This is not cynicism

At least, I don’t think it is:

I have come to believe the mantra my mother used to repeat to me as a child, though I resented it at the time: we’re not here to be happy; we’re here to change things for the better in the ways that we can.

I suppose I’ve also come to believe that there’s no real meritocracy. Not everyone can be rich; not everyone, no matter how lovely, good, or gifted, will succeed professionally. We grow up hearing that we can do anything we want to do; as adults, the world generally disabuses us of this notion in ways either gentle or cruel (this makes truthful parenting a tricky proposition, but that’s a subject for another time). And yet, egged on by our culture, we continue to believe that there is a meritocracy of sorts in love. The good will be loved; the lovely will be loved; through hard work, prayer, or perhaps serendipity, it will happen for us, just as it appears to have happened for those couples we see whose marriages seem like overflowing fountains of the bliss that I just advised you not to follow. But just as not everyone can be rich, or good, or attractive, or talented in the same measures, why should we believe that everyone can achieve the same kind of blissful romantic or married love? After all, it was Woody Allen who rationalized his seduction of his de facto stepdaughter with the immortal words “The heart wants what it wants.” I suspect that for many people, love is work, even backbreakingly, or heartbreakingly, hard work.

On the other hand, perhaps I am just a cynical person. Sometimes I worry that years of struggle have calcified my heart a little.

Cynicism arises at the exact point where you argue with yourself over whether to post an item like this or not, and one of the arguments turns out to be “Sooner or later the government, in its quest to remedy all ‘disparate impacts’ regardless of cause, will mandate the acquisition of lovers.” Now that’s my idea of a pre-existing condition — and a subtle innuendo, if you look sideways at that word “mandate.”

As for the calcification issue, I live with dust on my heart.

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The present-day Sixties refuse to die

A scholarship program for the children of soldiers killed in action? How imperialist:

A scholarship program offered to dependents of fallen Canadian soldiers has raised eyebrows among some University of Regina professors.

The program, called Project Hero, provides financial aid for children of Canadian Forces personnel who have lost their lives while serving in an active mission. Individual universities establish the terms and conditions for the scholarship including value, duration, and application process.

Barb Pollock, a U of R spokesperson said, starting in the fall of 2010, the U of R will waive tuition and course fees and provide $1,000 per year to successful applicants of Project Hero. Applicants must be under age 26, full-time students in an undergraduate degree program and maintain an average of 75 per cent each semester to remain eligible.

But about those raised eyebrows:

“We think this program is a glorification of Canadian imperialism in Afghanistan,” said Jeffrey Webber, political science teacher and one of 16 U of R professors who drafted an open letter to U of R President Vianne Timmons stating their concerns.

And furthermore:

“It’s about associating heroism with the military intervention of Afghanistan,” said Webber. “We think it’s aligning a public university — without any consultation with its students or staff, or the broader community — with support for this war.”

Their actual letter is even more fun:

In addition to withdrawing from “Project Hero”, we think the issues we raise should be publicly debated. We are calling on the U of R administration hold a public forum on the war in Afghanistan, and Canadian imperialism more generally, at which the issues we raise can be debated. This forum should be open to all; it should take place this semester, before exams, as “Project Hero” is set to start at U of R in September 2010.

At this point, I’d just like a list of people who feel threatened by the specter of “Canadian imperialism” who aren’t academics in the general sphere of Grudge Studies.

And besides: “imperialism,” as a buzzword, peaked around 1968. Were I older than 42 — which, incidentally, I am — I’d like to think I’d had more than one idea in a lifetime.

(Via SnoopyTheGoon.)

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O brave new world, that has such drawers in it

Nice drawers

Suddenly my own kitchen seems somehow inadequate.

(Via Lovely Listing.)

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Strange search-engine queries (217)

Once again, it’s time to sift through the logs and see if we can find anything even slightly amusing about the search strings. (Hint: Yes, we can.)

you can’t say crap on the radio:  Sure you can. And based on recent aural evidence, you’re pretty much required to play it.

purveyor of the finest Nigerian Viagra:  Which, of course, was available only to high government officials who had to leave in a big hurry.

jessica simpson flatulence sculpture:  I suggest the title “Air Biscuits and Gravy.”

Search love farted in pantyhose during sex last night:  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jessica Simpson in pantyhose.

do you think that the kinder, gentler leadership image is just a fad?  Only up to the point when the electorate quits buying it, at which point the jackboots are brought out.

cinemax drugs:  All packaging, no potency.

bobby goldsboro ethnicity:  He Japanese boy, he love you.

newscasters nipples:  See if you can get Anderson Cooper to take his shirt off.

nancy pelosi in low cut dress:  I think I’d almost rather see Anderson Cooper with his shirt off.

good morning america how are you dustbury:  I’m sleepy, but I’ll get over it. Probably right before I’m supposed to go to bed.

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Cutting it close

The Trail Blazers and the Thunder had met twice this season, and each time the game was won by the visiting team. The pattern continued tonight, with the Blazers edging the Thunder at the Ford, 92-87, tightening up the scene at the bottom of the Western playoff seeds. (At the moment, OKC, 44-28, leads Portland, 45-29, retaining sixth place, but the eighth-place Spurs, 43-28, are playing at Boston tonight, and if they can knock off the Celtics — they’re ahead by 17 after three quarters — they’ll take over sixth by dint of owning the tiebreaker over the Thunder.)

The Camby-enhanced Blazers are even stronger than they were earlier this season: Marcus Camby, holding down the middle, scored 11 points and picked up 12 rebounds. Guards Brandon Roy and Andre Miller combined for 46 points; Portland was outrebounded, 41-34, but they pulled off 11 steals and blocked three shots.

The Thunder weren’t so bad at forcing turnovers themselves; they blocked 10 shots and snagged five steals. There were stretches, though, where it seemed like Kevin Durant was going to have to do it all himself. KD wound up with 29 points and 13 rebounds; Jeff Green came up with 14 before fouling out in the fourth quarter, and Russell Westbrook managed 12.

If the pattern holds, the Thunder should be able to beat the Blazers at the Rose Garden on the 12th. But that’s the next-to-last game of the season. More immediate confrontations: Philadelphia (Tuesday), Boston (Wednesday) and Dallas (Saturday), all on the road.

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Rack panels

Because it’s all about the inequality, doncha know:

You might not have thought about it much, but there’s a great inequality in this country when it comes to bra sizes. And like other segments of women’s garments, larger sizes cost more money. I can understand it — after all, the bigger sizes require more engineering to get the lift and shape than the small ones do. But is it right that the DD women must pay more for a bra than the AA women? Is it fair?

For too long, America has turned a blind eye to the plight of the well-endowed woman. If we’re all about redistributing the wealth in this country now, this is a great place to start. I know that those “littlest angels” who’ve been used to paying the least amount for their feminine undergarments will need to adjust to the notion that they will be required to pay for hoisting up someone else’s boobs, but come on — the ones we’ve been waiting for are here now and it’s a new day.

Certainly pre-existing conditions, as an excuse, are out. And then:

Once the revenue source is secured for this grand step forward, women of all boob sizes will have their bras provided to them in the same fashion. This means that millions of Americans who are currently without boob coverage will have access to the basic support. After all, it’s their right. Sure, some may need a more costly model that lifts, separates, minimizes or supports but we could put a system of approvers in place to make that decision … say, a panel of government appointees.

Pencil tests will be administered Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am through 4 pm. Bring two forms of identification. The fee is $36, though it may be waived in cases of dire penury. This examination is not a substitute for a mammogram and will not be charged against your Lifetime Breast Examination Maximum.

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A perfectly cromulent assessment

The Simpsons: “the English language’s richest source of new words and phrases since Shakespeare and the Bible.”

Personally, I’d rank “embiggen” above “introubulate,” but maybe that’s just me going through the dumbening process, in which case, meh.

(I, for one, welcome our burgeoning number of links to Fritinancy.)

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Back to the woonerf

Last summer (Vent #637, in fact), I suggested that developers near downtown Oklahoma City experiment with a woonerf, a street that treats all traffic — cars, buses, bicycles, pedestrians, whatever — more or less equally, without shunting them into their own little zones. This sounds like a radical idea, but only because we’re used to vehicular segregation; there were times when the streets were open to all.

Consider, if you will, this view down San Francisco’s Market Street in 1905:

The film was shot from an actual cable car. (The music, by French electronique duo Air, dates to 1998.) What is obvious here, at least to me, is that you’re on your own: once you enter the street, you’re responsible for getting to your own particular Point B. Which might be the one argument most likely to be raised against the concept, come to think of it: myrmidons of the Nanny State will insist that it’s totally unsafe, because people just can’t be expected to take that much responsibility for themselves, and the fact that they were routinely doing so a century ago won’t make the slightest bit of difference.

(Seen at Sightline Daily.)

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A modicum of transparency

Michael Bates was tweeting last night about Oklahoma County’s “commendable” attitude toward public availability of land records, as compared with Tulsa County’s apparent desire to keep this stuff locked up: you can’t get their records online except from the local library system. What’s more, says Bates, “if you want remote access to land records, the County Commissioners have to vote on your application.” Now doesn’t that make you feel safe and secure?

I asked him if this was intended mainly to insure a revenue stream for the County Clerk, and got this response:

If it were just fees, you wouldn’t need County Comm’s permission. I think they want to make it difficult for avg citizens.

And why would they want to do that? Oh, right:

Tulsa’s powers that be have just degenerated to joke status. It’s gotten bad, and I know some people in OKC are marginally familiar with how divisive and fragmented Tulsa can be, especially when a downtown deal is at stake, but this is shocking. It all has to do with the Tulsa Development Authority, which has effectively done everything in its power seemingly to squelch new development downtown, distribute millions of dollars to its cronies, spend months and months going through process tying up developments that would compete in the market against their cronies, and so on…

And they certainly wouldn’t want any of those pesky bloggish types getting in the way, would they?

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Shivering in the dark

Let’s see. I can sit here in the darkness and congratulate myself for my moral superiority for a whole sixty minutes, totally overlooking the fact that there are untold millions who would consider themselves fortunate to have lights at that hour of the night, or I can blow off the whole deal and speculate as to the motives of the proponents.

Easy choice, really, and this Facebook update from E. M. Zanotti makes it even clearer:

Telling a major city to go dark during Earth Hour is probably not the best idea, Chicago. Have you SEEN that Batman movie? Don’t you KNOW what happens?

And the Bat-Signal, after all, is a light against a dark sky. Not exactly Q.E.D., but close enough.

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In the wake of the gales of November

“At 7 pm a main hatchway caved in.” Or not:

[A] Canadian documentary claims to have proven the crew of the ship, the Edmund Fitzgerald, was not responsible for the disaster.

The yap films documentary, simply called Edmund Fitzgerald and airing on the premiere episode of Dive Detectives on the History Channel on March 31, concludes there is little evidence that failure to secure the ship’s hatches caused the sinking and that it was a rogue wave instead.

So what actually happened?

Reports show three large waves were detected, two of which were reported by the Anderson. Such a grouping of waves is often called “three sisters”. As per the investigation, it was theorized that the Fitzgerald was badly battered by the first two waves, further damaging the hatch covers. It was surmised ultimately that the Fitzgerald took on water through the damaged cargo hold covers, which flooded the ore cargo and severely stressed the ship’s hull, and was then overwhelmed by the third wave that snapped the weakened ship in half.

Gordon Lightfoot was indeed available for comment:

In an exclusive interview with QMI Agency backstage after his Casino Rama show, Lighfoot said: “I can’t use the hatch cover line anymore. And the whole verse was really conjecture right from start to finish anyway. It’s the only verse in the whole song where I give myself complete poetic licence.”

Lightfoot also praised the documentary for answering a lot of questions about the sinking.

“It absolves some of the deckhands who were in charge of those hatch covers because I’ve been in touch with these people for years,” he said. “The mother and the daughter of two of the deck guys who would have been in charge of that have always cringed every time they’ve heard the line. And they will be very pleased. And they know about it and they’re very happy about it.”

Still, you must remember:

[N]othing completely removes hazard from life at sea, for nature still enforces its whim and ships are still expected to brave adverse weather to deliver their cargoes. Today’s captain, however, has much more accurate and immediate information than did those sailing even 25 years ago, when the Fitzgerald was virtually blind and wallowing in huge seas and heavy winds on its way from Caribou Island to its final resting place.

It’s now 35 years, but the truth of the matter remains.

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And also garbage out

In the wake of all these new health-related (sort of) schemes, Fishersville Mike comes up with a weight-loss plan that would presumably pass the sniff test at the Congressional Budget Office:

It’s really simple. If you sleep eight hours a night — like 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. — during that time frame you will lose weight. They can’t judge what happens outside that time frame; they have to follow what I wrote.

Looks like I should probably quit getting up at six, then.

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Actually, iDon’t

Yesterday’s phishers, quite accidentally, had a decent sense of timing: they sent me a fake order confirmation from Apple’s App Store.

Now I don’t own an iPhone or any of that iStuff, but as it happens, I did buy something from Apple yesterday: some music, from the iTunes Store. On the other hand, I’ve bought enough from the iTunes Store to be able to recognize Apple’s we-have-billed-your-credit-card-so-much emails on sight, and this particular phish didn’t even bother to make its URLs inscrutable, which you’d think would be more or less mandatory in this era of user sophistication marginally-reduced user helplessness.

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Costs we never imagined

I expect to hear some fairly-terrifying stories about the aftereffects of the new health-insurance bill — and, politics being the sort of business it is, some unfairly-terrifying ones as well — but this one strikes me as unusually tragic:

There are a few errands I have to run this morning, the first stop will be at the tanning salon to cancel my membership. I’m not willing to pay the 10% Pelosi tax to fund a bill I despise and I’m totally irate that those morons in Washington are causing me to give up one of the few affordable luxuries I indulge in every Spring solely for myself. Slipping my tan legs into a pair of shorts come April makes me feel good.

I left this recommendation: “Couldn’t you apply for, say, a Federal grant? Because God knows this improves the environment, at least in your hometown.” And what city couldn’t benefit from a bit of beautification?

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Clamp the champs

This morning, Royce at Daily Thunder made the following observation:

The Lakers don’t have a great bench with Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar and Josh Powell, but it’s serviceable.

I think the service light must have kicked on: through three quarters, those three had zero points. (The only L.A. reserve to score through the first 36 minutes was D. J. Mbenga, with three.) At the time, it was Thunder 80, Lakers 47, and L.A. was shooting 32 percent; they didn’t nail so much as a single trey until two minutes into the fourth, when Farmar finally got one to fall during a 10-0 Lakers run and Phil Jackson opted to let his starters rest for tomorrow night against Houston. After that, the Laker bench earned their keep, pulling to within sixteen at the end, but 91-75 still seems a stout thrashing, especially since it was L.A.’s lowest point production of the season.

And what of Kobe? He hit four shots and three free throws, and turned the ball over nine times. Lamar Odom had a team-high 15 points.

Meanwhile, the Big Three were doing their thing — Kevin Durant 26, Russell Westbrook 23, Jeff Green 10 — and Nenad Krstić collected a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards. It wasn’t an enormous amount of offense, but it was more than enough on a night where defense was king and the Lakers were thoroughly jacked.

Now to manhandle the Blazers on Sunday.

Nets watch: New Jersey got its ninth win (and second in a row!), beating the Pistons 118-110. They’d have to lose all ten remaining games to tie with the 1972-’73 Sixers for Worst Ever. At this point, I have to believe they won’t.

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From the “Yeah, but” files

This campus is expecting to pocket some cash as a result of a minor settings change:

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has switched the default font on its e-mail system from Arial to Century Gothic.

It says that while the change sounds minor, it will save money on ink when students print e-mails in the new font.

Diane Blohowiak is the school’s director of computing. She says the new font uses about 30 percent less ink than the previous one.

That could add up to real savings, since the cost of printer ink works out to about $10,000 per gallon.

I don’t question her numbers in the least — in fact, I’ve done the math on the cost of ink myself — but what kind of brain-dead doofus actually prints out email?

(Via Fark.)

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In lieu of a Scarlet Letter

If you live in New Jersey, you’re under 21, and you’ve only recently gotten your first driver’s license, starting in May you’ll be stuck in shore traffic required to display a red rectangle on both front and rear license plates so that you can more easily be spotted by law enforcement. (Of course, you’ll have to buy that rectangle from the Garden State, at a price of four bucks the set.)

Once you’ve completed your provisional period, you may discard the telltale piece of plastic.

This is something called “Kyleigh’s Law,” after a 16-year-old girl who was killed in a traffic accident. Frankly, I think we do a disservice to people when we slap their names on laws, especially bonehead laws of the OMG WE GOTTA DO SOMETHING variety.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Quote of the week

From Bill Quick’s back pages, an idea whose time has arrived, and then some:

Years ago I had a story published in Analog in which an American congress operated on the pain principle — every time it voted on something, the constituents of each representative could also vote, and the aggregate positive or negative opinion was translated immediately into either pain or pleasure (the deeper the division, the stronger the sensation) on the part of the representative.

The story revolved around the notion of a congressman who was so dedicated to what he believed was right, that he voted for something his constituents hated so much that the resulting pain killed him. His death, however, made him a martyr, and eventually helped his beliefs achieve ascendancy.

Although the author reminds you:

(Yes, I was much younger when I wrote this thing.)

Think of it as kinder, gentler term limits.

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“As the sun shows up … for a day,” the 366th Carnival of the Vanities materializes above the horizon.

Of course, if your desire is to let the sunlight in while keeping the solar heat out — and it well may, come summertime — you might be interested in Cardinal’s LoĒ³-366® Glass, which apparently does that very well.

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Sometimes you just don’t want to know

Is this one of those times?

Goodbye Kitty

(Seen at Picture Is Unrelated.)

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