Delightful, delovely, delurking

Making the transition from the Big Apple to a smaller place requires some serious adjustment:

In New York, you can make yourself socially invisible by the unspoken code of avoiding eye contact with other pedestrians and even with your neighbors, who generally understand, but in a place like this, where so few people are out walking, it would seem rude to try to avoid conversations with neighbors and passersby. At times, I’ve tried to go out of my way to avoid talking to people. Last week, however, I realized I was being a little ridiculous when, on my way home from somewhere, I could see my across-the-street neighbor (who, incidentally, sold us our homeowners’ insurance) doing yard work from half a block away. In order to avoid having to talk to him, I made a turn instead of keeping straight, walked to the next block, and tried to determine whether there was some secret passageway into my backyard through someone else’s. When it was clear that I would have to hack my way through a sheer wall of hedges, I gave up, and walked back to my own street. My neighbor came across the street to talk to me, and we actually had quite a pleasant chat.

Most of our traffic is automotive, there being a most lamentable lack of sidewalks, but this time of year we tend to see an upsurge in runners, children on bicycles, and dog-walkers. It seems only reasonable to acknowledge their presence, though I have to admit that the first few months I was here, I wasn’t really up to it.

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The question still unanswered

Stacy McCain’s Miss USA coverage is, as you might expect, finely detailed, but there’s one thing we still want to know about the lovely Rima Fakih:

Does she cause earthquakes?

Lives, or at least people who need same, hang in the balance.

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Good old Vitamin V

I have to hope this works:

A New York animal shelter is seeking donations of Viagra to treat a pit bull with a heart condition.

Staff members at the Little Shelter Animal Rescue and Adoption Center in Huntington, on Long Island, say 6-year-old Ingrid needs two of the little blue pills every day or she will risk heart failure. They say a vet suggested it.

Which makes you wonder what happened to her in the first place. Turns out, human cruelty happened to her:

Ingrid has had a rough life, but you wouldn’t know it with her cheery disposition. This loveable Pit Bull arrived at Little Shelter battered, bruised and critically ill, after having been used as a “bait” dog to instigate dog fights, and bred more times than we can count — she was down and out!

So no punch line this time, just a sigh — and a few words under my breath for the people who picked her up and then threw her away. As the phrase goes, this shouldn’t happen to a dog.

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Jersey wars

Episode II: Attack of the clones?

So, will the Lakers now wear jerseys sporting “Los Lakers?” Will they use actual Spanish words and be Los Laguñeros“laguñeros” itself being kind of a guess because I don’t know if “Lakers” really translates into Spanish. Will they go full out and be Los Laguñeros de Los Angeles? Probably not. Based on [Phil] Jackson’s earlier words and the lack of comment by team members, it seems like they want to play basketball and win a title. They’re the Lakers and I will root against them unless they’re playing against Goering, Goebbels, Hitler, Stalin and Mao, but I’ll leave them to their game.

I’m guessing that Mao was the point guard on that squad, with Stalin playing power forward.

There were no uniform antics in Game 1 at the Staples Center. And I suppose this will leave me slapping down a couple of francs on behalf of Les Celtiques.

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The bloggers, we hates them

What other explanation is there? Stephen Green grumbles:

When I want a link to open in a new window, I know the key combination to make that happen. When I want a link to open in a new tab, I know the key combination to make that happen, too. And when I want a link simply to take me to the got-dam link, I want it to do just that thing. Your tricky little HTML code to make my browser behave the way you want it to, just makes me hate your site. Mmkay?

Green singles out Politico for one scheme he finds particularly noxious: when you copy any of their text, you end up pasting a “Read more:” link. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that the link doesn’t work, says Green, once it’s posted to the blog. I’ve encountered this device myself; it’s no particular trick to wipe it out, but I’m not usually in a hurry to get something posted either. I can appreciate a site’s wanting to make sure it gets linked, one way or another, but I’m usually pretty good about pointing to my sources. (That said, I’m also going to simplify the URL as much as possible without actually going through a shortener, which means that all manner of tracking code slapped onto the end is going to be excised before I use it.)

And while we’re at it:

[G]et over the whole hover-command thing for ads/Diggs/Tweets/menus/etc. If I don’t click it, it shouldn’t pop up — just like every single other thing on my computer has behaved for almost 20 years. And if I didn’t click it, I certainly shouldn’t have to click it to make it go away.

AddThis, we’re looking at you.

(Via Outside the Beltway.)

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We got your finches right here

And by “we,” I mean “Darleen Click,” and by “here,” I mean here.

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Mammary shtick

You may have been told that there would be no math, but unfortunately, there’s a one-in-two chance you might need this particular bit of figuring:

The traditional method reads like an A-level algebra problem. You take a tape measure and wrap it round your chest at the lowest point where a bra sits. You record this figure in inches. You add four to this measurement if the number is even, five if it’s odd — and the resultant number is your band size. Then you wrap the tape round again and measure the fullest part of the actual breasts. Next you subtract the band size from breast size to find your cup size. If the numbers are the same, you’re an A cup. If there’s an inch difference, you’re a B; two and you need a C cup and so on.

For no good reason, I actually knew this much. But my knowledge ended well before this point:

Alternatively, and many bra experts say more accurately, you can weigh your breasts by dunking them into a full bowl of water and measuring the displaced liquid, with 1 litre of water equalling 1kg. It’s accurate but useless. You can do precisely nothing with this information, as no bra manufacturer measures boobs by the pound.

One liter equals about 4¼ cups, but presumably not those cups.

The new European sizing standards (EN 13402), still not implemented as of this writing, retain the cup measurement as we know it, but the band size is specified in centimeters, rounded to the nearest multiple of 5: “36″ becomes “80.” I don’t anticipate anyone with more curvature than your average Popsicle® stick being enthusiastic about this.

Still unaddressed: the issue of asymmetry.

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No, the other chalk

I’m not quite sure I grasp the concept of a trailer for a book, but such things do exist, and these days, an author needs all the promotional tools she can get.

High Before Homeroom is by Maya Sloan, who was born and raised here in the Big Breezy, and if just being here didn’t play hell with the inside of her head, the combination of being here, being Jewish, and being a student at Bishop McGuinness surely did. It’s due out in June from Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books imprint; the book release party will be held on the 22nd of June at the Barnes and Noble store at 6100 North May (7 pm), only a few miles from Mothers Support Our Troops, Northwest Oklahoma City Chapter.

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Blue screen of Dodge

Well, this doesn’t make me feel any better at all. The automotive diagnostic package known as OBD-II has been around for about a decade and a half, but only in 2008 did the Feds mandate that the Controller Area Network protocol be used in all OBD-II implementations.

Unfortunately, the CAN bus is about as secure as an old version of Windows:

Researchers at the University of Washington and University of California-San Diego have examined the multitudinous computer systems that run modern cars, discovering that they’re easily broken into [pdf] with alarming results. Hackers can disable the brakes of moving vehicles, lock the key in the ignition to prevent the engine from being turned off, jam all the door locks, and make the engine run faster. Less dangerously, they can control the radio, heating, and air conditioning, or just endlessly honk the horn.

I’ve kvetched about OBD-II before, but I had no idea it was vulnerable to malware. And once in, an intruder can do just about anything he wants:

The CAN specification requires little protection, and even those protections it requires were found to be implemented inadequately, with ECUs allowing new firmware to be flashed even while the car was moving (halting the engine in the process), and letting low-security systems like the air conditioning controller attack high security services such as the brakes.

Once the researchers had gained access, they developed a number of attacks against their target vehicles, and then tested many of them while the cars were being driven around an old airstrip. Successful attacks ranged from the annoying — switching on the wipers and radio, making the heater run full blast, or chilling the car with the air conditioning — to the downright dangerous. In particular, the brakes could be disabled. The ignition key could then be locked into place, preventing the driver from turning the car off.

Yet another reason to keep the old buggy, buggy as it is, for a few more years.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Strange search-engine queries (224)

In this weekly feature, we attempt to find some semblance of humor among the thousands of log entries, focusing on feeble or strangely-worded or simply-implausible search strings. The existence of a paper trail, albeit not printed on actual paper, should prevent us from the humiliating experience of being nominated to a Federal court.

“middle finger ring” satanic:  Just because it turned your finger green? I don’t think so.

demon eel:  It’s the one shaped like your middle finger.

xxl faqing video calip:  I have no idea what the faq you’re talking about.

“florence henderson” blowjob:  Should we assume Wesson Oil was somehow involved?

did shirley partridge spanked:  Should we assume Reuben Kinkaid was somehow involved?

“verb that noun”:  Aw, go verb yourself. Adverbially.

C3PO Dildo:  You don’t want to know what they made out of Jar Jar Binks.

judgmental mom:  That’s her job, at least until you’re old enough to own your own Star Wars sex toys.

Plumbers “name required”:  You’d certainly want his name before he started hacking away at your toilet.

faux brick park entrance:  Right over there, under the sign that says “Faux Brick Park.”

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Things I learned today (31)

We haven’t had one of these in a while. Have I learned nothing in all this time? You make the call.

More eventually, by which I mean “Maybe not ten months next time.”

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Hailing frequency open, and then some

Now I know what it’s like at the bottom of the popcorn popper. Minus the hot oil, of course.

Doesn’t look like a lot of damage around here — a couple of fence panels down, and so what else is new? — and rather a lot of broken tree branches, but I figure any storm that doesn’t take out my old metal shed, which stands in the back yard as a sacrificial offering to the Weather Gods, is less than maximum severity. The winds, I guesstimate, stayed below 60 mph or so.

But Jebus, that hail was loud. Nothing too huge — golf-ball size, mostly — but golf balls, I seem to recall, make a hell of a lot of noise when they hit something they weren’t supposed to hit. Just my luck, the minor deities picked this afternoon for a nine-holer.

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Controlling a little more of the past

In February 1956, Nikita Khrushchev began the process of de-Stalinization of the Soviet Union with the deliverance of his so-called “Secret Speech,” which denounced the “personality cult” which had grown up around Joseph Stalin. Over the next few years, buildings were renamed, statues were replaced, and in 1961 Stalingrad reverted to its earlier name of Volgograd.

What reminded me of this, curiously enough, was this item in the Oklahoman’s weekly roundup of Oklahoma City building permits:

Cress & Lopresto Architects, 13010 Broadway Extension, automotive sales, add-on, $750,000.

This is in the Bob Zone, which runs along Broadway for half a mile south of Memorial. Bob Howard’s auto dealerships occupy the space north of 130th; Bob Moore’s are just to the south. (Along Kelley, which runs behind the lots, it’s not so clear-cut.)

Having done rather a lot of business with Bob Moore, I was able to count off the buildings from memory, and — yep. Just as I thought.

Few auto-dealership designs can be described as “iconic,” but Hummer’s certainly was: the curves of steel and the huge logo were instantly recognizable. But Hummer is now almost as dead as Joseph Stalin, and the new dealership on the premises has decided to spend the bucks for de-Hummerization. Hard to blame them, really. There are people out there who really, really hated the very idea of Hummer, and some of them might be customers for what’s now being sold at 13010: Subaru.

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Light and lively

About five years ago, I volunteered the opinion that one particularly-appealing feature of the opposite sex was “the ability to look really good in really insubstantial shoes.” This was not, of course, a call to betake onself to Payless and stock up on $19.99 specials; it was an acknowledgement of one particular expression of Mies van der Rohe’s principle “Less is more.”

Carbon-fiber shoes by Gianvito RossiBesides, substance is not inconsistent with gossamer appearance, as witness this shoe by Gianvito Rossi: an artful karung sandal with a woven-metal upper (such as it is) and a carbon-fiber sole. This, thinks Rossi, is the Next Big Thing:

The construction, volumes and colours of the carbon-fibre sandal all help express the concept of pure design and a method of production that enhances practicality, comfort and style. Stable and light, the carbon-fibre sandal weighs just 100 grams (little over 3 oz.), it is protected by an international patent, and it will be included in every Gianvito Rossi collection as an ever-present model, made in a number of versions for wear during the day and for the evening, hallmarked by an artful combination of narrow straps and the essential stiletto heels.

Not everyone thinks of stilettos as essential, of course, but these look pretty good on Halle Berry. I won’t even speculate on the price tag, except to say that the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 has a carbon-fiber roof which presumably meets Federal rollover standards, and there’s some mysterious unobtainium-based resin that’s added to the clear-coat to prevent UV damage to the fibers, which costs General Motors something like $60,000 a gallon. That’s even more than ink for a Hewlett-Packard DeskJet.

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Consistently wrong (again)

[Note: This is mostly copied from last year.]

About four weeks into this little Web experience, I put up a marginally-plaintive wail about ever since I started paying actual dollars for the magazine, my prediction for Playboy’s Playmate of the Year had inexplicably failed to come to pass: Barbara Edwards had somehow beaten out Tracy Vaccaro for PMOY 1984, I got 1985′s wrong as well, and eventually I had a losing streak to rival Susan Lucci’s: thirteen in a row.

Lucci’s streak ended after eighteen, though; mine didn’t. Actual Playmates would email me with gentle chides. (They’re not going to be hateful about it, especially to someone who said in effect “You should have won.”) So it’s fourteen years later, and fourteen more incorrect predictions: I am now 0 for 27. (The complete list is here.) I’m starting to feel like the ’62 Mets: “When one of them hits a single to you,” said Casey Stengel to his outfield, “throw the ball to third. That way we can hold them to a double.”

The Mets, however, went on to win the 1969 World Series, which means that they’d improved markedly in seven years. I’ve made no progress in twenty-seven.

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All other problems having been solved

The Food and Drug Administration, despite the widespread adoption of a standard Nutrition Facts label, isn’t getting the desired results from existing front-of-the-package labeling:

Research suggests that the proliferation of divergent FOP approaches is likely to be confusing to consumers and ultimately counter-productive. We want to work with the food industry — retailers and manufacturers alike — as well as nutrition and design experts and the Institute of Medicine, to develop an optimal, common approach to nutrition-related FOP and shelf labeling that all Americans can trust and use to build better diets and improve their health.

The recent experience with FOP labeling in the United Kingdom demonstrates the potential of voluntary initiatives to provide consumers helpful FOP labeling. In that instance, the government set certain criteria for the use of such labeling, and retailers took the initiative to implement FOP labeling in their stores. The agency wants to explore the potential of that approach. If voluntary action by the food industry does not result in a common, credible approach to FOP and shelf labeling, we will consider using our regulatory tools toward that end. This effort will include research to assess through consumer studies the likely effects of FOP symbols on information search behavior related to the Nutrition Facts label, which in turn can affect consumer understanding of the full nutrition profile of a product.

Shorter version: “How can we get people to stop eating Oreos and still get money from Nabisco?”

(Via Beth’s Contradictory Brain.)

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Goodbye Kitty?

In a world where you can actually have a Web site called Cute Overload, there may no longer be a place for a single mass-produced exemplar of cuteness. Which, if you’re Sanrio, is a major problem:

At age 36, Hello Kitty may be running out of product lives.

That is the fear of executives at the Sanrio Corporation, the Japanese company that created the cute, cartoonish white cat in 1974, and groomed her into a global marketing phenomenon worth $5 billion a year.

The numbers don’t look good:

In a closely watched ranking of Japan’s most popular characters, compiled each year using sales data by the Tokyo-based research firm Character Databank, Hello Kitty lost her long-held spot as Japan’s top-grossing character in 2002 and has never recovered.

In the latest survey, released this month, Kitty ranked a distant third, behind the leader, Anpanman, a character that is based on a Japanese jam-filled pastry and is produced by Nippon Television. The second spot is still held by the venerable game and animation brand Pokémon, owned by Nintendo.

Incidentally, we should not mock the Japanese for Anpanman, unless we’re willing to take the responsibility for the Hamburglar.

Besides, Japanese characters can be derived from just about anything. I spent part of last night reading up on a series called Durarara!!, among whose characters is a transplanted Dullahan, the Irish equivalent of the Headless Horseman. Except that it’s a she — and she rides a motorcycle. (Yes, she wears a helmet. No, I don’t know how it stays on.) I don’t think Celty Sturluson, or even Pokémon, can possibly replace Hello Kitty on eleventy-six bazillion different consumer products, but the recession notwithstanding, buying inexplicable stuff is an irreducible part of the human experience for any level above bare subsistence.

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That new girl in town

So far, the Elena Kagan nomination has failed to seize my imagination: I’ve started a couple of posts on the subject, and subsequently ditched them after realizing that I really didn’t have a whole lot to say about it, and the snark quotient was either nonexistent or excessive.

So I decided to outsource the job, which, in this case, means that I stumbled across someone else’s article and copied some of it over here with interstitial remarks, and this is the result:

What do we know of this lady? That she barred military recruiters from the school, that she isn’t a judge, that she’s yet another east-coaster from, oh hey, the same big schools. (Obviously, been out of coms, this is drawn from the newscasts.)

With that highly limited information, I would try to find out something different. What do you do then? You try to find out who she spends her time with. (Didn’t your mom ever pull that on you? “People will judge you by who you hang out with”?)

“By their fruits ye shall know them.” Or something like that.

That whole Appearance Thing can be disposed of:

So far as her looks … um … I had that same hair cut for most of my high school years. My sister has a teased-and-sassy version of it. Has a major advantage: you don’t have to do much to make it look alright and professional. I’ve got long hair these days because it’s even easier to throw back in a pony tail, but can you imagine the response they’d have to a lady in a suit and pony tail?

Huh, doing a mental count, most of the lesbians I know have long hair. Most of the folks with short hair either don’t always have time to style it (like my mom and sister) or use it as a form of armor — appearance is a sort of armor, after all. Folks will treat you differently depending on how you dress and look, and a quick scan of the various images of her seems to indicate she follows the Hillary Clinton theory — not-long hair and pantsuits. Not to be rude or insulting, but gals like us are better served by going that route; we don’t all clean up so nice as Mrs. Palin, so it would be foolish to call attention to our appearance.

Yeah, there’s Ellen. But there’s also Portia. I have yet to see anyone seriously claim that there’s an Official Lesbian Uniform.

Speaking of which:

It’s entirely possible that the lady is homosexual — I find it mildly unlikely, since she’s a liberal female in a high position and hasn’t made a big deal about it, but it is possible.

It’s of interest to me only if we’re actually dating. Which, I need hardly point out, we’re not.

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Well, this bites

Coral snakes lack the ruthless efficiency of some other venomous snakes, but they have a couple of factors working in their favor against the likes of you or me. One is the sheer toxicity of the venom, which starts out slowly (so you don’t notice it so much) but finishes with a grand flourish: it paralyzes the lungs.

The other? Six months from now, there may not be anything that can be done about it:

[A]fter Oct. 31 of this year, there may be no commercially available antivenom (antivenin) left. That’s the expiration date on existing vials of … the only antivenom approved by the Food and Drug Administration for coral snake bites. Produced by Wyeth, now owned by Pfizer, the antivenom was approved for sale in 1967, in a time of less stringent regulation.

Wyeth kept up production of coral snake antivenom for almost 40 years. But given the rarity of coral snake bites, it was hardly a profit center, and the company shut down the factory that made the antivenom in 2003.

A Mexican manufacturer, Bioclon, has developed its own version of a coral-specific antivenom, but apparently they can’t afford the level of clinical testing demanded by the FDA.

The alternative? Weeks on a ventilator, until the effects of the venom wear off, or maybe a call to Samuel L. Jackson.

(Via Scribal Terror.)

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