The Oxycontinental divide

There’s only one thing that infuriates the Drug Warriors more than illicit pharmaceuticals: licit pharmaceuticals. If J. Random Hophead for some reason can’t make it to the party with cold blue steel and sweet fire, he’ll happily, or perhaps anxiously, kick down your door, or mine, in search of Schedule II-level release:

[T]he predictable response to these things is always the same.

We need to CRACK DOWN on pain meds.

That’s right. Make them harder to get. This will drive up the price, make the criminals more violent, cause more and more addicts to turn to heroin (which of course is cheaper per dose than black market oxycodone) and make it more likely that people … are slaughtered in their homes for their pain meds. (These crimes, too, will be blamed on the pain meds themselves, and fuel further crackdowns.)

But look at the bright side: we get that much closer to a police state. You like police, don’t you?

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Where everything is an anachronism

For me, writing, even informally, in the current My Little Pony universe is rather like having bees live in my head, because every single prop introduces the nagging question: “Would ponies actually have these?”

Seriously. There exists a fan-made video, and a darn good one, in which we see (briefly) Vinyl Scratch punching out somepony’s number on what looks like an iPhone. And then she says “Why do I even have this?” and tosses it into the fireplace.

The Round Stable has taken note of this phenomenon:

The first episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic opens with the turn of a storybook cover, establishing that Equestria exists in a self-contained fairy tale universe — fitting, considering that the first characters we meet are a dragon and a unicorn. But keep watching the show and you’ll notice that things start to get … strange. A steam engine here, a light switch there. A photo booth. A Technics turntable. At some point we abandoned the Middle Ages and we didn’t even notice.

The results can be fairly jarring. In one of my own story arcs, Equestria has fiendishly complex nanosurgery operating at the genetic level; however, they only just got Internet access, and it had never occurred to them before to take a census. At times, it makes sense — air mail, for example, comes via pegasus — but then again:

It’s not about the technology, it’s about the design. Sure, we can invoke unicorn magic to explain how video games function, and therefore why Equestria should logically have its own version of satellite television and even an information-sharing ponynet. But to do so would risk breaking immersion in the world the show has constructed, which is a far greater sin than ignoring an “X leads to Y” commandment of scientific progress.

Which ultimately, I think, demonstrates that Arthur C. Clarke was right; get the technology up far enough, and it might as well be magic. And frankly, I get a kick out of faking up explanations. From Second Act:

Both unicorns and pegasi take advantage of this hypervibration, each tribe having specific access points sensitive to its frequency. For the unicorn, it’s near the base of the horn — the tip of the horn is a transducer, used to propagate energy. For the pegasus, it’s between the wings, between the backbone and the spinal cord. No such receptor exists on the earth pony, and early experiments with directing magical beams at earth ponies, in an effort to find a resonance point, were unsuccessful.

It was not until the year 878 that science was able to answer this question of earth pony magic. The physicist Prismatic, analyzing the hypervibration to discover its components, determined that there exists at very low levels a second vibration, at a frequency too low to hear: approximately 1.61803398875 cycles per second. (Twilight Sparkle, of course, would insist on at least eleven decimal places.) Thinking this might be an impurity in the waveform, Prismatic rigged up a crude high-pass filter, which would eliminate the low-frequency component. His assistant at the time, an earth pony whose name has been lost to history, fell ill, and did not recover until the filter was deactivated.

That “eleven decimal places” business references this scene.

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Majors more minor

The current dearth of jobs for liberal-arts majors does not mean that you should immediately switch to another, supposedly more lucrative, area of interest:

Once upon a time I heard that when you ask Americans what they do, they tell you about their job, whereas if you ask a Brit they will tell you about their hobby. I think this is where a liberal arts degree can be a benefit. You may have a boring, tedious job, but an education would have exposed you to a larger world, so you might find something to occupy your mind, I mean besides, sex, drugs and rock & roll.

And if your job is boring and tedious, as many of them inevitably are, you will want to occupy that mind with something. I learned that several decades ago.

Real-world anecdote:

My three kids have all graduated from the University of Oregon with liberal arts degrees. Being a gearhead of the first order I was a little surprised that none of them were interested in science or engineering. Perhaps it was my gruff behavior or ranting about employers that turned them off, or perhaps it was just their natural inclination. They have all found jobs, though none of them are what you could call “good” jobs.

These days, “good” jobs are the ones with six digits before the decimal point on your W-2, or so says the conventional wisdom. Having never had one, I wouldn’t know. Then again, I persist in my silly belief that there are things in life that mean more than the size of one’s investment portfolio. And with government at all levels trying to tax everything that’s nailed down and most things that aren’t, I’d say there’s a definite disincentive involved: why should I try to earn that extra dollar, knowing I’ll have to surrender almost half of it immediately and most of the rest to the Gods of Inflation?

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Gaia hates carbs

James Lileks pays for a haircut, and gets a harangue for free:

The haircutter was a smart chap who is attending the U in Native American studies, and had written a piece that morning on Ethnobotany. The class, he said, had veered from historical studies to the discussion of Native American “subsistence” practices as an alternative to capitalism. I asked him if that meant we grew everything for ourselves in our backyard; more or less. A community should be able to feed itself.

Well, there go last Monday’s pork chops. No way am I slopping hogs out by the cottonwood tree.

I noted that capitalism and increased yields meant that people did not have to spend the entire day on food, and were freed up for things like science and art, and he said yes, that’s the tradeoff. I noted that it’s good to have strawberries in February, though, isn’t it? When the frozen food industry made it possible to have things in winter without the effort of canning, that was good. Right?

No, not really. The carbon footprint of the industry isn’t worth it. Example: eggplants. In the winter they only come from Europe. Better to do without than ship them over.

Got that, Minnesota? Yes, you have no bananas; you have no bananas today, or ever again.

I nodded, if only because I don’t like eggplant, and decided not to pursue that particular line of discussion. After all, I didn’t have my glasses on, and he had a pointy scissors.

And this is why I go to a stylist (so to speak) who rebuilds sports cars.

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Brian J. on the proposed “Internet sales tax”:

Maybe an Internet sales tax might have been workable fifteen years ago, but the profusion of special local sales taxing gimmicks has rendered it completely unworkable now. Online retailers or their newly more expensive payment processing vendors would have to somehow keep abreast of these developments, new taxing authorities, and siloed taxes across counties like the new Arch tax in the St. Louis metropolitan area, and they would need to constantly, daily update their tax levying to reflect new uses and abuses in every county, city, and town in the country.

Or, unexpectedly, go out of business. Which will mean the Internet sales tax revenues will be strangely less than hoped, and the well-positioned Internet and brick-and-mortar giants will reap the rewards.

When has a new tax ever brought in more than expected?

You’d think the GOP-controlled House would strangle this thing in its crib. Don’t count on it.

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Assorted space junk

The Thunder, after failing to shake the Rockets through two and a half quarters, finally managed to pile up a 15-point lead. Houston, in desperation, went into a 2-3 zone; seemingly in no time, a 21-2 run put them up by four. Oklahoma City stiffened, did a run of their own, and eventually put away the Rockets, 105-102, to go up 2-0 in the series.

There were two reasons why this game was much closer than Game 1. The first, inevitably, was James Harden, who doesn’t remain bottled up for extended periods. He played all but 2:40 tonight, and rolled up 38 points on 9-24 from the floor and 17 of 20 free throws. The Beard also had 11 rebounds, which brings us to the second reason: 11 rebounds was good only for third among the Rockets, who absolutely owned the boards to the tune of 57-40. Had the Rockets shot better than 40 percent — and they might have, had Jeremy Lin been able to come back for the second half — they might have walked out of the ‘Peake with the win. Worth mentioning: rookie guard Patrick Beverley, who racked up a double-double in an unaccustomed start. (Kevin McHale always has something up his sleeve.)

Meanwhile, Batman and Robin were firing blanks at a Hardenesque pace: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 29 each, but KD (who played all but 2:30) was 10-25 and Westbrook 10-26. So it was up to the Other Guys to make some shots, which they did, Serge Ibaka knocking down 12 (on 5-6) and hauling in 11 rebounds, Thabo Sefolosha with 11 and Kevin Martin with 10.

What startled me was the sheer volume of long-distance shots, and the futility thereof. Seventy were attempted, but only 21 connected: the Rockets were 10-35, the Thunder 11-35. Anyone looking for bragging rights should look elsewhere, or perhaps elsewhen: say, Saturday night, when the series resumes in Spaceburg.

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Gully washed

Dave Marsh tells the story this way:

Trying to pull a fast one on their tiny record label, L.A.-based Arvee, the Olympics and producers Fred Smith and Cliff Goldsmith sold a single to Argo, an affiliate of Chicago’s Chess. Since the group was still under contract out West, it had to be called the Marathons, a name whose unsubtle connection to the Olympics is matched by the equally obvious musical relationship of “Peanut Butter” to the 1960 Olympics hit, “(Baby) Hully Gully.” So without much litigation, Arvee wound up with the record anyway, and the group landed right back where it started.

For comparison: the Olympics original; the “Marathons” remake. Better blatant than latent, I always say.

The Hully Gully, of course, was a real live line dance with an MC calling the moves. (See also the Madison.) Most such dances had a shortish shelf life, though the Hully Gully managed to survive until 1964, just in time for this attempt to cash in:

ballet stockings by Burlington in which to do the Hully Gully

For that matter, you could probably eat peanut butter while wearing these.

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Besides, “clusterfark” was taken

Health-care exchanges explained, by the Crimson Reach:

It’s like a cargo-cult version of how markets are supposed to work: They just need to build some website (at the end of the day this is what it is right, a website?), call it an “exchange” for some reason, and market-magic will happen. Insurance coverage will be dropped, from on high, on the villagers by the Shiny And Mysterious Insurance Companies Who Come From The Sky.

Or maybe it will just be dropped.

My own working definition is purely etymological, from ex-, “former,” and change, “non-paper currency.”

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Brief update

Men’s Underwear Sales Show Bulge in the Economy, or kinda sorta anyway:

An uptick in men’s underwear sales bodes well for the economy at large — given the suggestion that men have enough disposable income to buy an item they don’t often update. Though 2012 men’s apparel sales rose a meager 1% to $57 billion, underwear sales shot up 13%, according to NPD group.

Not to be confused with BVD group, which, like everything else, is owned by Warren Buffett.

Disclosure: I bought no underwear in 2012, though I will likely have to in 2013, the inevitable result of having bought no underwear in 2012.

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The merest kibble

I’m thinking “yes, it would”:

Some days I wonder if it really would be so awful to find some kind of equivalent of Purina People Chow, that was nutritionally balanced but had nothing I “shouldn’t” have and just force myself to live on that, instead of all the label-reading, and the trying to substitute, and wharrrrgarrrbl, everything.

In fact, why eat at all? Just get a suitable I.V. drip.

This calls, I think, for a PROUD OMNIVORE T-shirt.

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Get off the road

Some people simply should not be allowed near motor vehicles — even innocuous models like the 1999 Toyota Corolla.

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Yummier than thou

From the Department of Rhetorical Questions:

Do you know why people still listen to and care about Bach, Mozart or Beethoven and no longer give much of [a] crap about the Ohio Express, Wishbone Ash or Pacific Gas & Electric? Because the first three wrote for the ages and the last three got into music to pull the birds, as the British put it.

Of course, none of those bands was anywhere nearly as prolific, and one of them, for quite a while, existed in name only. This was Ohio Express, which may or may not have been the Rare Breed, who issued a single called “Beg, Borrow and Steal,” which was also issued as an Ohio Express single.

None of these guys, however, had anything to do with the lascivious-teen specials sung by Joey Levine, starting with this one:

When Levine moved on to Other Things, various aggregations of individuals were recorded as Ohio Express, including (yes!) 10cc. The current band actually is based on the pre-Levine original, which proves — something, I suppose.

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Take a guess

This feeling I know too well:

Somebody was complaining the other day about getting E-mail from utilities saying their bill was due, but they did not tell them him the amount. I thought it was Dustbury, but I couldn’t find the post, so maybe it was someone else. I get notices from Blue Cross all the time telling me that there is a new message for me on their website. That’s all the notice says, and if I go to the website, all that message says is that they paid some medical bill, or didn’t, and I have to go to another page to see how much they paid or didn’t. At least I recall that’s how it works. I don’t even bother any more since if I owe one of these guys some money, they can be counted on to send me a bill on paper. Likewise American Express sends me a note every month telling me that I have a new bill, but I have to go to some other site and download the PDF file to see what’s on it. If this is what the paperless solution looks like, it sucks. I am going to stick to paper as much as I can.

Actually, I think this is what he remembered:

In other news, someone is actually reading my tweets.

AT&T, of all corporate pseudo-people, actually includes the amount in their email notices, for which I thank them.

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Here in the Duration Nation

Things we don’t know for sure:

One thing we do now know: how many times you can assemble LEGO bricks before they wear out.

(And the Friar knew it before I did.)

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OG&E fail

I have come to grips with the reality of power outages: they happen, and they’ll continue to happen, so long as we have the twofold problem of (1) overhead wires and (2) insane weather. I’m not saying I’m okay with that, but I have learned to live with it.


Your automated outage-reporting system is deeply flawed, and no flaw is deeper than the one that’s kicking in when the automated voice says that there are several accounts associated with that number. No, there aren’t. This one account, this one number, for ten years. “Or the OG&E account number”? Yeah, right. It’s four in the morning and I’m sitting in the dark and you want me to find last month’s bill? This is stupidity on a governmental scale.

You want to know why I refuse to sign up for that “Smart Hours” crap? Because I figure if you don’t even know where the hell I live, I have no reason to trust the meter readings during those deadly 46-cent-per-kWh hours. For all I know, they could have been run up by someone who lived there 11 years ago — couldn’t they?

If you can’t do better than this, you don’t have any right to collect a franchise fee. Which, incidentally, is voted on now and again.

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The content scraper of tomorrow

He’s here today:

Please guys help me i have a website and there is no content in it please where can i copy content an paste on?

Reminds me of an old mid-Eighties cartoon, with an obviously Clooless Noob carrying a humongous computer box, and before he gets to the exit, he says to the salesperson: “Oh, I’m also going to need some data. Do you have that?”

Now why does this character even have a Web site? There are, I suspect, exactly two possibilities:

  • Someone told him it would be cool;
  • Someone told him it could make money.

The reality check is in the email.

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