to do as well economically as mine has done. Do your work. Regarding work/life balance, allow me to paraphrase the great Don Draper: “That’s what the money is for.”

As a rule, I quit thinking about work at 4:38 pm — even if I have to stay later than that. Not that I’m doing all that well economically, mind you.

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Google Mine? Not for me, says Rob O’Hara:

There’s only one reason for it — so Google will know what you own so that they can better tailor advertisements to you. Of course they already do that based on the things you search and shop for online, but until now they didn’t have any way to do that with the things you own. That’s what Mine allows them to do. Man I would have loved to spied in on that meeting.

“But how can we find out what people own so that we can better market ads to them?”

“I don’t know. Let’s just set up a big empty database and ask people to manually enter that information in for us!”

It’s like Pinterest, without being, um, pinteresting. And this seems indisputable:

We live in the “Golden Age of Over Sharing”. We’ve gone from websites to blogs to MySpace to Facebook to Twitter to whatever. In 10 seconds with half a dozen touches of my thumb I can take a picture with my phone and share it, along with my current location, with over a thousand people. People share too much, too broadly, too often.

Too true.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Use #2 pencil only

Eric Scheie wants his SAT scores, and can’t get them:

[F]or some time now I have been seeking my SAT score results from the early 1970s. After spending a non-refundable $30.00 fee, I received a letter from the testing board telling me that they cannot find my SAT scores. So I called my high school, and they can’t find them either.

He clings to one last hope:

[R]eading today’s news convinces me that in all probability, the NSA knows my SAT scores.

And my taxes fund the NSA, do they not?

So where are my SAT scores?

I’d suggest “in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’,” but that’s probably reserved for Barack Obama’s transcripts.

Note: I took the SAT twice. The numbers are seared into my brain. (They also propped up the illusion that I was sort of bright, a notion I have worked diligently to dispel.)

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Music to gavotte by

Carly Simon memeCarly Simon’s first hit, “That’s the Way I Always Heard It Should Be,” was to me her finest hour, or at least her finest four and a quarter minutes. When I first heard it, I figured I’d heard the last of her; the scenario, in which our narrator resigns herself to a marriage far short of ideal, is downright scary, and downright scary first singles generally do not lend themselves to a long and happy chart life. I was wrong, of course; Simon continued to have big hits for several years, none of them bigger than “You’re So Vain,” about a mystery man who might even have sung on the session — that is, if you thought it was about Mick Jagger. Others argued for Warren Beatty. Simon, sensibly, said nothing, and maintains her silence to this day.

Then again, the No Secrets album, from which “You’re So Vain” was released as the first single, drew rather a lot of non-musical attention because of its cover photo, shot by Ed Caraeff in front of the Portobello Hotel. Herewith, to celebrate Simon’s birthday this week — she turned 68 Tuesday — an outtake from that photoshoot:

Carly Simon in London 1972

It wasn’t as blatant as, say, Boys in the Trees, six years later, but then again, that was six years later.

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