Somewhere west of Laramie

Exactly where you don’t want to be, supposedly, if your car breaks down:

According to a summertime state-by-state ranking of repair costs researched by auto diagnostic company CarMD, Wyoming drivers “paid 17 percent more than the U.S. average for overall repairs, including 19% more for labor and 15% more for parts.” The average cost in the state: $389.18, about $100 higher than the cheapest states.

This makes no sense until you note that “overall repairs,” in this context, will include only those repairs motivated by the dreaded Malfunction Indicator Light. (“Check your engine, sir?”) And the next four most expensive states are also out West, which gives away the secret:

The higher average out West can partially be attributed to higher amounts of airborne dust: by putting off replacing air filters in Western states, vehicle owners put their vehicles’ mass air flow sensors at risk. On average, this is a $400 repair.

On my car, the air filter is a 15k replacement item that costs about $20; the MAF sensor runs a cool $488.

The title, of course, comes from this famous 1923 auto ad:

1923 Jordan Playboy as seen in the Saturday Evening Post

I have no idea what an air filter for this thing might cost.

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Fashion girl

It says so on YouTube, so it must be so: The Platform has issued a video called “Sh*t Fashion Girls Say on the Internet,” and the two fashion girls involved are the estimable Man Repeller and the increasingly visible Rebecca Black, interviewed briefly by the sui generis P’Trique. Becky (!) is game, but she’s going to have to up her game to get into the Repeller’s league.

Also this week, RB announced that she’d recorded the final track for that upcoming album, which she says is probably her favorite song of the bunch, and answered the Twitter hashtag #MyLastWordsBeforeIDie with the following: “I left a million dollars in the…”

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Fark blurb of the week

Dong hopes huge blow job will attract Siemens.

(Linked to this. And take a look at the end of that URL.)

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Title of the week

Smitty came up with this gem: “Ancient Commenter Solomon On The Topic Of Paint Huffers, Or Harry Reid, Insofar As A Difference Is Discernable.”

Yes, it’s that Solomon. And spellcheck insists that the last word should be “discernible,” which is the way I learned it back in the Pleistocene era, but then spellcheck couldn’t deal with “huffers” either. (Inasmuch as I somehow have a couple of friends at the Huffington Post, I am not about to use “huffers” as a pejorative for HuffPo writers, so don’t ask.)

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No colors anymore

You want your American Express card to turn black:

In 1999 American Express announced the introduction of its Centurion™ card. Available only by invitation to selected Platinum card members, this black credit card promises to simplify the lives of the harried rich. In exchange for its hefty annual fee (initially $1,000 US, but now $2,500), cardholders receive automatic upgrades on fifteen of the world’s leading airlines. They also receive assistance in securing hard-to-come-by tickets for popular events, reservations at trendy restaurants, and shopping for Christmas gifts. Someone from the service will even call to remind cardholders of upcoming anniversaries. It is akin to having a personal concierge always on call.

“There had been rumors going around that we had this ultra-exclusive black card for elite customers,” says Doug Smith, director of American Express Europe. “It wasn’t true, but we decided to capitalize on the idea anyway.”

Daily Finance notes that the Black Card is not a credit card, but a charge card, like the original Amex, and must be paid off in full every month:

That may be one of the secrets to the success of the world’s wealthiest: They pay off their plastic in full every month. In other words, they live within their means, which is a great approach to managing your finances, whether “your means” enable you to buy a Bentley, or just pay the $10 admission fee to see one at a car show.

I mention this because of a throwaway line in Motor Trend’s New Car Guide (9/12):

Cool Fact: 6 percent of AMEX Black Card holders own a Hyundai.

And not this one, either.

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Switches, not snitches

My own “smart meter,” according to the electric company, reports back to them on a regular basis and enables them to spam me send me timely power-usage notifications and to keep track of consumption on a minute-by-minute basis, in case I get around to signing up for a time-based rate, which at the moment I haven’t.

Maybe they’re different down around Houston:

Thelma Taormina didn’t want a new electric meter, and she went to great lengths to keep her old one.

When a worker showed up at her northwest Harris County home to install a smart meter, she grabbed her gun.

The worker, understandably, backed off.

Mrs T explained thusly:

“Our constitution allows us not to have that kind of intrusion on our personal privacy,” she said. “They’ll be able to tell if you are running your computer, air conditioner, whatever it is.”

It’s July. It’s your air conditioner. I can tell that and I’m not even on your electric line.

(Via the Consumerist.)

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Not a speck of cereal

And believe me, I looked:

Bacon ipsum dolor sit amet aliqua excepteur swine, magna duis ea velit tenderloin meatloaf. Nostrud shoulder commodo, dolore swine ad exercitation. Incididunt dolor deserunt est aliquip short ribs in ball tip. Ribeye est shank kielbasa beef qui.

Ea beef voluptate ut. Pork belly ut exercitation laboris eiusmod. Ham hock beef short ribs beef ribs, ea sed incididunt pastrami officia tenderloin strip steak jerky irure shankle. Spare ribs shankle flank adipisicing et anim in, mollit sausage boudin.

Ea short ribs beef ribs magna non est, irure biltong. Rump proident pork belly nostrud, in aliqua incididunt non capicola. Spare ribs minim capicola aliquip, short ribs t-bone beef sed nisi cillum ullamco sint. Ullamco chuck est minim pork belly. Fatback ham jowl, dolor velit id biltong nostrud chuck proident laboris filet mignon pig chicken et.

(Generated by Bacon Ipsum, some time after Monday Evening.)

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Non-D scripts

When I first had the unmitigated gall to stick Facebook share buttons on individual posts — I still haven’t done it on the front page, and likely won’t — I noted that the FB script merely displayed a logo, and I added the term “Share” to the template manually.

Facebook has since glued the word “Share” to the button, which meant that all 12,000-odd posts in this database had “Share” on either side of the logo. It didn’t take long to fix the template, so the posts will be corrected as the cached copies expire, but FB’s text size for “Share” is smaller than my default and therefore smaller than the “Tweet this” text next to the Twitter button on the next line, so I had to tweak that as well, but they still didn’t match exactly. Finally, I decided if we’re going to have dissimilar styles, we’re going to have completely dissimilar styles, and I installed the officially licensed Tweet Button. (Which is bigger, so nyah.)

I suppose there’s a way to do this for Google+, but Google prides itself on its incomprehensible documentation, so I’m not considering giving them a button any time soon.

Update: Got the Google+ to work. On the first try, even.

Further update: Also got the newer FB button, since the old one is facing extinction.

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Even more muffler stuff

Presuming you’ve read this already, I figure this is a reasonable companion piece thereto:

You’ve been using it for years and you realize it’s getting a little worn. It’s developed a few little quirks, but it still gets you where you want to go, so you keep driving it until one day a wheel falls off and you say “oh, poop”, or something similar and you finally break down and spend some money to get it fixed. And now after it’s been repaired you realize just how badly broken it was because your car drives like brand new now and you can’t believe how much smoother it is and you wonder why you didn’t get it fixed earlier.

The noise level in my car has been rising for about a year and a half, actually, though it didn’t occur to me that it might be exhaust-related until I came down the driveway too fast and heard the telltale sound of banging metal from somewhere behind the back seat. And I didn’t actually get around to having it fixed until the noise got really bad, and I mean slammed-Civic-with-fart-can bad.

Of course, in the afternoon I can’t enjoy the (relative) silence, because the A/C is trying desperately to deal with temperatures around 100, which means fan speed cranked to the max.

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Art as an organizing principle

Lileks writes from beautiful downtown Helsinki:

There’s a stylistic similarity to the other grand structures — they belong to Europe, the 18th and 19th and early 20th centuries; they speak of the old orders, the sustaining culture, the organizing principles and assumptions. This place above is the modern world, anywhere, rootless, vague, inert, remote. Oh, it’s interesting. But the heart doesn’t sing upon seeing it. The building on the right is the modern museum, and the tour guide said that when it opened most people were disinclined to like its contents, but Finns, being curious and interested in what’s new and wanting to talk about what everyone else is talking about, went there regularly. Not because they want to, but because there’s an assumption that this is what thinking people do. They go to art museums to see abstract things, “and if it makes you have a reaction,” she said, “then that is what art does.”

Actually, that would seem to depend on the nature of the reaction:

A bird flew into our veranda today, tried to get out, hit its head on the glass, defecated, and threw up a minnow. That was a reaction.

Even now, the Institute for Contemporary Postmodernism, or something like that, is trying to acquire the legal rights to that very ex-fish.

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Let them B

Last year I made some noise about customer-service surveys being susceptible to grade inflation. Someone who actually hands out grades amplifies the point:

A grade of C used to be passing. It meant the person had mastered the material, nothing more. B meant they did better than mastery; A was a rare grade, assigned only when the person went over and above and did more than was expected, and was outstanding in other ways. It used to be that a student started at C and worked their way up; now the expectation on many people’s part (not just students these days) is that they start at an A and that they go down from there (usually because the Mean Professor unfairly deducted points from them).

I wonder if this has something to do with numerical grades, which do start at 100 percent and work their way downward. (And where does a B start, anyway? 92? 90?)

In the specific case of auto dealerships, they know they’ll get dinged if the higher-ups on the chain hear about it, so they plead for your A, and God forbid you should give them a miserable B. Anything below C level, and they can expect to be stuffed into a sack and drowned.

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Continued Munsing

We have another 1950s Munsingwear ad, this time for “Orchard Colors”: Raisin Cane, Sweet Cider, Nectarin, Sugar Date, Nutmeg, Blue Plum.

Munsingwear Orchard Colors

Sixty-odd years later, at least half of those names could conceivably belong to background ponies on MLP:FiM.

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Kind of a Bluffview

I absolutely must pass on to the rest of you this TFG description of the mother of a surly teenager, purely for its lyrical qualities:

His mom was at least semi-good looking in that North Dallas bottle-blonde Wonderbra treadmill-butt kind of way. Dallas still churns those out by the thousands. Learn to be thankful for the small things, kids … sassy barmaids, N. Dallas blondies, a fresh can of snuff … they make your denouement bearable.

So noted for future reference.

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Happy rather than dignified

If you thought having Abraham Lincoln hunt vampires was the lowest form of literary revisionism, you ain’t seen nothing yet:

A publisher of adult fiction is giving literary classics such as Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice an erotic makeover.

The company said that it was “100% convinced” that there was a market for the racy versions of the 19th century novels by authors Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen and that the spicing up of the much-loved books will introduce the classics to “a new generation of readers”.

Other titles to be published under the Clandestine Classics collection include Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories featuring Sherlock Holmes.

The luminous E. M. Zanotti, noting that it’s all the fault of Fifty Shades of Grey, comments:

I’m a little curious as to whether they’ll do Wuthering Heights. Because if there’s anything a book about creepy, incestuous baby-making needs, it’s graphic play-by-play.

I worry that if this sort of thing catches on, eventually the originals will be looked upon as the Expurgated Versions.

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No connection to Fox

We do love our News Babes here in the States. (Certainly there’s not all that much reason to watch our overly-excitable news channels otherwise.) However, it seems that the News Babe to end all News Babes is not American, but French:

Mélissa Theuriau

Don’t take my word for it: readers of Britain’s Daily Express in 2006 voted French newscaster Mélissa Theuriau the world’s most beautiful news reporter. (She declared the whole idea ridiculous.) Also in 2006, she was hired by French network M6 to anchor the long-running newsmagazine Zone interdite (“Forbidden Zone”). Coincidence? I have no idea.

Oh, and today is her birthday. She’s thirty-four.

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Sounds painful

The Bayou Renaissance Man declares that he’s “working his trousers to the bone”:

…sitting at my desk, writing several thousand words a day on a major project. It’s going well, following a burst of inspiration a couple of weeks ago. Since then I’ve edited about 40,000 words of a previous draft and added about 30,000 new words to it. Hard work and long hours, but mentally rewarding (and, I hope, financially rewarding some day as well!).

I of course wish him well, even as I threaten my own blank screen with all manner of implausible retribution for its continuing failure to fill itself up with some damned words already.

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