Yupward mobility

This question came into TTAC’s Piston Slap department:

I have the misfortune of working with a bunch of aspiring Yuppies. You know the types. The ones who believe that all American car companies make crap and the only true luxury cars come from Germany and Japan. Never mind the $1300 maintenance charge on their Audi or the fact that the Lexus ES is about as exciting as wilted corn flakes.

Long story short, I am sick and tired of hearing their crap. I want to buy the type of American car that will take these pompous, sniveling wussy boys and blow their stuck-upityness right out of their ass.

Actually, there’s a second rung: they spurn the Japanese entirely in favor of the products of der Vaterland. And if they had to judge by the ES, a Camry — not even an Avalon — oversprayed with Carnation Instant Glitz, I can’t say as I’d blame them. (From the “Like you have room to talk” files: yes, I drive an Infiniti I30, which is basically a Nissan Maxima in a prom dress.)

Putting myself into the role of yupster, if I had the same $40k this guy says he has to spend, I probably couldn’t get much in the way of Teutonic sleds unless BMW is planning a ¾-series, and while I could get a decent G37 for that kind of money, it’s not at all what he wants.

So I’m thinking Chrysler 300, which can be had for forty large in the C trim — yes, it’s got a Hemi — if you avoid checking every last box on the order form. It’s one of the few cars that gives off the impression that you’ll drive it onto your lawn, if necessary, to keep certain individuals off. Barack Obama used to have one, until he figured out that much of his base resented the hell out of big American cars, whereupon he switched to a meek hybrid.

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Maybe I don’t need an aisle seat after all

Christina Ricci in Pan AmIt’s been rather a long time since flight attendants looked like Christina Ricci on Pan Am. (Then again, inasmuch as The Actress Formerly Known As Wednesday is barely over four foot twelve, they’d never have hired her in the first place, but that’s neither here nor there.) Megan McArdle, somewhere around four foot twenty-six herself, explains the general decline in picturesqueness aboard Flight N:

Stewardesses used to be subject to all sorts of extremely strict rules: they couldn’t be married, couldn’t gain weight, couldn’t get pregnant, couldn’t be much over 30. If you fire everyone who violates those rules, then yes, you will select for a much “hotter” group of women than the current crop.

You could probably still get a large group of young, hot women to take a job that involves free flights all around the world. But those jobs are no longer open, because airlines stopped firing all the old, fat parents. Thanks to a combination of feminist shaming, union demands, and anti-discrimination laws. Moreover, once they no longer fired people over a certain age, union seniority rules immediately started selecting for older workers, in two ways: layoffs are usually last hired first fired, and older people have a lot of sunk costs in terms of pension accrual and seniority, so they’re less likely to leave. If you fly a major airline, you’ll notice very few stewardesses in their twenties.

Of course, no one is claiming that life on Pan Am the series is anything like life on Pan Am the airline, which died in 1991, about a month after The Addams Family was released. Coincidence? Uncle Fester wouldn’t hear of it.

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Occupying a carton near you

I Am The 2%

(Swiped from Christina Hopper’s Facebook page; it traces back at least this far.)

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The Friday get-down

File this under “No, really, you’re not the only one”:

Dorks Rule by Rebecca Black

Although it’s worse when the urge comes over you in a car. Under those circumstances, it’s probably better to be sitting in the back seat than kicking in the front seat.

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Fark blurb of the week

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The Kaiser role

George Kaiser, to Forbes in 2007:

“I agree wholeheartedly that our tax system is insufficiently progressive. I also agree that the estate tax at levels above $10 million should be retained. Higher tax rates for higher levels of income [up to at least 50%, maybe higher] not only are socially responsible but also would encourage more charitable giving.”

Not that he himself plans to pay any of those higher rates, of course:

In one six year period, during which he increased his net worth enough to land him on the Forbes list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, Kaiser reported taxable income to the Internal Revenue Service just once, totaling $11,699 — equivalent to a full-time hourly wage of $5.62.

And it’s not like the Internal Revenue Service has been exactly dogged in their pursuit of Kaiser’s billions. For example:

[I]n 1997, [the IRS] sent him a bill for $48.6 million in back taxes, interest and penalties… After negotiating with the IRS, Kaiser settled for $11,891 in back taxes.

From Kaiser’s home base in Tulsa, Michael Bates observes:

Solyndra is just the latest episode in a long-running drama that includes — on the negative side of the ledger — Great Plains Airlines (and the taxpayers’ ultimate payback of money we didn’t owe to Kaiser’s Bank of Oklahoma), the downtown baseball stadium (and the heavy-handed approach to its surrounding development), the mediocre candidates Kaiser has backed for public office in Tulsa, the county river tax, and — on the positive side — RiverParks trails improvements, supplemental funds for beautification for new public construction, financial support for the comprehensive plan process and the city government efficiency study, purchase and preservation of the Blair Mansion and grounds, support for the Tulsa Fab Lab, and financial support for countless worthy projects and programs.

On one level, I’d question the judgment of anyone who didn’t work diligently to minimize his tax liability:

“Anyone may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes.” — Judge Learned Hand in Helvering v. Gregory, 1934.

Then again, that 0.02-cent-on-the-dollar deal Kaiser struck for his 1997 tax bill might strike some of us as just a hair too sweet. I know I would have greatly enjoyed getting last year’s $6000-plus income-tax liability cut down to a buck and a quarter. But I shrug: this is what has to happen when government becomes big enough to hand out favors, and it’s not like anyone is threatening to cut it down to size. (There are the usual noises from the GOP; I’ll start believing them the moment I see the Department of [your choice of any beyond the original four] relocated to an ice floe.)

There are some, of course, who believe that there shouldn’t be any billionaires at all. I figure, wait long enough, and we’ll all be billionaires — and a Big Mac will be around $400.

(Suggested by Glenn Reynolds.)

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A piece of the sun

I’m starting to think we should give up on this “green jobs” malarkey and turn it all over to the Canadians, who at least have workable ideas on the subject:

Imagine a low-risk bond with a return of 5 percent. Now imagine that bond supporting the development of local solar projects. That’s what TREC Renewable Energy Cooperative did when it created SolarShare Community bonds.

The return rates of the $1,000 (Canadian) bonds are made possible because of Ontario’s feed-in tariff (FiT). The FiT has created a low-risk environment, which means higher payments for photovoltaics and equipment made in the province.

“When you secure a feed-in tariff, it’s a 20-year power-purchase agreement,” said TREC spokesperson Rebecca Black [no, not that Rebecca Black].

The future of the FiT might have been in doubt until last week: provincial elections were being held in Ontario, and the Progressive Conservative party had promised to repeal it if they gained a majority. They failed to do so.

In other news, there’s a Canadian political party called the Progressive Conservatives. Wonder if they’ll take Mitt Romney off our hands?

(For your perusal, the SolarShare FAQs.)

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BS degree

Um, make that “a degree of BS”:

The astonishment that other people don’t actually want to hear you talk for a living goes hand-in-hand with the past fifteen years’ worth of our culture. Being clever at laying on the talk is currency at a lot of immature stages in life: it’s a way for young people to impress their elders, and later to impress their peer group of fellow clevers, and (possibly) effective at getting into the pants of desirable cleverettes.* And this is hardly a surprise. Jocks impress their folks in Little League, each other in high school, and get themselves laid a lot in college. Nerds impress their folks at Science Fair, each other in Chess Club, and… well, the analogy breaks down somewhat here, but eventually the nerds get good jobs and clean up sufficiently to be good catches as adults.

*Lady clevers, feel free to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow on this analogy.

There are, I calculated when I was in college, probably just enough raconteurs to go around, and therefore I shouldn’t try to be one myself. It helped that I had some sort of — well, not a speech impediment, exactly, but more of an irregular cadence, halting when it didn’t need to be and going too fast when it shouldn’t. I eventually learned to slow it down a bit, with the hope that no one would compare me to Shatner on Quaaludes.

I should point out that I had already given up on luring one of the cleverettes, though my own perceptions at the time, at least in that particular realm, likely weren’t worth, to borrow a phrase, “the copper under your fingernail after you scrape it once along the edge of a penny.”

Nerdishness got me through clerical and into operations, which pays the bills today. It perhaps wasn’t what I aspired to, but what the hell: it keeps me from feeling like I have to carry a sign in the park.

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Tepid mess

Malk now with Vitamin RAs a schoolboy, I occasionally got to carry a proper metal lunchbox, though my dominant Oaf gene made it inadvisable to carry a Thermos bottle with it. (I fragged at least two, maybe more. So much of that era is a blur.) When I was old enough to earn the right to travel off campus, I walked the seven or eight blocks to Woolworth’s and blew 25 cents on a couple of chicken wings, which I ate on the return trip. (Just one of the slightly-wonderful aspects of going to school downtown, if you ask me.) At my previous school, I spent most lunch periods playing gin rummy, which is of course perfectly acceptable. So I don’t have much personal experience with Ghastly Cafeteria Food, but apparently it’s for real, and you don’t have to ask Principal Skinner for verification:

“The bagel dog (a hot dog encased in soggy dough) came in a plastic package with the words “Barkin’ Bagel” written across the front. Tough on the outside and mushy on the inside, it was like no bagel I had ever tasted. The hot dog was bland, not juicy. The wimpy tater tots (which counted as that day’s federally mandated vegetable) were pale and wilted in my mouth. Instead of a piece of fruit, like the crunchy apple I would have packed if I’d had time that day, I was given a few cubes of pear suspended in bright red jello.”

This called for action:

It wasn’t anything she herself would feed her child, and certainly nothing she’d want to eat. But the number of children eating free and reduced-price lunches in Mrs. Q’s school was “well over 90%” that year. For many, the Barkin’ Bagel and the soggy tots might be the most complete meal they ate all day. The outraged Mrs. Q became a secret activist. She bought her school lunch every day, took a picture, and, in the tradition of Morgan Spurlock, actually ate it. And she blogged about it.

And now it’s a book. You might not want to read it at dinnertime.

(Via Joanne Jacobs.)

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Electric youth takes a seat

Because I have to do something with this picture, here’s former teen dream Debbie Gibson, who turned forty-one this year, showing the proper respect for Professor Rubik:

Debbie Gibson atop Rubik's Cube

The trick, of course, is to solve it without dislodging her.

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Out of the doorway, the bullets rip

Actually, I don’t think this measure mandates a doorway, but there presumably would be bullets:

A bill filed Tuesday by Rep. Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna, would allow for executions by firing squad. HB 325 would eliminate Florida’s standard method of execution, lethal injection, and allow for executions only by electrocution or firing squad.

He said he filed the bill after overhearing a conversation in his district this past month while [the] U.S. Supreme Court deliberated over the fate of Manuel Valle, convicted in the 1978 murder of a Coral Gables police officer. Valle’s lawyers filed numerous appeals, the last few of which centered around the use of a drug used in lethal injections.

So Rep. Drake prefers high-velocity lead injections. On second thought, no, he doesn’t:

“There shouldn’t be anything controversial about a .45-caliber bullet. If it were up to me we would just throw them off the Sunshine Skyway bridge and be done with it,” Drake said.

It was my great good fortune to arrive at the Sunshine Skyway just a few hours after it plunged into Tampa Bay, and I can assure you, I was pretty much scared spitless coming up the approach. So in one case, at least, that’s a deterrent. Then again, I am not a resident of Florida and plan to commit no capital crimes there.

The only state that currently permits execution via firing squad is, um, Oklahoma, and then only if lethal injection and electrocution are ruled unconstitutional. (O.S.T. §22-1014, if you’re keeping score.) I assume this is okay with Drake, though I’m not inviting him over for Trivial Pursuit:

“In the words of Humphrey Bogart, ‘Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.’ I am so tired of being humane to inhumane people.”

I suspect he’s also tired of having to attribute quotes correctly.

(Via Mike Riggs at H&R.)

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If you were planning to order a vanity plate in honor of the late Steve Jobs, you might just want to hang a blank rectangle back there:

For years, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs drove around Silicon Valley in a silver 2007 Mercedes-Benz SL55 AMG without a license plate.

He apparently didn’t drive it much, though: in August it was reported by Carfax — someone identified as “a blogger” somehow got the VIN — to have 21,800 miles. An executive at R. L. Polk, which owns Carfax, pointed out:

“No personal information can be gleaned from a license-plate number. The best way to remain anonymous would be to keep the plates on. And this, in the end, is the great paradox of the mystery. Not displaying plates made Steve Jobs’ car just as conspicuous and identifiable as a man who, say, always wore jeans, a black turtleneck and New Balance sneakers.”

I’m figuring, though, that he spent enough time in the Benz to justify informing the Apple engineering staff that any future products would have to be less fussy than Mercedes’ then-cumbersome COMAND system.

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1492 and all that

This being the canonical Columbus Day — a pox on Monday holidays, or at least the ones on which I have to work — it seems like a reasonable time to mention that a century ago, Chris C. himself was not only not thought of as a despoiler of worlds, but was actually being pushed for inclusion in the Calendar of Saints. From The New York Times, 31 October 1909:

Patrick John Ryan, Archbishop of Philadelphia, and the Knights of Columbus have petitioned the Pope to canonize Christopher Columbus, according to a report from Rome, but “a distinguished prelate of the Congregation of Rites” is quoted as declaring that the petitioners are unlikely to obtain satisfaction. “Too many weaknesses,” he said, “marred the life of Columbus for canonization to be possible.” This view is not shared by all. From Spain and Italy as well as from the United States have come requests that the process be begun here.

Uncertainty about where Columbus was born is a problem, because “the first step in the process of canonization has to be taken by the Bishop of the diocese to which the possible saint belonged.” Many places claim the nativity of Columbus, including Genoa, Savona and Montserrat.

The Times didn’t mention all the “weaknesses” cited, but Columbus’ participation in the encomienda surely didn’t count in his favor.

That said, enough of the movement persists today to support a Facebook page.

(Via Pentimento.)

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In which life almost imitates a beer commercial

Roberta X has, if not specifically fond, certainly specific memories of One of the Most Interesting Men in the World:

A ruggedly handsome, supremely self-confident man who’d done fascinating, challenging things and kept right on doing them as he years rolled by. He owned the garage where my MGB got the difficult work done; he’d show up sometimes with a book, an antique range (or something), an unusual car, a stack of photos from vacations in exotic places with fascinating people. He spoke several languages. A terribly interesting man and he was kind of sweet on me. Oh, my blushes!

Which doesn’t sound too different from the character played by Jonathan Goldsmith in those Dos Equis ads:

“He’s a man that has had life experience, and has been there, and done that, and beyond… If you’re not interested, you will not be interesting. If you don’t experience life, you won’t be a participant — you’ll just be a voyeur; you’ll watch it go by like a parade you’re not involved in.”

I briefly tried pitching myself as the Least Interesting Man in the World, until someone helpfully pointed out that being the Least Interesting was itself a distinction, and therefore, well, Interesting. Things wound up in an infinite loop shortly thereafter. Perhaps I should try to send bricks to sleep by hypnosis.

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Hoopla up to one’s knees

“We Built This City” the worst song of the Eighties? Hardly. In fact, Brian J. will argue that it wasn’t even Starship’s worst song of the Eighties.

As for their best song of the Eighties, I have to beg off, since my favorite of the bunch came out in 1979, which, barring unsuspected neutrino activity, was technically before the Eighties, not to mention before the ritual deJeffersonization of the band.

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Patriarchy Cola

Oh, sorry. It’s not a cola, or a root beer. It’s Dr Pepper Ten, and no girls allowed:

[T]hat’s the idea behind Dr Pepper Ten, a 10-calorie soft drink Dr Pepper Snapple Group is rolling out on Monday with a macho ad campaign that proclaims “It’s not for women.” The soft drink was developed after the company’s research found that men shy away from diet drinks that aren’t perceived as “manly” enough.

This promotion can’t lose, says Lynn:

The only women seriously offended will be those in the Perpetually Pissed Off At Men Brigade. The rest of us will either roll our eyes at the silliness of it all or be enticed to try it because we’re told it’s for men only.

Me, I’d use it to wash down a Yorkie bar.

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