College, shmollege. It’s all trade schools these days:

Starting with the G.I. Bill, the notion that all high school graduates should attend college, specifically as preparation for their “future careers,” has taken a ferocious grip on Americans’ minds. Our colleges and universities have come to resemble trade schools in many ways, though the “trades” for which they purport to prepare us bear little resemblance to the ones BOCES alumni practice.

American grammar and high schools exhibit that orientation in their obsessive insistence upon preparing for college. Breathes there a “guidance counselor” anywhere in this land whose first question upon meeting a new student isn’t some variation on “What would you like to do for a career?” Testing for “aptitudes” has completely displaced intelligence tests in our high schools. (This might be for the best, considering how many American teenagers possess the intelligence of an earthworm.) The whole edifice appears designed to get young Americans aimed toward an office occupation of some sort, such that non-office alternatives — e.g., entrepreneurship; the clergy, the blue-collar trades; a military career — are effaced from consideration.

As a person of a Certain Age, I have taken scads of aptitude tests, most of which suggested that I would be a paper-pusher par excellence. The Army duly slotted me for a personnel-management billet, and in my subsequent civilian years, I found myself doing largely administrative-type work, without actually obtaining any administrative-type titles. It happens that I am good at what I do, though nothing in my “educational” background would so indicate; there is literally no curriculum in any institution of learning which teaches my current skill set.

Nor is my collar entirely white: I spend a fair amount of time producing actual printed materials, which suggest a blue collar, and I have the ink stains (which are not blue) to prove it. Come to think of it, I usually wear a pocket T to work, and it doesn’t have any collar at all.

And it’s difficult for me to imagine how I’d be any better qualified for this position, which pays me on the high side of the administrative range, but on the low side of the technical, had I spent five figures (now probably six figures) chasing down degrees. You certainly won’t see any guidance counselors pushing anyone toward this slot. Besides, my presence in that slot is largely accidental: the previous occupant departed without much notice, and I was one of only two or three people in the entire operation who had ever even seen an IBM midrange before. (I’d worked on some of the big iron, even.) Since they had better things to do, the position became mine by default. Fortunately, I learn quickly.

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Strange search-engine queries (328)

If you’ve ever shaken down a server log, trying to steal its lunch money, this is the weekly feature for you.

mercedes benz mid life crisis:  This usually happens after the warranty is up and little (but expensive) things start to break.

craigslist casual encounter pictures of live oak and lake city florida:  Were I to have what craigslist defines as a “casual encounter,” I sure as hell wouldn’t be posting pictures of it.

washington wizard penis logo:  Which hardly seems necessary: the Wizards don’t have quite as much experience with dick moves as do some of the higher-ranked NBA teams.

summer words that you don’t hear often:  “Blizzard” comes most readily to mind. (And it’s not like we’re near a Dairy Queen or anything.)

no fat chicks car may scrap car sticker:  I have no idea what this means, but I have reason to believe this guy’s dance card is not exactly overflowing, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

how to provoke discussion:  Start with a bald statement with intent to insult — for instance, “no fat chicks.”

youtube horney sexy drooling tongue:  That narrows it down to about four million music videos.

ponyville oklahoma:  Disincorporated in the 1930s when no one was left to serve in the Mare’s office.

Air Boner:  Home of the original Mile High Club.

beware the righteous man:  Indeed. He might actually believe in something, and who the hell is going to vote for that?

characteristics of a genius blog:  For one, it has such a wealth of material that it can afford to waste a post every week on mere search strings.

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Visibly packing

The Guv says she’s going to sign that open-carry bill:

Gov. Mary Fallin said Saturday she will sign a bill into law that will allow Oklahomans with concealed handgun permits to carry their weapons in the open.

“I’m going to be signing that bill,” Fallin announced to 1,400 delegates at the Oklahoma Republican State Convention, drawing cheers and applause. “I’ve been waiting a long time.”

The measure, Senate Bill 1733, passed the Senate 33-10 after an 85-3 romp through the House. It will take effect, typically for new Oklahoma laws, on the first of November. It’s not, as the pundits say, “permissive”: you must first obtain a concealed-carry permit, though Oklahoma is a shall-issue state and they have to give you a good reason to turn you down.

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Scrutinizing a steady auto-insurance bill

If you saw last November’s update, you’ve pretty much seen this one: they’ve tweaked the rules for rental-car reimbursement just slightly, but all the rates and coverages are exactly identical, which suits me just fine. They’ll raise the rates eventually — I’m thinking, based on prior experience, probably in the fall of 2013 — but for now, I’m just happy with not having to shuffle budget items around.

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Pumped-down pumps

Out here, we call this particular rhetorical technique “Stream of Conoco”:

Democrats can get excited about gas prices dropping.
Except gas prices dropped before the 2008 election also.
Dropped from record highs also.
Didn’t help Republicans much.

Perhaps the pols have finally figured out that if you take credit for something improving, you get the blame for it when it deteriorates.

Naw. Couldn’t be. And anyway, every 15-cent drop saves me around $4 a month, which is nice to have but which doesn’t exactly stimulate the ol’ wallet, if you know what I mean.

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Now pay up already

Chocolat is a text editor for Mac OS X. As is the case with many programs, it’s offered on a trial basis, after which, if you expect to continue using it, you must fork over the asking price. Otherwise, you are faced with this horrifying screen:

Registration screen for Chocolat that threatens users with Comic Sans

Now that’s just cruel.

(Via FAIL Blog’s WIN!)

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Shelby remembered

Carroll Shelby, in his last year of Formula One competition, drove a race-prepped version of Aston Martin’s DB4 for erstwhile AM owner David Brown. Astons at the time ran highly-tuned DOHC inline sixes, which apparently did not impress Shelby in the least.

AC Cobra 260When Shelby decided to get into construction in 1961, he wrote to AC Cars in Britain and asked them if they could modify their existing Ace roadster to accommodate a proper American-style V8. AC, which had been using Bristol’s six, a prewar BMW design, was in the process of switching to an English Ford six, and they told Shelby they could. Shelby then hit up Chevrolet, who turned him down flat. Ford, however, would talk to him, and they offered an updated version of their Windsor V8, bored out to 260 cubic inches. Shelby ordered up a chassis, and the transatlantic assembly line was created: AC would do the bodywork, then ship the carcass to Shelby’s West Coast facility, where the powertrain would be installed.

Seventy-five of these cars, christened “Cobra,” were built, priced at $5995; Shelby then switched to the new Windsor 289. The Cobra proved to be a sturdy and successful racer, so naturally it had to be improved upon; the chassis was stretched and strengthened, and Shelby, now enthusiastically supported by Ford, received a supply of the FE V8, a monster with 427 cubes.

Lee Iacocca, who had enlisted Shelby’s assistance in producing a line of high-performance Mustangs, eventually landed at Chrysler, and he persuaded Shelby to follow him. By then, pretty much everything Mopar was either already or about to be front-wheel drive, but no matter. The Shelby-modified Dodge Omni GLH (“Goes Like Hell”) offered 146 ponies to drag around a mere 2300 pounds, at a time when comparably-sized cars had maybe 90 or 100 at most. (A GLHS followed, with 175.)

Jack Baruth gave Shelby, who died Thursday, the following sendoff:

Although his final years were beset by scandal and an increasingly Byzantine series of lawsuits against everyone from “cloners” to his own fan club, the man’s contributions to the art, science, and passion of hauling ass in affordable cars are undeniable.

Even if some of them aren’t quite so affordable anymore.

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Saturday spottings (jazzy)

Trini had never before seen one of the Symphony Show Houses, a deficiency I had vowed to remedy, and so today we set out for the 2012 edition, billed modestly as a “Jazz Age Manor,” smack in the middle of Heritage Hills at 15th and Walker.

2012 Symphony Show House

The 1925 Tudor Revival house, says the taxman, covers 8518 square feet, though it seems like more, what with six bedrooms, six full baths and three half-baths, and God knows how many stairs. (Yes, I climbed them all.) Each of the twenty-eight (I think) rooms has been done up by local design pros, and while obviously not everything on the inside is pure Roaring Twenties — I’m pretty sure Jacuzzi wasn’t doing hot tubs back then — what we were looking for was some semblance of Gracious Living, which for the moment we define as “what we’d do after cashing the lotto tickets.” I was most struck by some of the newly-applied wall finishes, some of which I wouldn’t mind seeing in my own modest digs.

Here’s their television spot:

The Symphony Show House will be open through the 20th of May. (Exterior photo courtesy of Leonard Sullivan; photography was not allowed inside the house.)

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Maybe they thought it was New Coke

Somewhere in Cherokee County, Georgia, are men who don’t understand the difference between “meth” and “methodical”:

[I]f the two “suspects” were trying to produce meth, they weren’t following the right recipe, the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday afternoon.

“Although the suspects likely thought they could produce methamphetamine and actually had some of the items required to make the drug, it would have been impossible for them to produce methamphetamine,” said Lt. Jay Baker. “There was no Ephedrine, a required ingredient to methamphetamine, located at the home.”

Perhaps they were working up one of those Mock Apple Pies you see on a box of Ritz® crackers.

The Fark headline for this is classic: “There’s ordinary dumb. There’s ‘busted for cooking meth’ dumb. And then there’s ‘busted for trying to cook meth without even having the right ingredients’ dumb.”

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More than six strings

Legendary HipHarpist Deborah Henson-Conant, a favorite in these parts, is now learning guitar, sort of:

Steve Vai, a Berklee alumnus, came up with this course, offered online by his alma mater, and it’s a natural for DHC, who has long been coaxing amazing noises out of her harp. Besides which, she’s actually going to be in Vai’s touring band starting this fall, so what better time to brush up on some of Vai’s limpid licks?

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Meanwhile in Butcher Holler

Zooey Deschanel and Loretta Lynn at the Ryman AuditoriumYour eyes do not deceive you: that’s Zooey Deschanel and Loretta Lynn on stage at the Ryman, doing “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and thereby hangs a tale:

[Loretta] Lynn made the announcement mid-concert at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Thursday night (5/10) by inviting Deschanel on stage for a duet of the title song.

“Well, there’s a little girl back stage that’s going to do the play of Coal Miner’s Daughter on Broadway,” Lynn said. “Zooey, where you at, honey?”

You should probably not get in line right away for tickets — this production is still technically in the planning stage — but I’ve got to believe that things will move pretty quickly, if only to make sure that Loretta, now 80, gets to see it herself.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided that the Loretta Lynn song I’d most like to hear Zooey sing is “One’s On The Way,” not least because it was written by, of all people, Shel Silverstein.

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Backhooved compliment

A few days ago, PJTV’s Trifecta, presumably for lack of any news, decided to dump on us non-female pony fans, although the tone of said dump was not too haranguing as these things go, and Stephen “Vodkapundit” Green admitted to having hit up a Brony Name Generator to find (un)suitable pony names for Scott Ott and Bill Whittle. (First reaction from this quarter: “There’s a brony name generator?”)

It’s not like any of these guys would actually have sat through an episode of MLP:FiM, of course. Scott “Majestic Comet” Ott, seeing a possible problem with this stance, decided that maybe he ought to see an episode, and while he hasn’t become a fan, he has recanted a bit:

Now I have watched one. It’s not badly written, and does have a bit of social commentary in it that’s engaging even for an adult. The humor didn’t make me laugh much, but then I watched only this episode. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste.

Come to think of it, the episode he watched (“Green Isn’t Your Color”) wasn’t one of my favorites; it certainly wouldn’t have been the starting point I’d have recommended, but it’s not like anyone listens to me.

Majestic Comet, though, has evidently made his peace with bronydom:

Although it is not devoid of redeeming cultural value, I’m still mystified by adult males who would flock to a convention without daughters. But then, I’m not a convention kind of guy. I thought the Republican National Convention was a ridiculous show by immature pretenders who I felt sure must have something better to do with their lives.

Fortunately, such a spectacle comes along only every four years or so.

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Comparable worth, as it were

Hugh Laurie, in Entertainment Weekly (#1207, 5/18), contemplating his role on House now that the series is ending, makes a vague reference to how much he was paid:

“My salary … was undeniably mad — the sort of money that should only be paid to people who destroy Earth-bound asteroids, or invent a method for converting journalists into clean energy.”

I just wish he hadn’t said “clean”; I was all ready to propose a scheme to dispose of The New York Times, based on the notion that the Old Gray Lady is, um, anthracite gray.

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Chasing chimeras

“Investments” used to mean equities; you bought stocks, or maybe bonds. Nowadays there are all manner of options out there, some of which make no sense except in the context of purest Las Vegas bookmaking: leverage, amalgamate, and leverage some more, until you own something that not even fanciful woodland pixies would find plausibly tangible. Eventually, of course, something like this must happen:

After the market closed Thursday, JPMorgan told regulators it lost about $2 billion tied to synthetic credit securities. The wrong-way bet was taken by its chief investment office, which the bank uses to help manage its trading risks.

“Since March 31, 2012, CIO [chief investment office] has had significant mark-to-market losses in its synthetic credit portfolio, and this portfolio has proven to be riskier, more volatile and less effective as an economic hedge than the firm previously believed,” the investment bank said in a regulatory filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“This is not how we want to run a business,” said JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

Sure it is. Robert J. Samuelson called Wall Street out on this kind of thing two years ago:

If buyers and sellers can be found, we’ll create and trade almost anything, no matter how dubious. Precisely this mind-set justified the packaging of reckless and fraudulent “subprime” mortgages into securities. Hardly anyone examined the worth of the underlying loans. Judgment was missing.

And now a couple of billion dollars are missing — which, you may be certain, JPMC will write off on next year’s tax return.

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Consider it sung

It’s been a weird May for Rebecca Black, what with the Occutards making — or fantasizing about — a threat against her, and the usual round of public appearances to promote the new single “Sing It,” which dropped Tuesday approximately an hour before I showed up online, 99 cents in hand.

It goes like this:

The video, of course, is a collection of cinematic clichés, as most music videos are. But this may be the best pure singing Rebecca’s ever done, and while “Sing It” isn’t quite as anthemic as “Friday,” it’s just about as catchy, which helps matters considerably. What’s more, as of last night, fewer than 30 percent of YouTube viewers had given it thumbs down, despite ample opportunity to do so. And regular readers here will note that she’s stuck to her guns: no drippy romance songs yet. (And no credits either, though I’ve put in a request; you’d think Amazon could handle a couple of extra MP3 tag entries, fercryingoutloud.) The only really jarring bit comes at the very end, where it seems to stop cold about one beat before it needs to, which is hardly necessary in a song that runs only 2:48. (It is, indeed, shorter than her previous releases.)

For the last word, I yield to Amy Sciarretto from PopCrush:

Black carries herself much more confidently now. She looks as though she has grown up and is having fun. All the Internet hate and the backlash didn’t break her spirit. Her music is a bit more mature, too. No, it’s not stands-the-test-of-time pop music, nor will it ever be. But it’s not going to make your ears bleed, either.

Me, I want to see her back on the charts, just to annoy the haters.

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Start here

Andrea Harris runs down that list of 100 best opening lines from novels, and decides that maybe they aren’t the best. (Okay, some of them are downright terrible and/or embarrassing.)

I was, however, gratified to see my Favorite Novel Ever in the #82 slot. (Yes, it’s worth reading.) And I thought I’d throw in a few others that I’ve found compelling — which doesn’t necessarily imply “beautiful” — over the past few years:

  • “There are houses in London that keep to themselves and say nothing when strangers walk by.” — F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre, The Woman Between the Worlds (1994)
  • “I knew we were unfit for one another the night we were watching Casablanca.” — James Lileks, Mr. Obvious (1995)
  • “Bad monkey wammerjammer.” — Penn Jillette, Sock (2004)
  • “I searched for sleep curled up in my quilt — the one made for me at my birth by my paternal grandmother’s own hands.” — Dorothea Benton Frank, Sullivan’s Island (1999)
  • “It started with a book.” — Frank Portman, King Dork (2006)
  • “If his life—along with those of so many agents faithful to the Cause—didn’t hang in the balance, James Locke knew he would turn and escape Lord Pembroke’s study as silently as he had entered.” — Donna MacMeans, The Trouble with Moonlight (2008)

About the only thing these books have in common is that I paid to own copies thereof, and I saw reason to go to the second line and beyond. As the phrase goes, your mileage may vary.

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