Lined up none deep

Sometimes the timing is perfect. It was 5:06 when one of the election officials, standing, said to the four seated by the wall: “And the five o’clock rush starts now.”

At which point I strode in, alone. “Must be me,” I said. A couple minutes later, I’d finished up ballot #502 for my precinct and exited, wondering where the rest of the rush was.

You’ll note that I didn’t run down a list of favored candidates for this primary. And frankly, it’s because I didn’t have a whole lot of enthusiasm for anyone on my ballot: there were a couple I figured I ought to help defeat, and negative votes count the same as the other kind, but otherwise, I was looking at three columns’ worth of Meh. Not a good enough reason to stay home, but not enough for me to demand my little “I Voted” sticker either.

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The fix is out

Wending its way through the Massachusetts General Court — it’s passed the Senate, and is awaiting consideration in the House — is a so-called “right to repair” bill, at the heart of which is this:

The manufacturer of a motor vehicle sold in the Commonwealth shall make available for purchase to independent motor vehicle repair facilities and motor vehicle owners in a non­-discriminatory basis and cost as compared to the terms and costs charged to an authorized dealer or authorized motor vehicle repair facility all diagnostic, service and repair information that the manufacturer makes available to its authorized dealers and authorized motor vehicle repair facilities in the same form and the same manner as it is made available to authorized dealers or an authorized motor vehicle repair facility of the motor vehicle.

This does not sit well with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers:

They argue the real reason for the law is for parts manufacturers to get access to confidential company information to remanufacture original equipment and make cheaper versions.

“Our unlikely coalition of law enforcement organizations, Massachusetts business groups, labor unions, auto dealers, automakers and, most importantly, independent repairers recognizes that consumers already have the right to have their vehicle serviced by the repairer of their choice,” said Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance. “This legislation is, was and will always be about parts not repair.”

Then again, how hard is it to walk into O’Reilly or AutoZone or even Pep Boys and come away with a knockoff version of an OEM part? Auto components have been reverse-engineered since about ten minutes after they were first engineered.

And what can’t I get? Nissan won’t sell me the CONSULT system used by dealerships — I can find a used one on eBay, though software updates are out of the question — but I can get all the repair information I can stand for $17 a year. Of the major makes, only BMW isn’t allowing this sort of thing; at the other extreme, Hyundai owners can get this stuff free.

So I’m not sure what I should think about this bill. It seems to me that if the manufacturers were really sweating the idea of cheap Chinese parts, they might, oh, refrain from teaming up with Chinese automakers who might copy their technology. Fat chance of that. That leaves the psychological angle: so long as the public suspects there may be some compelling reason to go back to the dealership rather than entrust Ol’ Betsy to the neighborhood garage, that particular cash cow will remain mostly unbutchered.

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Write now

“Pace yourself,” they say, in their usual inscrutable style, but slow and steady, Aesop notwithstanding, may not always get you to the finish line. Hence, the idea of the writing sprint:

[I]t felt somewhat anticlimactic when I finally wrapped up the story at approximately 69,000 words. But at least it’s that — completed. I think I feel more relieved than excited. Creating something at a quick pace is mentally exhausting. I definitely need the week to recover before I tackle next month’s project.

What’s unique about this particular project is that it had been almost entirely written using writing sprints on Twitter. Sometimes others joined me on the sprints, sometimes no one did. But I think what the writing sprints really did was to keep my mind focused on writing with minimal time wasted doing something else.

Not being a writer in this sense — yeah, I grind out a lot of text in a month’s time, but nothing resembling a coherent narrative — I probably don’t need such intensity of focus. If I wanted to try my hand at fiction, though, I’d have to put several body parts to the grindstone and keep them there. So it’s a good thing that the example does exist and is accessible, on the off-chance that I get a decent idea.

The sprint announcements can be found on Twitter using the hashtags #julnowrimo and (if you’re really in a hurry) #julno. And yes, you can read the entire novel.

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Euphemism of the month

The Car and Driver New Car Issue (September — seems to me like it used to come out in October) has this factoid about the 2011 Chevrolet Camaro:

The V-6 engine gets a claimed boost in horsepower from 304 to 312, made possible by a final SAE certification and an ongoing urea-based rivalry with the Mustang.

Wonder which whiz kid on the staff came up with that one?

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Residents tired of that crap

It’s hard to find Shitterton, Dorset: it’s not that big a place — it’s classified as a hamlet, smaller than a village — and people keep stealing the sign for some inscrutable reason.

Not any more:

“We thought, ‘Let’s put in a ton and a half of stone and see them try and take that away in the back of a Ford Fiesta’,” Mr [Ian] Ventham said.

Mr Ventham, who chairs the parish council, asked his neighbors to chip in, the district council added some more, and the entrance to Shitterton is now marked with a lovely engraved Purbeck stone that probably weighs close to a ton and a half. Someone may yet make off with it, but it’s not going to be quite so easy.

(Via Fark.)

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She’ll paint your face and use you like a fool

Last fall, Esquire did their annual “Sexiest Woman Alive” feature on Kate Beckinsale, during the interview for which she quipped: “If you’re any kind of a human, you know the title is utterly ludicrous.”

Which of course is true. And then I found this shot from late-night TV:

Kate Beckinsale

Scratch that word “utterly.”

The title is explained after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Yet another zombie on your lawn

The Zombie of Montclaire Moors

This creature practically sells himself:

We challenged artist Alan Dickinson to create his most macabre, haunting zombie statue exclusively for Toscano — and he certainly delivered! Not for the faint of heart, this gray-toned Zombie of Montclaire Moors statue features the most zombie-like eyes you’ve ever seen. Captured in meticulous detail in quality designer resin, this zombie garden statue brings the flesh-hungry undead to your daffodil bed!

There are only two other things you need to know: the price, which is $89.95, and this:

Arrives in 3 pcs.

Yes, but which three?

(Tweeted by E. M. Zanotti in the general direction of Sister Toldjah.)

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Cell sufficient

On the way home, I spotted a truck with the ever-popular American Automobile Association oval, which apparently was sent to assist a motorist in the neighborhood. Instead of a wrecker, they’d sent a pickup, and it bore the following legend on its flanks: “AAA Batteries Delivered & Installed.”

And for just a moment, I was befuddled: “Geez. AAA batteries are only yea big. You can carry a dozen in a pocket if you don’t mind sitting funny.”

Then, of course, the fog lifted. Oh. Those batteries. From AAA. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t call them and ask for a box of nine-volts.

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00nothing

LabRat detects something missing in the most recent adventures of Bond, James Bond:

The over-the-topness is the appeal. I adored both Charlie’s Angel movies, gold-plated dual-wielded 50.-cal Deagles and all. Loved Shoot ‘Em Up. Kung Fu Hustle is a Hong Kong cinema masterpiece. I can’t wait for The A-Team to come to DVD. I dislike the new James Bond movies partly because I hate shakycam, but mostly because I think James freaking Bond should be saving the world from nuclear prostitutes and laser-guided bears, not involving himself with some sort of incomprehensible intrigue involving Bolivian water supplies. Screw realistic torture scenes, I want to watch him jump out of a plane into another plane while driving an Aston Martin and smoking three cigars.

You got that, Eon Productions? Bears. With frickin’ lasers.

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Turrets syndrome

House with lots of turrets

No way I could pass up this one. The actual house is in Southlake, Texas, and will cost you a cool $5 million.

(Via, as per the tag, LovelyListing.com.)

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Fool disclosure

Now that everyone knows more or less who was on the infamous JournoList, and mindful of the fact that a handful of folks inexplicably consider me to be one of the Left’s “useful idiots” — “useful”? Moi? — here is what I believe to be a complete list of my ties, such as they are, to the listserv’s membership:

  • Lindsey Beyerstein: I have occasionally linked to her blog, which remains on my blogroll; I contributed a nominal sum to help finance her trip to Texas to photograph Tom DeLay’s “perp walk.”
  • David Corn: I get rather a lot of email with his name on it, which I attribute to having occasionally paid for a subscription to Mother Jones, for which Corn is the Washington bureau chief. (Extend to other MoJo staffers as appropriate.)
  • Todd Gitlin: I bought his 1987 book The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage when it came out.

Other than occasional random blog mentions, I believe this is it.

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Strange search-engine queries (234)

Time for another tour of the soft white underbelly of this particular beast: the referral logs, and the weirdness people seek when they aren’t planning to, say, smash someone through a plate-glass window. Or maybe when they are. Who can tell?

subdermal radiochip:  ”Hello, Request Line? I’d like to hear ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’.”

“accusations of McCarthyism:”  Were I McCarthy, I’d be suing a lot of people for patent infringement right about now.

tiny petite women:  Well, you know, the really large petite women are few and far between.

french moss:  As distinguished from, say, Stirling Moss, who was is British.

“I moved to the bronx:”  Well, that explains why it isn’t empty.

artist “acceptance fee” bullshit:  It is true that artists often find it difficult to gain acceptance. But charging them a fee? Sounds like BS to me.

has every mazda transmission failed:  Evidently not, since several Mazdas are on the road right now, even as I speak.

are most transmission problems bad?  Show me a good one, and we’ll talk.

naked chuck berry:  ”Nadine? Honey, is that you?”

cars for douchebags:  Doesn’t sound like a fair swap.

americans die while waiting on ambulance:  This is why we have ambulance chasers.

will i die from arthritis:  No. You’ll only wish you would.

fritzi ritz spanking nancy:  I blame Sluggo.

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Vocabularies to be embiggened

The most recent category addition around here is Word Up, which generally deals with matters of usage. Once in a while, though, there’s an opportunity to introduce, or at least to spread, a neologism that looks promising.

Sources for new words are many and varied. Certainly The Simpsons have provided a steady stream of perfectly-cromulent words over the past couple of decades. There is no shortage of word-related bloggage: for instance, Mark Peters’ Wordlustitude finds several new ones each week, usually in Twitter streams, and while they all can’t be gems, I try to work the best ones into my own blogfodder. The term “turbo-lie,” attributed to Matt Taibbi, is almost assured a spot here. (Disclosure: I’ve been cited twice by Mr Peters.)

Politicians, especially politicians who have been deemed mockable, are a ready source of neologisms. (I have a title — Strategery refudiated — just waiting for a suitable article.) How many of these will eventually wind up in the OED is open to question, though I suspect not many.

One term I’m seeing more often in the dextrosphere (a term now five years old; its polar opposite is “sinistrosphere”) is “mendoucheous,” our old friend “mendacious” given a Massengilded overlay. You might also remember “doucheboat”; apparently rather a lot of words are enhanced by a bit of douchery (cf. “doucheteria”, a place “with mediocre food and obnoxious people.”)

Anyway, this is mostly a placeholder for the rest of you to suggest words you’ve heard, or words you haven’t heard but would like to.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Speechless

Not in the literal sense, but there are times when the words just won’t come.

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Where does it end?

Jarrett Walker, in the midst of explaining how transit-ridership numbers can be misinterpreted, mentions this particular municipal phenomenon that can contribute to such misinterpretation:

City limits are a decent approximation of the core city in most of the northern tier of states, but in Southern California and Texas, for example, core cities are bizarre shapes that omit some dense inner city fabric and incorporate a lot of suburbia and exurbia. I have yet to meet anyone whose personal conception of “Los Angeles” ends at the bizarre Los Angeles city limits (thus including the San Fernando Valley and San Pedro, for example, but excluding West Hollywood, Santa Monica, and East LA). The exception, of course, would be City of Los Angeles leaders and employees. I’ve met many people in New York City, Seattle and San Francisco whose mental notion of their city matches the city limits pretty exactly.

This is pretty easy, I think. NYC has exactly five boroughs, and everyone knows more or less where they are. San Francisco is confined to the tip of the peninsula. And though King County has plenty of sprawl, Seattle itself is fairly compact.

At the other extreme, well, I’m soaking in it:

Oklahoma City by wards

The most startling aspect of this, in fact, is that Oklahoma City was once larger than its current 621 square miles. Local historian Doug Loudenback reports that in the middle 1980s, the city reached nearly 680 square miles, though areas in McClain and Logan Counties, and a substantial patch in northwest Oklahoma County, would eventually be deannexed. Still, the growth pattern is fairly clear: engulf, but fail to devour.

Personal note: The palatial estate at Surlywood is located in the southern portion of Ward 2.

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The green ones were a dead giveaway

From an Oklahoman story about the robbery of an Edmond drug store:

This is the second armed robbery of a pharmacy in Edmond in two years. There have been four burglaries of pharmacies in the same period. One pharmacist, tired of previous break-ins, replaced hydrocodone pills with M&M candy in four bottles that were stolen in a burglary earlier this month.

Police estimated the street value at more than $10.

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Scan this, pal

The TSA’s body scanners are getting a mixed review from the public. They’re very much faster than the traditional empty-your-pockets routine, at the cost of letting some low-level government official see you naked, or damned near. (Jeff Jarvis’ suggestion of flying naked does not seem to have caught on.)

So do you pass up the scan and waste valuable time, or do you submit to the device and trust that the operator is not actually a drooling perv? If you opt for the latter, there is now a small patch of defense: Flying Pasties, which despite their name don’t necessarily have to paste anywhere, but which will obscure your naughtier bits from view.

The Pasties take advantage of a known weakness in the scanning technology:

The scanners do a good job seeing under clothing but cannot see through plastic or rubber materials that resemble skin, said Peter Siegel, a senior scientist at the California Institute of Technology. “You probably could find very common materials that you could wrap around you that would effectively obscure things,” Siegel said.

So the Pasties are made from rubber, 2mm thick (and, I note, reusable), just enough to slip inside your unmentionables. I suppose these could be used by the Forces of Evil™ just as easily as by your mom, but of what technology is this not true?

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F TXT

Tam declines to respond to someone with a mere text message:

“If I am going to write to someone, I am going to write to them. In complete sentences. With punctuation. I am going to use the English language like Shakespeare and Milton by-gawd intended for it to be used, and I am damned well going to make it sit up and jump through little flaming hoops while I am at it! I am not going to be reduced to poking at buttons on a cell phone with my thumbs, turning out crap that looks like it was disgorged by an illiterate devolved protosimian fifth grader!”

This belongs in at least the Fifth Circle of Awesome.

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Unpaired despair

Start with a pool of six million women. Sounds like a lot? Well, Lincoln Adams just can’t beat the odds:

Since I won’t likely consider dating someone younger than 25, not just because of the creepy age difference, but also because someone that young will have a different and more naive perspective on life that would undoubtedly clash with my own sadder (but wiser) worldview, I’ve thus limited my options to within this age range [25-34].

I will concede only the “creepy age difference”; I’ve found naïveté from 8 to 80, and everywhere in between. (I can occasionally see it in my mirror, in fact.)

I also won’t consider anyone with kids either, not merely because of the inherent risks that comes with raising someone else’s children (and the fact that I would be playing second fiddle to the kids right from the start), but also because Mommy would hurt me really badly if I ever brought home a girl cradling Junior and Juniorette on each arm.

I have no experience in this realm, so I toss no brickbat here, though a couple of them suggest themselves.

So, according to stats I found elsewhere, 34% of women who have never married have kids. That winnows down the list to less than 4 million.

Since subjective traits such as personality, etc. can’t be measured in statistics, I’ll use the voting record to at least filter out those with incompatible political views. Since I’m conservative that would rule out the 70% of women who voted for Obama, which leaves me with less than 1.5 million eligible women.

See, for instance, me: “[F]or a long-term relationship, it’s better if the couple is somewhere within the same chapter, if not necessarily on the same page.” Still, bringing up the topic, unless a couple routinely discusses political matters, is a guaranteed trip to Awkward City.

Even now that still fails to take into consideration physical chemistry, common personality traits, religion, etc. (and also hoping she is of a sound enough mind without the need for mind altering drugs to keep her from going batpoopie insane.) Using all these factor it would be a MIRACLE if there were even 500,000 women left, but I’ll be generous though and presume even accounting for all these additional factors, there are still 1 million girls left that I can sample like a tasty free snack at the local supermarket. ["naughty" smiley in original] 1 million though only is 0.33% of the entire United States population. Less than one third of one percent. Gees.

Still, a pool of 500,000 is pretty substantial if all you need is one. I figure even a pool of 1,238 ought to suffice if you’re industrious enough, which I’m not.

Then again, do you know 1,238 women? Neither do I. And therefore:

Even if I stayed within the states, just traveling everywhere I can and as much as I can would at least boost the odds that I’ll come across one of the 1 million decent girls who might be … THE ONE. Heck even traveling just 150 miles into Pennsylvania opened up a few opportunities for me. One thing’s for sure, I’ve been stuck here in New York for 30 something years and I have not come any iota closer to finding anyone. There really may be nothing for me here, so maybe it’s time to see what’s out there instead.

Alternatively, Dan Collins tweets: “Have you tried mail order?”

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