Remission control

The Vatican, 1967:

Although indulgences are in fact free gifts, nevertheless they are granted for the living as well as for the dead only on determined conditions. To acquire them, it is indeed required on the one hand that prescribed works be performed, and on the other that the faithful have the necessary dispositions, that is to say, that they love God, detest sin, place their trust in the merits of Christ and believe firmly in the great assistance they derive from the Communion of Saints.

[Pope Paul VI in Indulgentiarum Doctrina.]

The Vatican, 2013:

Indulgences these days are granted to those who carry out certain tasks — such as climbing the Sacred Steps, in Rome (reportedly brought from Pontius Pilate’s house after Jesus scaled them before his crucifixion), a feat that earns believers seven years off purgatory.

But attendance at events such as the Catholic World Youth Day, in Rio de Janeiro, a week-long event starting on 22 July, can also win an indulgence.

Mindful of the faithful who cannot afford to fly to Brazil, the Vatican’s sacred apostolic penitentiary, a court which handles the forgiveness of sins, has also extended the privilege to those following the “rites and pious exercises” of the event on television, radio and through social media.

“That includes following Twitter,” said a source at the penitentiary, referring to Pope Francis’ Twitter account, which has gathered seven million followers. “But you must be following the events live. It is not as if you can get an indulgence by chatting on the internet.”

This is not, I hasten to add, a Get Out Of Hell Free card.

(Via Pejman Yousefzadeh.)

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Very striking

Gabrielle Union showed up Wednesday at the ESPYS in something identifiable as a Little Black Dress, sort of:

Gabrielle Union in Marc Bouwer

Well, it’s a dress; it’s black, mostly; and it’s definitely little. It’s from Marc Bouwer’s fall 2012 collection, and not everyone was wowed by it; one comment I saw somewhere said it looked like it was made out of bicycle tires. I say, let’s hear it for proper inflation.

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That day is upon us once again

Rebecca Black takes a back seat to no one — except maybe at your local Honda dealer, where the Honda Summer Clearance Event is taking place.

To borrow a phrase, everything is proceeding as I have foreseen. Even Aaron Sorkin is getting into the act:

Next on the agenda: VidCon. In the meantime, meet RB’s BFF.

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In a world where there are no mirrors

Is it rude to tell someone their uneducated?  Someone called me a 'Terrorist' and I told him 'You're an uneducated savage'. Was that rude?

Dear Pot:

Yes, I am black.


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Taking its sweet time

Proposition to be tested: that the black carbonic substance pitch is a viscous or flowing material. Test method: place a quantity of pitch in a funnel, set the funnel in a jar, and wait.

Trinity College began this experiment in 1944. Several times they thought they’d caught a drop in the bottom of the jar, but there never seemed to be someone around to observe the phenomenon — until this year, when an observer thought he’d seen a drop beginning to form. The department set up a 24/7 webcam to catch the drip in motion. (If only they’d had that in 1944, right?) Finally, they had their proof.

A similar experiment in Australia began in 1930, and has reportedly yielded eight drops, but not one of them ever managed to drip in front of an observer. (“Technical glitches” have been blamed.)

Conclusion of the Trinity team:

viscosity of pitch : viscosity of honey :: 2,000,000 : 1

We should probably not expect pitch to be packaged in bottles — or, for that matter, jars — any time soon.

(Via this Jennifer Ouellette tweet.)

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Mulch to be desired

Even now, lawns are pleading “Please get off me!”

Mean Mower by Honda

Honda, Team Dynamics racing, and Top Gear have created a monster: a 109-horsepower lawn mower than can do zero to sixty in four seconds flat. The Mean Mower is expected to top out at around 130 mph, the same speed as my car.

About the only thing it doesn’t do particularly well is cut grass. (I know, right?) With the blades — actually a series of cables — in place, the mower slices through the Bermuda at 15 mph. And there’s no grass bag, that space having been given over to an expanded fuel tank and extra engine cooling.

Still: WANT.

I trust I need not explain why.

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Not to be diacritical or anything

I wouldn’t have thought anything brand-name-related bothered Nancy Friedman more than gratuitous umlauts, except maybe for gratuitous umlauts coupled with an egregious -ify or -ly ending. (Should some poor sap come up with a name like “Exëmplïfy” — well, let’s say I fear her wrath.)

But apparently there is one step beyond:

[G]ratuitous acute accents are worse: Even monolingual English speakers are likely to have encountered a few acute-accented French words such as sauté and cliché. (Hello, McCafé!) We know what the accent is supposed to do to a word’s pronunciation; undermine our expectations and you undermine our confidence in your brand.

One example she cites: The Lé Edge exfoliating tool, which scrapes away just enough epidermis for the purpose of “revealing the newer younger cells and more radiant skin.” Now I know of no circumstances in (my admittedly limited) French in which “le” is rendered as “lé”; but given the shape of the corporate logo, I wonder if maybe they thought that without “guidance” we’d pronounce it as a single syllable. (“I live only to serve, my Leedge.”)

The one I never did figure out was Mazda’s Protegé, predecessor to the current Mazda3. If you ask me, they should have either left off the one accent mark, or given the name its proper Frenchification: “protégé.”

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Are you the Keymaster?

Not that she knows of, but get a look at these credentials:

For I have a Unicomp Model M “buckling spring” keyboard!

Which is indeed the successor to the original IBM Model M, two of which I use daily (one at home, one at the shop). They spun off the keyboard business to Lexmark, which subsequently spawned Unicomp. (Lexmark also makes ribbons for the IBM 6400 printer, now living in Ricoh’s basement.)

My M at home is a 1391401, born in 1990; it was one of the last variants not to have a drainage channel. Think about that, but not for long.

So far, so good, though it doesn’t quite have the takkatakkatakka clickativeness of an old Chicony. The keys are about where my fingers expect them to be, though, and the keycaps are smallish and concave, the way Ghu and IBM intended them to be.

I can see Venkman using a Chicony — if he can’t get ribbons for an old Smith-Corona manual, anyway.

The sysadmin has suggested getting a couple of Unicomps as backup for those of us who insist, which means basically me. They cost as much as a dozen crappy commodity keyboards; then again, the M on my work box is seventeen years old, which means it’s long since outlasted a dozen crappy commodity keyboards. And the down-arrow is sticking a little on the upstroke, but that’s about it.

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More debtholes

“One of those modern-life things that just should not be,” she says, and you may be sure that it’s absolutely true:

I don’t know why they call me. The phone number that is linked to the address is NOT the phone number when the person in question lived here — this phone number has always been MY number; it was mine when I lived in the apartment and it moved with me. The phone number to my house was different when the previous owner lived there.

Which demonstrates that they’re far less effective than old-school skip tracers: at best they do some perfunctory Googlage, and all the rest is extrapolated rectally.

And there are scant penalties for their ongoing malfeasance:

A group of people also may sue a debt collector as part of a class action lawsuit and recover money for damages up to $500,000, or one percent of the collector’s net worth, whichever amount is lower.

One percent. One. It is to laugh. Doesn’t say a damned thing about feeding them to wolves, either.

Well, eff that. As I said before: “I figure that if I actually owe someone money, they can by God send me a proper bill. If they can’t, screw ’em.”

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In search of some John Hancocks

No more anonymous comments on

“Soon, commenting on will be available to all (subscribers and non-subscribers) but those comments will be treated just like Letters to the Editor. All commenters will be required to use their real name and town,” [Publisher Bill] Masterson states.

Newsroom staffers and those working in the public light rejoiced.

How much rejoicing?

In this Internet infancy, anonymity sadly became not only the norm, but expected.

It has led to the most mean, profane, crude, racist, sexist and outrageous personal attacks I’ve encountered.

My guess is the commenters would never say such cruel things to a person’s face.

It’s been wrong to allow this bullying and name-calling to go on under a cloak of anonymity.

But … but … whistleblowers!

Oh, that’s right. For every potentially useful piece of information, there are approximately 1,823 trolls.

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Down in it

I once characterized myself as a practitioner of “self-defecating humor,” which I’m guessing Advice Goddess Amy Alkon would think is a load of crap:

Exactly how much of a self do you have to deprecate? Evolutionary psychologist Dr. Gil Greengross sees self-deprecating humor as a social version of conspicuous consumption (outlandish spending implying that a person has so much money, he could use packets of dollar bills for firewood.) Poking fun at yourself can suggest that you have so much personal and emotional capital that you not only don’t need to sweat to impress a woman, you can laugh at what a loser you are. (This works especially well if you’re a loser like George Clooney.)

Not much chance of that, I suspect.

[A]lthough some humorous self-condemnation can be fun, a constant barrage of it may make a woman’s ears try to coerce her arms and legs into a suicide pact. Also, it’s easy to fall into the habit of using humor as a force field so you never have to open up and get real. This tends not to go unnoticed or go over with the ladies.

For balance, I always try to condemn someone else, and given the state of the world at the moment, there’s always someone else at hand.

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For everything else, there’s FatterCard

Plastic is not good for your health, even if you don’t eat it, says a study:

Consumers are more likely to gain weight when paying with credit cards, because they are more likely to buy junk food as a result, according to a new study.

A Journal of Consumer Research report written by economists Manoj Thomas, Kalpesh Kaushik Desai and Satheeshkumar Seenivasan concluded that shoppers paying with credit cards find it harder to resist indulgent purchases such as fast food or unhealthy treats.

And how does that work, exactly?

Credit cards weaken the impulse control of consumers, making it more difficult for them to rationalize that something is not a necessary purchase, according to the study.

As usual, George Carlin was a bit more direct about it: “No one should be paying the bank eighteen percent interest on Tic-Tacs.”

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Waste management, indeed

Meanwhile in Michigan, somebody’s hiring, or at least somebody was hiring:

Laborers for early outdoor shits

(Another example of superior proofreading from the collection.)

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As reported by a spokesperson

The conventional wisdom says you grab the steering wheel at 9 and 3 o’clock:

The proper grip of the steering wheel starts with the hands at the 9:00 and 3:00 positions. Contrary to the 10 and 2 o’clock positions you probably learned in driver’s school, you have greater range of motion and control with your hands in the 9 and 3 o’clock positions.

There is, however, one distinct advantage of 10/2:

This can obstruct or obscure your spouse’s view of the speedometer and avoid commentary upon how fast you’re driving.

Your automotive interior — or, for that matter, your spouse — may vary.

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Fluffy, not stuffy

Poodles — wouldn’t you know it? — are “genetic psychopaths”:

Full-sized poodles tend to be fairly even-tempered. At around 45 pounds or heavier and 15 inches or more in height, they do not feel the need to assert themselves even when wearing one of those stupid poofy haircuts that dog shows insist is the appearance of a Champion Dog. They seem to have more of an attitude of “Hey, that’s right, I look funny. Come right up here beside me and I’ll make with a big ol’ toothy grin of my own!”

Show types will point out that these stupid poofy haircuts have a perfectly logical reason. Says the Poodle Club of America: “The trim you see in the show ring today is a highly stylized version of the original clip designed by hunters to help the dogs move through the water more efficiently.” They aren’t kidding when they say “highly stylized.”

Small poodles, on the other hand, have one of two thoughts in their tiny little canid craniums: “I shall obtain respect despite my appearance by barking incessantly and ravaging the toes of any creature who dares cross my path,” or, “If I keep barking someone will eventually kill me and put me out of my misery.”

And of course, the little guys live a lot longer than their taller relatives.

I’ve long since made my peace with poodles: my ex had one — a miniature, defined as between 11 and 15 inches — when we were wed, and he was generally better-behaved than I was, except during grooming, when we were both pretty damned balky.

If you want a good reason to be suspicious of poodles, Goethe’s take on Faust has Mephistopheles following him home like a lost puppy: a rather large lost puppy, perhaps, but still, not so intimidating as to suggest to Faust that maybe the study isn’t the best place for this particular dog.

Then there’s Frunobulax, stoppable by neither bullets nor rockets.

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Big Obsolete Al

Al Sharpton has been busily raising his profile of late, most likely because he needs to be busily raising some money:

Federal filings show his failed 2004 presidential campaign remains nearly a million dollars in debt.

The campaign still owes the Federal Election Commission (FEC) more than $200,000 in fines for a litany of nearly decade-old election law violations, a new quarterly FEC report details.

The campaign’s outstanding debts, including its FEC fine, total $925,713.78, according to its most recent quarterly report.

Notes Emily Zanotti:

Apparently, the FEC has been consistently badgering Sharpton for the money, though members of the National Legal and Policy Center, which filed the initial complaints against Sharpton for his 2004 Presidential farce, note that Sharpton cares about his legal problems and his debts about as much as he cares about the true state of discourse on racial equality in America, which is to say, pretty much not at all.

And Sharpton’s gig at MSNBC produces much heat, but no light, and damn little in the way of ratings.

No comment from Tawana Brawley at this writing.

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