All the live-long day

Working on the railroad isn’t as easy as it looks — and it doesn’t look easy at all:

The [tamping] machine rode the rails, had hydraulic jacks and retractable tamping plates. It could raise the rail and tamp the ballast (rock) that surrounded the rail. As it tamped, somebody had to keep supplying rock to the machine. That’s where I came in, I shoveled rock and tried to keep up with the machine. After about a week, we finally finished, which was about four days past what I wanted.

Subsequent jobs, he would discover, would tap rather heavily into his personal sweat-equity account.

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Otherwise occupied

From around the world, across the nation, and up your street, it’s these folks.

(Yes, that is a Carlinism.)

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Sour prospects

I’d skimmed through this story by Kate Bolick earlier — the Instant Man had thrown it a link — but I really didn’t sit down to read it until the actual magazine showed up, and this paragraph halfway through jumped out at me:

When I was a little girl, my mother and I went for a walk and ran into her friend Regina. They talked for a few minutes, caught up. I gleaned from their conversation that Regina wasn’t married, and as soon as we made our goodbyes, I bombarded my mother with questions. “No husband? How could that be? She’s a grown-up! Grown-ups have husbands!” My mother explained that not all grown-ups get married. “Then who opens the pickle jar?”

It didn’t help that the same weekend that the magazine arrived, I received official word that my son’s marriage had gone down the chute. (I’d figured as much from monitoring Facebook, but I chose to refrain from making any specific comment, there or here, until I’d actually talked to him. One does not admit to being stalky.)

There are times when I think we, as a society, have given up on marriage. Even those ardent Defenders of Marriage who’ve dedicated their time to making sure that gay couples don’t get a trip to the altar seem to have changed their tune somewhat: I’m hearing “What do you want to do that for?” at least as often as “The Lord shall smite thee.” (Your Humble Narrator was griping about the Defense of Marriage Act way back in 1996.)

Along those lines:

Perhaps true to conservative fears, the rise of gay marriage has helped heterosexuals think more creatively about their own conventions. News stories about polyamory, “ethical nonmonogamy,” and the like pop up with increasing frequency. Gay men have traditionally had a more permissive attitude toward infidelity; how will this influence the straight world? [Social historian Stephanie] Coontz points out that two of the hallmarks of contemporary marriage are demands for monogamy on an equal basis, and candor. “Throughout history, there was a fairly high tolerance of [men's] extramarital flings, with women expected to look the other way,” she said. “Now we have to ask: Can we be more monogamous? Or understand that flings happen?”

I’d point out that thinking differently and thinking “creatively” are not necessarily synonymous, but other than “Geez, people, you’ve got to take these damn vows seriously,” I got nothing. Infidelity was not a factor in the failure of my own marriage, nor of my son’s. As for candor — well, I presume he inherited my tendency to say Exactly The Wrong Thing.

This would be easier to take, I suspect, if I weren’t still ridden with all kinds of romantic delusions. (In earlier times, I would have said flatly that thinking the subject had anything to do with me was the biggest delusion of them all.) I have basically come to the conclusion that my heart is brain-dead, and any noises it emits can safely be ignored. Unfortunately, that’s the organ that occasionally craves the pickles — and who will open the jar?

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The fix is, um, out

Apparently you don’t have to be in Chicago to experience Illinois-style justice:

St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department records clerk Joann Reed wanted a speeding ticket for the son of a deputy dismissed, but she didn’t go to a judge or jury in traffic court.

Instead, Reed faxed a copy of the Centreville Police Department’s ticket from the Sheriff’s Department’s fax machine to Centreville village attorney Carmen Durso, with a handwritten message: “Dismiss this case.”

Except, of course, that she didn’t:

The problem is, she didn’t fax the ticket to Durso. Reed accidentally faxed it to the News-Democrat’s newsroom.

Mr Durso said he can’t dismiss violations of state law, but added: “I get calls like these all the time. I don’t think it’s unusual or strange.”

More’s the pity.

(Via Autoblog.)

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You can’t spell “feces” without “fees”

An aggrieved reader asks Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic to explain his bank’s $18 fee for paying a different fee by check. Says Goldberg, it goes like this:

[T]he first 52 cents goes to the actual cost of processing the check; $5.70 covers shipping and handling; $2.90 pays the universal connectivity charge; $4.27 goes toward exotic dancers; $1.25 is for a new pole for the exotic dancers; 75 cents pays for chlamydia-detection kits; 40 cents is for baggage fees; and $2.21 goes into an escrow fund that will be devoted to recruiting unqualified bor­rowers as soon as the government for­gets what happened the last time lend­ers recruited unqualified borrowers.

Dick Durbin was not available for comment.

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Strange search-engine queries (298)

Spring was sprung, fall has fell, Monday’s here, so what the hell?

new version of cars with gearbox that have 1 or 2 or 3:  Instead of those cars that have, for instance, W or T or F.

naked newscaster on air + 18:  Damn. We don’t get channel 18 here.

Is Mark Cuban an INTJ?  If he’s not, surely he thinks he is.

cornstarch to whiten amstaff:  Must be a Halloween prank: Ghost of the Pit Bull.

500 miles of left turns:  Either one afternoon at Nascar, or a weekend in downtown Oklahoma City during Project 180.

crossdresser honey nut cheerio commercial:  Oh, that’s just Buzz the bee getting in touch with his queen side.

pictures of male transvestite sluts in women’s underthings:  Is it okay if they’re bees?

before stereo we had mono:  And when we had mono, we were bedridden for a week.

whangdoozle:  Still sounds better than “Nickelback.”

one in seven chance that you’ll do this at a grocery store:  Saying “This was only one ninety-nine last week!”

queue to leave:  As Mr Barnum used to say, “This way to the egress!”

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Stick a cupcake in her eye

Poodle glommed up to look like My Little Pony

Original caption:

A poodle clippered and dyed to look like My Little Pony is pictured at a creative dog grooming event in Swanley, Kent. The Dog Creative Stylist of the Year competition showcases the creative skills of Britain’s top pooch groomers. The range of colours are produced by safe, washable vegetable dyes.

My first reaction: “You blockhead! Pinkie Pie’s cutie mark is balloons!” The only pony I can think of with three hearts is Lemon Hearts, and, well, she isn’t pink.

(Photo credit: Steve Collins / Barcroft Media. Via TYWKIWDBI.)

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Speaking of flight attendants

This is what you can expect in our wonderful 21st century:

So as we entered the doorway we were greeted by a short, stout, jolly pockmarked gent who looked like Captain Kangaroo. No. Really. Thick orange hair. Glinting maniacal eyes. Crooked smile. This was the flight attendant. Mr. Froth turned back to me and I kept a stoic demeanor. I did. And then we looked into the plane and I swear it was three feet wide and DARK.

Suddenly, short women with tattoos don’t seem so awful.

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Highly disqualified

Friday night I mumbled something about how Christina Ricci, star of ABC’s Pan Am, couldn’t have gotten hired at the real Pan Am because she was too short or something.

This drew me a ping from Celebrity HQ Pics, which had posted some Ricci material from a Pan Am promotional photoshoot by Bob D’Amico; I have a tendency to look at things that throw me links, so I looked over the offerings, which were housed on a popular Russian server, and found them, um, interesting.

I also found something else that would likely have kept Ricci out of the aisle back then:

Christina Ricci from here down

Really, I’m surprised no one thought to cover up that little bit of body art.

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Quote of the week

User “Just the facts” at OKCTalk predicts that the Deep Deuce apartments will go condo within five years or so:

By then they will have made back most of the construction cost and by selling them they can escape the long-term maintenance costs. The buyers then pick up a unit with a great location at a reasonable price. This is how it works in an urban environment. The reason it doesn’t work out on Penn and 150th is because the location sucks. That is why apartments and subdivision built on the outer fringe look like bombs went off after 15 to 20 years. The whole concept of sprawl is nothing more than operation Rolling Ghetto. When you build towards the center you run out of expansion room so properties don’t fall into disrepair.

I’m not so sure about that last sentence, but nothing guarantees that a “good” neighborhood will stay that way: if you flee to Point B because Point A was going down the tubes, odds are you’ll be packing up and heading for Point C before too long. (In the context of Oklahoma City, Penn and 150th is about Point D-point-five.)

This is perhaps another manifestation of the Urban Donut Hypothesis, as discussed here a couple of years ago.

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The antisocial network

An aside from Advice Goddess Amy Alkon:

[M]y boyfriend, who’s not exactly a people person, claims he’s starting a nihilistic social network called “Quitter.” (Posts are zero characters, and you’re asked not to join.)

Sign me up. Or, rather, don’t sign me up.

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A marvel of design

London’s Design Museum is relocating from an old produce warehouse on the Thames to more spacious quarters at the former home of the Commonwealth Institute in Kensington, which of course requires a gala event of the sort where wearing something like this is not unheard of:

Rosario Dawson at Design Museum - photo by Getty Images

We will ignore, for the moment, the Daily Mail’s snickering commentary about Rosario Dawson; I’m not even going to replace it with some of my own.

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Meanwhile in Port Vila

In an effort to get ahead of the curve, I’m putting up a few not-entirely-random factoids about the Republic of Vanuatu, before Robert Stacy McCain takes over as the United States Ambassador thereto.

You’re welcome.

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Training wheels

An automobile-related meme, picked up from Jennifer:

  1. What was your first car? Model, year, color, condition?
  2. What adventures did you have in it, good or bad?
  3. What happened to it, what’s the end of the story?

“Susannah” was a 1966 Chevy II, just barely up from bottom of the line and therefore deemed worthy of the Nova badge. It was, I was told, destined for the scrapyard, but for one minor detail: turn the key, and it actually started. Making it drivable, however, looked like it was going to require, at the very least, replacement of the caved-in front right corner. The budget didn’t allow for such. Plan B: hammering on the back side of the fender until the wheel would actually turn. This worked, sort of, for a while.

The powertrain, however, was in pretty good shape: 230 straight six and Powerglide. After tooling around in the family VW Microbus, which required endless stick work, I was ready for the machine to do all the work, even with only half as many speeds. And I managed not to kill it for nearly ten thousand miles. (The rebuild ran about $170. I don’t even want to think about what it costs to fix one of today’s hypercomplex slushboxes.)

Apart from blowing up the transmission, and an unfortunate experience with an aftermarket stereo that caused a temporary failure of the wipers, only two horrible things happened to this car. One of them was a consequence of cheaping out on the front-end repair; one day, I noticed that the camber on the right front wheel had increased to something like 30 percent. Inspection revealed a rather large gap between two metal bits that were supposed to be connected. (A welder took care of this.) The other was a rude rear-end intrusion on a rainy day, which dented the decklid enough to render the lock theoretical at best. The car that hit me, having barely slowed down during the impact, quickly sped off into the storm.

In early 1978, I got married, and the young lady in question decided that it would be in everyone’s best interest if I got rid of this heap. We bought another Nova — a 1976 with the 305 V8 — and I passed the ’66 on to younger sister, who said she was going to take it to a demolition derby. I have no idea whether she actually did that or not, but at the time, it made perfect sense. Incidentally, the ’76 became the family hauler, and I took over her old car, a ’75 Toyota Celica. I was still driving it in 1995, eight years after the divorce.

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Blather, rinse, repeat

I don’t, as a rule, get surveys from the Republican National Committee, which undoubtedly has something to do with the fact that I am not a Republican. I do occasionally get stuff from my fellow Democrats, but I generally don’t mention it here unless it’s unintentionally hilarious; the last Democrat I could count on to be intentionally hilarious was the late Molly Ivins.

Then again, I’m probably not missing much. Apparently the current RNC “survey” is barely distinguishable from previous RNC “surveys”:

Here it is two years since the RNC presented us with the last “Obama Agenda Survey”, and it appears they either took little note of what a large chunk of their base was saying, or their survey was little more than window dressing … adding a bit of feel good “personal constituent involvement in party politics” before being asked to fork over the cash. If this was not the case, than why are so many of the questions the same?

(Title swiped from, um, me.)

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Yupward mobility

This question came into TTAC’s Piston Slap department:

I have the misfortune of working with a bunch of aspiring Yuppies. You know the types. The ones who believe that all American car companies make crap and the only true luxury cars come from Germany and Japan. Never mind the $1300 maintenance charge on their Audi or the fact that the Lexus ES is about as exciting as wilted corn flakes.

Long story short, I am sick and tired of hearing their crap. I want to buy the type of American car that will take these pompous, sniveling wussy boys and blow their stuck-upityness right out of their ass.

Actually, there’s a second rung: they spurn the Japanese entirely in favor of the products of der Vaterland. And if they had to judge by the ES, a Camry — not even an Avalon — oversprayed with Carnation Instant Glitz, I can’t say as I’d blame them. (From the “Like you have room to talk” files: yes, I drive an Infiniti I30, which is basically a Nissan Maxima in a prom dress.)

Putting myself into the role of yupster, if I had the same $40k this guy says he has to spend, I probably couldn’t get much in the way of Teutonic sleds unless BMW is planning a ¾-series, and while I could get a decent G37 for that kind of money, it’s not at all what he wants.

So I’m thinking Chrysler 300, which can be had for forty large in the C trim — yes, it’s got a Hemi — if you avoid checking every last box on the order form. It’s one of the few cars that gives off the impression that you’ll drive it onto your lawn, if necessary, to keep certain individuals off. Barack Obama used to have one, until he figured out that much of his base resented the hell out of big American cars, whereupon he switched to a meek hybrid.

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