Strange search-engine queries (273)

Gas may be up to four dollars a gallon now, but weird search strings are still a dime a dozen.

anne v cubs:  Bet on Anne.

woodstock 3 days of peeps and music:  That’s funny, I just finished 3 days of Peeps.

homemade viagra:  Never tried it, but somehow I suspect it involves spray starch.

reinvention puritanism:  Never tried it, but somehow I suspect it involves spray starch.

does 404 area code have cachet:  Hint: Searcher’s IP traces to Tucker, Georgia, out in 770.

what does a boxed d mean in a automatic transmission?  It means you’re too lazy to find a copy of the owner’s manual.

instantaneous bonding:  (1) Mother with newborn. (2) Finger with Super Glue.

how to get on a fracking crew:  First you have to fill out the fracking application.

bombard round rock:  Isn’t traffic on Interstate 35 bad enough already?

where do you see the web five years from now:  On a much smaller screen than this, unless Apple brings out a three-foot-wide iPad, which they won’t.

That’ll be 8.3 cents, please. Or send a few coins to Brian J.

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Meanwhile on Baltic Avenue

In critiquing the Fed’s “quantitative easing” programs, Robert Stacy McCain asks the putatively-rhetorical question: “What Interest Rate Would You Charge Yourself for a Loan of Monopoly Money?”

If one stipulates that the actual rules of Monopoly® are to be followed, then the answer is clear: 10 percent. From said rules:

In order to lift the mortgage, the owner must pay the Bank the amount of the mortgage plus 10% interest. When all the properties of a color-group are no longer mortgaged the owner may begin to buy back houses at full price.

The player who mortgages property retains possession of it and no other player may secure it by lifting the mortgage from the Bank. However, the owner may sell this mortgaged property to another player at any agreed price. The new owner may lift the mortgage at once, if he wishes, by paying off the mortgage plus 10% interest to the Bank. If he does not lift the mortgage at once he must pay the Bank 10% interest when he buys the property and if he lifts the mortgage later he must pay an additional 10% interest as well as the amount of the mortgage to the Bank.

It is worthy of note here that Monopoly®, having had no input from ostensibly well-meaning Congressmen and other miscreants, allows a mortgage for precisely one-half the value of the property, and not one dollar more: you may own, say, Park Place, worth $350, but when you turn that deed over, you discover that you can borrow only $175 against it, for which you must subsequently pay back $193.

Some have questioned whether we should have a central bank at all. The example of Monopoly® tells us that we can have a central bank, so long as it doesn’t make up the rules as it goes along — and so long as it doesn’t throw money away under the guise of Free Parking.

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Fabulous Philadelphians floundering

The Philadelphia Orchestra plays Richard StraussThe Philadelphia Orchestra’s descent into Chapter 11 was not entirely unexpected — cultural institutions with large budgets in all parts of the country have been finding themselves short on funds for several years now — but there’s still something disheartening about it. Opening statements before the bankruptcy court, however, don’t sound particularly hostile:

Lawyers for management and musicians had agreed a few minutes before the start of Wednesday’s hearing that the afternoon’s proceedings would not include a motion by management to impose a new contract on musicians. Negotiations for a new deal with the players continue, as do all concerts.

Much of the hearing was devoted to procedural matters, but both sides quickly outlined one of the central issues in the case: Whether the orchestra, which is seeking to wipe the slate clean on tens of millions of dollars that it may be obligated to pay for the musicians’ pension plans, could be compelled to use some of its $140 million in endowment to satisfy that obligation.

Precisely what the orchestra wants was announced by chairman Richard Worley:

“The debtors seek in the Chapter 11 process to achieve the following outcomes: (1) relief from pension obligations, (2) relief from current contractual obligations to Peter Nero and others, (3) renegotiated contractual agreements with [Kimmel Center Inc.], (4) a new collective bargaining agreement with Local 77 [the musicians], and (5) a court-approved plan with all these elements that will attract donor support.”

Nero conducts the Philly Pops, which is nominally separate from the Philadelphia Orchestra but which is included in the Chapter 11 petition under its corporate name of Encore Series Inc. As of now, no 2011-12 season has been announced for the Pops.

(Cover art by Jim Flora, via LPCover Lover.)

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Addicted to spuds

I’m looking at the back of the bag, and it has a nice little “GLUTEN FREE” badge containing a stylized wheat straw.

It’s a bag of potato chips.

Now potatoes, to the best of my knowledge, don’t contain gluten, and never have; this is like bragging on paint without carbohydrates. I suspect that people with celiac disease probably know this.

Still, I went to the producer’s Web site, and discovered that this particular variety claims only a gluten level below 20 ppm, which I assume is safe for those sensitive to gluten. (Corrections — I know I have readers with such sensitivities — will be welcomed.) There’s a separate list of “Products Not Containing Gluten Ingredients,” though it contains a caution to the effect that they haven’t actually been tested.

(Title, of course, from Weird Al. Incidentally, if you use the Wikipedia gadget in Firefox 3.x, simply typing a double quote into the search box suggests “Weird Al” Yankovic.)

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Artisan, schmartisan

Patti finds many “artisan” labels in a nearby Starbucks. In fact, maybe too many:

Aren’t we making that word redundant through overuse? Are we trying to pretend that the little sandwiches are not made in some food preparation facility and brought here by a truck? And it’s just egg and cheese and bacon and a roll. This is not difficult enough to require a master-level of craft.

On the upside, at least it wasn’t Spam, egg, sausage and Spam.

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Wielding a mile-high club

Through the first nine and a half minutes of the fourth quarter, the Denver Nuggets had scored a total of seven points on 2-15 shooting, prompting radio guy Matt Pinto to ask if maybe George Karl was missing Carmelo Anthony right about now. The Nuggets picked up the pace after that, and pulled to within one with 14.6 seconds left on J. R. Smith’s second trey in a row. Serge Ibaka dunked four seconds later; once again, Smith got the call, and this time James Harden got the swat. Oklahoma City 97, Denver 94, and if Karl’s wondering anything, it’s how come he’s lost five times to this team in three weeks.

A few hints from the box score: Denver shot 37.2 percent, were outrebounded 49-43, missed 15 points at the foul line, and nobody scored more than 15 anywhere. The return of Arron Afflalo should have helped, and indeed he sank his first three shots, but he wound up 4-12 for the night. Even getting the Thunder into foul trouble early on didn’t make much difference.

Not that OKC made it all look easy. The Thunder shot even worse — 36.2 percent — and missed three of four foul shots in the last minute. But Ibaka had a night like you wouldn’t believe: 22 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks, nearly overshadowing Kevin Durant (26 points and three blocks) and Russell Westbrook (23 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists). Still, you ask any of those guys, and they’ll tell you Harden was the one who came up big.

So it’s 3-0. If you thought things were crazy tonight, just wait until Monday, when the Nuggets have to go for broke.

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Evidently Washington missed a few days of Econ 101, so Tam sums up the material that didn’t sink in:

See, when you churn out freshly-printed dollars at a brisker clip than P&G churns out Charmin, then those dollars become worth less, eventually reaching the point where the space between those two words is no longer needed.

Me, I suspect that some of our Beltway bandits are looking forward to becoming trillionaires: why should Zimbabwe have all the cool titles?

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Worthy recluse

The trailer explains it all, which of course means it doesn’t explain a thing:

“Jandek” is his name, except that it’s not technically his name. Corwood Industries is indeed his record label, we think. At the time Jandek on Corwood was released, Corwood had put out 32 albums; there are now more than sixty, including several recent live sets. If it makes no sense to you that a man who assiduously avoided the limelight for decades would suddenly go on stage — it probably made no sense to anyone who participated in the documentary, which was filmed before any such appearances — well, some enigmas are designed to be endless. Reviewer Jason Ankeny quipped about that first live show: “Satan donned his winter coat.”

Finding a genre for Jandek is finding the grandmother of a stray cat: you may have seen that fur before, but you shouldn’t assume too much from it. “You may not get all the answers you want,” said the representative from Corwood. “It’s better that way.” So I’ve never been sure if the man and his ragged-yet-wispy voice and his unorthodox guitar tunings and his melancholy-to-suicidal lyrics are windows into a tortured soul, or they’re something he puts on like an expensive pair of cuff links. I am sure, however, that he wants it that way, just as he wanted that first album (Ready for the House, 1978) to bear the curious catalog number 0739 — hey, at least it’s not a frigging Universal Product Code — and just as he wanted to appear as open to the public as possible without giving away any secrets. That latter quality, in fact, reminds me of me.

The documentary Jandek on Corwood never shows Jandek at all, although it’s clearly his voice in that 1985 telephone interview with writer John Trubee. (Previous John Trubee reference here.) He didn’t at all sound like a guy who would say “I passed by the building that you live in / And I wanted to die.” On the other hand, I am considered downright upbeat for a person who once planned to cut his own brake lines. So I make no assumptions except the obvious one: few of us lead lives entirely free of demons, wherever their origin. Most of the time I shy away from this level of scary intensity, feeling I have enough problems already. But even the most frightening landscape has its compelling aspects — if it didn’t, you wouldn’t pay enough attention to be frightened, right? — and there are times when I’m willing to pass by the building that Jandek lives in, wherever the hell, or wherever in hell, that is.

(Disclosure: Review copy purchased at retail.)

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Checking in with Charity Backsplash

When I was a young modemer at the dawn of online time, I worked up a female persona, about whom perhaps the less said the better. It’s not like I invented the idea, though:

Did you know that, as a 16-year-old, Ben Franklin wrote letters to The New-England Courant posing as a middle-aged widow named Silence Dogood?

One thing I (or she, anyway) had in common with Mrs Dogood: unexpected attention from persons of the male persuasion.

We don’t give our youngsters the names of virtues quite as often as we used to, though you’ll still encounter the occasional Faith or Hope. What you will probably not see, though, is a name like Praise-God Barebone (1598?-1679), arguably the most famous member of the first post-Rump Parliament, which somehow never managed to retain the name of “Nominated Assembly.” To give you an idea of how hard-core Praise-God was, he named his son something along the lines of Hath Christ Not Died for Thee Thou Wouldst Be Damned Barebone. Nothing required the poor lad to retain that name, and he went through his adult life as Nicholas Barbon. Still, he’s remembered more for his cumbersome handle than for his one major accomplishment: he was a founder of the first fire-insurance company, circa 1680.

And then there was Patience Latting, who served twelve years (1971-1983) as mayor of Oklahoma City, and Patience and Prudence McIntyre, singing sisters who scored several hits in the middle 1950s, including the nonpareil “Gonna Get Along Without You Now.” (Because I can: here’s Zooey Deschanel singing it.)

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Sgt. Nowun’s Lonely Hearts Club Spam

Been a while since one of these got past the filters:

Good day, my dear friend!

I miss love in my life and I desire to find it!
Hello, gentleman. I am a single girl, nice, attractive, intelligent, active and easy-going, but lonely…
I am looking for a responsible man, the one who can show me wisdom, love and attention he has.
I love life and I am sure I can make my only man happy. If you want to learn me better,
you can find me here
If you write to me, I will gladly answer all your questions as something inside says to me that something big and beautiful can grow between us…
Waiting for your

Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure I’d want to learn her better.

I mean, I have no doubt that women meeting this description do in fact exist, but by and large, they don’t communicate via botnet.

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Exploitation explained

Little Miss Attila comments on that Rule 5 business:

I’ve been asked how I justify winking at — and sometimes participating in — these excursions into “soft-core porn.” Well, let’s see: for one thing, I don’t really have a reputation as any kind of a real social conservative to defend. I’ll let the gentlemen who celebrate the human body — and the political pasture to my right — defend themselves on that account; I’m sure they’ll have a good answer. For another, there are erotic displays of both the female and the male body that don’t seem to degrade the viewer or the model, and I honestly don’t see a lot of harm in them.

I’m not saying that nothing worries me, because a lot of things worry me, and I never want these young ladies to think that most of what they have going for them is in these two-dimensional representations. (They may not still be sex goddesses in 25 years; after all — ahem! — I’m the exception that proves the rule.)

I am persuaded, generally, that those who do think that most of what they have going for them is in those two-dimensional representations are the ones who will be hardest hit by Father Time, cranky old bastard that he is — and a sexist bastard at that.

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Yesterday was Thursday

And that means it’s time for another Rebecca Black update. What with the death threats and all, the young singer seems bewildered:

“It’s a song. It’s not like I ran for president. What did I do? I sang a song about a day.”

Extra host Mario Lopez, showing his keen grasp of the obvious, responded:

“There’s always going to be haters. You could have sung about Monday and they would have hated you for that, too.”

Monday, Monday. Can’t trust that day.

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Evenly specific

The 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid scores a row of 4s from the EPA: 44 mpg city, 44 mpg highway, combined — you guessed it — 44 mpg.

Although what’s going to happen now is that some nimrod is going to show 39.5 or something like that on the car’s monitoring device and will go yell at the dealer’s service department for about an hour for the machine’s unspeakable failure to obtain the promised number. (It turns out that an unsurprisingly-large number of people simply cannot grasp the concept of “Your mileage may vary.”)

Also, if you check the photo at the link, you’ll find at least one person simply cannot grasp the concept of grammatical numbers that are supposed to match: “To each their own”?

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The Bulb of Damocles

Andrea Harris finds another instance of color blindness, subset green:

[D]oes anyone but me think it’s odd that mercury batteries, commonly used in cameras for years, were banned a while ago to great fanfare (thus forcing most people [to] ditch their cameras), only for the People That Care to turn around and declare that the world was in Danger™ once more and this time the only thing that could save it was switching from regular incandescent light bulbs (which produce little to no pollutants) to light bulbs that contained… mercury? (Added note: yes, I know that they now make replacements for the mercury batteries that are supposed to work just as well; I bought three of them. Still, I think it’s hilarious that mercury is bad in a tiny metal battery that stays inside a camera made of metal and heavy plastic, but okay in a fragile glass container that hangs above your head.)

The advantage of the old mercury battery, which generally had mercuric oxide (HgO) as the cathode, was considerable: 1.35 volts, more or less constantly, right up until the moment it died, which generally took several years. Try that with any of your overadvertised alkalines.

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A marginally-tighter cap

The usual suspects are effusive in their praise for what was House Joint Resolution 1002, which puts a measure on the ballot to change the existing property-tax cap from five percent to three percent. An example thereof:

State Sen. Jim Reynolds was effusive this morning (Wednesday, April 20) after passage of House Joint Resolution 1002. By a vote of 77-16, with five members excused and three taking constitutional privilege, the measure sailed through the House of Representatives. The final overwhelming bipartisan majority approved sending the constitutional measure to a statewide vote of the people.

If passed by voters, the proposal will limit property tax increases to 3 percent of fair cash value.

Well, actually, no, it won’t. Like the previous 5-percent cap, this measure imposes a limitation on the increase in taxable assessed value. It has absolutely nothing to say about the tax rates themselves, which will continue to be set exactly as before. If you happen to live in, say, the Crutcho school district in Oklahoma County, the tax rate went up 20.4 percent this past year, mostly due to a $1 million bond issue passed last year by eleven of fourteen actual voters. The tax rate in my own area, by comparison, went up just under 0.8 percent.

I’m guessing someone lent Jim Reynolds a hat to talk through for this:

“At the 5% cap, property taxes essentially double every 14 years. With this new 3% cap, it will take at least 24 years for taxes to double.”

At least he knows the Rule of 72, which puts him a notch above some of the innumerable innumerates who seem to get themselves elected these days. The facts of the matter, though, from someone who’s done the homework:

Since I’ve been here, the market value of the house has risen by a third; the tax rate has bobbed up and down, and while 114.33 is the highest it’s been, the lowest (for 2008) was 106.08, so we’re talking a fairly-narrow range here. The [Oklahoma County] Assessor’s online records go back to 1983, at which time the tax rate was 83.63; the tax rate has therefore risen 37 percent in 37 years. Market values, of course, have risen faster, especially considering that the local real-estate market in the early 1980s was in a deep, dark hole.

Leonard Sullivan, who is the Assessor for Oklahoma County, understands the rule. I understand the rule. I’d like to think there’s at least one more person in this state who understands the rule. I suppose I’ll find out when this shows up as a State Question in 2012.

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