What have I done?

Too often, we assume that it’s Just Not Enough:

[T]here’s something very insidious about the idea, which you sometimes hear, that someone who isn’t famous or hasn’t amassed a lot of money or who hasn’t written books or stuff like that doesn’t matter. I know I have said to myself on occasion, “You’re wasting your life” when I think of people who were born in the same year as I was and who have done much more well-known things with their lives (directed movies, written books on Proust) or when I think of people who have devoted their all to the single purpose of research and, as a result, have more or better-known publications than I do.

And I need to stop it. Not just because being jealous of another person blinds you to the blessings you do have … but because I do have something to contribute. Even if it’s something small. Even if it’s just baking a batch of jam bars and standing by the punchbowl serving people punch.

When I was younger, I got a whole lot of “Some day you’re going to be Great,” often with a Tony the Tiger inflection, because I was allegedly smart as a whip and highly motivated. I’ve spent much of the rest of my life demonstrating otherwise. I have, however, done my part to sustain the species, having passed down the genes to two offspring of, if you ask me, entirely too much fecundity, and I have a teensy but genuine fan base. Small accomplishments, maybe; but if they haven’t gotten me into Wikipedia, well, they haven’t gotten me into The Smoking Gun either.

And this is worth repeating:

[Y]ou never do know where your influence will take other people… Maybe you don’t find a cure for cancer … but maybe you teach someone who becomes a doctor who helps people recover from cancer. Or someone who helps them cope with it emotionally…

I have no idea if I’ve been a particularly positive influence. I do, however, strive to avoid being a negative influence. The question of whether that’s enough is left as an exercise for the student.

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This ought to be Badenov

But this trick always works:

New Hampshire license plate Moose and Squirrel

(Found in this Elle Armageddon tweet.)

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Perhaps a trifle too fast

I am told that this is the artwork for Sara Evans’ yet-unreleased single “Slow Me Down,” due out after Labor Day:

Slow Me Down by Sara Evans

This is not, I hasten to add, the same song as Emmy Rossum’s “Slow Me Down,” released about six years ago. Apparently Sara debuted the song here:

And as long as we’re talking about six years ago or thereabouts, Sara’s management sent out this little standup thing to promote her for a Country Music Association award back then:

For your consideration for a CMA award

A copy of that little standup thing, at this writing, was for sale on eBay.

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Upon further examination

Did you ever go back and reread something you wrote several years ago? And if so, did you feel compelled to make excuses for so doing?

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Beneath the sneeze guard

In my younger days, I used to scoff at All You Can Eat deals: “They’ve never seen me eat.” I still wonder how they manage to survive:

I had wondered the same, but thought that the answer was pretty straightforward: restaurants have high fixed costs and lower marginal costs. Drinks at restaurants are usually bottomless, because once they have the fountain, it’s cheap to refill. This is less the case with food, but there’s still something to it. It’s one of the reasons that portion sizes tend to be so large and why “full” servings are such better values than “Half servings” much of the time. I suspect this is particularly the case at buffets, which often do not use the most expensive ingredients. So the goal is to simply get butts in seats and get them to shell out a certain amount of money.

And no, I can’t eat that much anymore. Just as well.

(See also “The Economics of All-You-Can-Eat Buffets.”)

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The last VW Microbus

After 56 years in production, the Volkswagen Type 2 / Kombi / Microbus is finally being phased out: one last run of 600 will be produced in Brazil, and then it fades into history, killed by safety regulations.

I learned to drive in one of these contraptions, fortysomething years ago, and while I’ll readily concede that one’s knees don’t provide a whole lot of crash protection, driving the living whee out of something incredibly slow is a bit more emotionally rewarding than owning something that will easily do somewhere in the high triple digits if you had some place to do them, which you don’t.

The venerable flat four has been enlarged over the years, to a whole 1.4 liters, and power is now up to 78 hp. The one and only gearbox is, as always, a four-speed manual. Oh, and there’s a radiator now. They’ve installed MP3 capability and that sort of thing; but you’ll have to supply your own shovels, rakes, and implements of destruction.

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Standing tall-ish

I admit up front that seeing My Little Pony: Equestria Girls was not a priority with me: I didn’t make the trek to Stillwater, the only place in the state where it actually played theatrically, and while I’d pre-ordered the DVD, which arrived last Tuesday, I didn’t watch it until the following Sunday. (Let it be said that this dawdling tactic is not at all unprecedented.) And besides, the basic premise and I did not get along: if I wanted to watch a cartoon about teenage girls, I’d go hunt up reruns of Daria or something.

That said, I must admit, the deponification of ponies went far better than I’d anticipated. I could argue that all these girls — and all but a couple of the boys — looked like they weren’t getting much for lunch, a cafeteria scene to the contrary notwithstanding, and besides, I’ve already seen Mean Girls; but for the most part, the story holds up, the characterizations make sense, and the songs, in MLP:FiM fashion, are ridiculously catchy, even the one I’d vowed to hate. (That would be, um, this one.) My inner 9-year-old girl pronounced herself pleased, though I was put off by a Bonus Item on the DVD in which some Hasbro suit in an Original Penguin shirt declared that they could just as easily do, say, My Little Flounder.

Ultimately, I have to say what I said on Twitter when I’d finished watching it:

It’s like coming home and finding someone painted the house: it looks wonderful, but it’s not something I wanted done.

Season Four, with actual ponies, starts in November. This will have to do for now.

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Strange search-engine queries (394)

And how is your Monday going? Perhaps these finds from the search log will help — or perhaps not, being as how it’s a Monday and all.

www.real a:  I’ve known one or two people who could be described as a real A.

half past midnight Missouri:  Ten-thirty Pacific.

the fab four vs the drab four:  You’ll notice that the Fat Boys were never called the Flab Four. (Then again, there were only three of them.)

Since I am a frequent flightier:  I couldn’t care less about the TSA.

Wanker, Secretly Gay, Prima Donna, Racist, Herpes, Alcoholic, Compulsive Liar, Gambling Addict, Thug, Tatooed Thug, Galoot:  Well, that pretty much covers the entirety of Parliament, I’d say.

closet communist post-menopausal hag:  Probably teaching Gender Studies at Generic State U., even as we speak.

girl who has read up on her syntax:  Would love me even less.

write a intructions to make an antidote for the majic potion:  But first, read up on your syntax.

“lyrics” “sausalito is the place to be”:  “Bay living is the life for me / Green spreading out both far and near / Keep Budweiser, just gimme imported beer.”

no is required either:  (1) Should I stay or (2) should I go?

“kings of industry”:  More like the queen. Or the jack. Or the ten of diamonds.

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Light on the subject

Here’s a solar-energy program in Ontario that varies markedly from the usual schemes proposed in the States:

I covered my roof with panels under the Ontario MicroFIT (Feed-in Tariff) program that ends next year. So far I think it’s only in Ontario, but some other provinces are thinking about it. The power I generate from the panels goes directly back to the grid, and I’m paid about 55 cents a kWh and will continue to be for the duration of my 20 year contract. So far this summer, even with all the rain, it translates to about $300-400/month. So the cost of the panels is paid for in about 6-8 years. After that, the money I make in the following 12 years is mine to keep!

Note that she’s not using any of the panel-produced power: it all goes back to the grid, and they pay her above-market rates for it. How does that work out?

Currently I pay about 10 cents a kWh when I use electricity, and that rate will likely go up. If it hits 55 cents in the next 20 years, then I’m better off using the solar power in my own home to decrease my reliance on the grid. BUT that means I need one of those backwards spinning meters, that read energy being used AND being generated, which aren’t yet allowed in my neck of the woods. Hopefully they’ll be able to implement them before I need them. As soon as that contract is up, I have to wire it into my home directly.

Since such meters exist elsewhere, it should be no trick to make Canadian versions available.

In the States, we get tax credits for installing such things. I’m not sure whether that’s an improvement.

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I hear you knocking

You may recall this from Vent #832 last week, about a recently-purchased download of “The Hair on My Chinny Chin Chin” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs:

Both versions [45 and LP] open with four drum beats, intended to be a knock at the door. (We know it’s intended to be a knock at the door because the chorus chimes in, “Who’s there?”) For some reason known but to God, or to one or several little pigs, three of those beats have been trimmed away, thus making the whole opening sequence incomprehensible. This is a failure only a massive corporation — say, Universal Music, who owns these tracks of late and presumably provided copies to the download stores — could possibly pull off.

I could either wait for a reissue producer to knock on Universal’s door, or I could fix this myself. And so it was that last night, I ripped just the four beats from the stereo LP, and then pasted them into the purchased file at the appropriate point. I’m sure this violates someone’s perverse idea of current copyright law, which is pretty perverse in its own right, but hey: they messed up.

Incidentally, I didn’t bother to correct the stereo spread, so the knocks appear to be coming from the left side, then the rest of the song shifts to mono. I’d argue that it makes sense that way.

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Fark blurb of the week

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The unhappy picture

Worth1000, home of hundreds of thousands of Photoshopped images and much, much more, is going to close:

My current plan is to end our last submissions on the midnight changeover of September 29th/30th, with the actual site changing to the museum layout a week later, at which point I would turn Worth1000’s library of amazing content into a static browsable museum. I think from here on out we can throw some fun finale contests leading up to that point. 7 weeks is not a lot of time, but it is enough to prepare, mourn together and celebrate worth’s amazing history and run right up until the very end.

Please know that this was a difficult, thought-out decision and I made it over the course of several agonizing months, after more than a year of looking for the right new owner. But I know in my heart it’s the right one: It’s time.

An eleven-year run, in this era of short attention spans, is pretty darn remarkable. And they did their best to, um, monetize the joint; I actually bought someone’s Shopped-up image in the form of a refrigerator magnet.

(Via Fark.)

Addendum: What image, you ask? This major malfunction in the Buffyverse:

Read the rest of this entry »

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All golden selections

I started following Van Dyke Parks on Twitter because, well, hell, he’s Van Dyke Parks, genius a few degrees off plumb but no less a genius for all that. I did not expect Twitter to send me suggestions based on someone so sui generis, but they did, and they make a surprising amount of sense:

Two influential (as distinguished from “large”) record labels, two off-center singers, and a famed alt-radio station. Good show, Twitter. See if you can maintain that standard.

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This calls for a Hmmmm…

I’ve owned two Mazdas, both piston-powered, but I’d always sort of coveted the company’s rotary machines during fits of rev-happiness. (Sandy, the later 626, always seemed a bit more fun when she was working hard.) Then they quit making the RX-8, and that was it for Felix Wankel’s crazy machine.

Or was it?

What we were told by a Mazda USA insider (while we are all here together at the festivities in Monterey) is that the first application of the new 16X engine will be happening in two years’ time in an as yet undisclosed new model.

And how will it differ from its predecessor?

“The key to both higher torque and better fuel consumption,” said the insider, “is creating a longer stroke engine.” But we’re talking a rotary engine with the fat-triangle rotor and toroidal cam, so how does one determine the way to call this long-stroke or not? “By the path of travel within the combustion space dictated by the engineers,” says Mr. Insider.

And maybe screwing with the timing cycle, which is a Mazda specialty: the old Millenia featured a Miller-cycle supercharged V6, and that was last century. (Literally: Ralph Miller’s patent was dated 1957.)

As to where this engine will be used, I’m guessing a rotary version of the MX-5/Miata, presumably to be called RX-5, perhaps to further distinguish it from the Alfa Romeo roadster being built on the same platform.

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She could not be expected to pillage

Rachel Hurd-Wood turns twenty-three today, and mostly, what I wanted here was to post something that didn’t remind me of Peter Pam, since her first film role was Wendy Darling in a 2003 film based on the J. M. Barrie story. (She’d have been 13 then, which fits.) I’ve seen too many hair colors on her to believe that this is the default, but it looks so good on her:

Rachel Hurd-Wood

This is not, so far as I know, a shot of Hurd-Wood as Sibyl Vane in Oliver Parker’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray — but the timing is right, and the look is just as right.

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Does anybody really know what year it is?

Advice from Eric Siegmund on keeping a band alive for almost 50 years:

If you seek longevity as a musician, acquire some skill on an instrument other than your voice. Inevitably, the old guys lose the upper registers (or in the case of Gary Lewis, all the registers), but the horn players can rock it until the day they pass to that Great Spit Valve in the Sky. Chicago has done a good job of finding younger replacement vocalists (who are also great instrumentalists) while keeping a core group of four original members.

From what I’m told, Robert Lamm, who wrote a lot of early Chicago tracks, is still singing them — with the exception of “25 or 6 to 4,” which he wrote but didn’t sing. (Perfect opportunity for Jason Scheff, who replaced Peter Cetera, who did sing on it.)

As for Gary Lewis, he sings more now than he used to. (Producer Snuff Garrett’s modus operandi back then: have Ron Hicklin do the basic vocal track, add Lewis double-tracked, sweeten with more Hicklin and/or other Playboys.) And there’s always, um, Auto-Tune.

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