It’s only natural

It’s a really good catalog, with a few howlers now and then:

The onslaught of Christmas catalogs is slowly beginning. I got two in the past 10 days from Victorian Trading Company. I love the products they sell, I love looking at the catalogs, but sometimes their descriptions are way too precious or even outright wrong. But sometimes they make me laugh. Like this one. Here’s the relevant sentence: “A number of years ago we aligned ourselves with an avid naturist who meticulously retrieves intricate web and preserves them under glass”

Yes. Naturist. (NB: very small photo of naked people — it’s a wikipedia page). And yes, I know, there is the alternate definition of the term that means “naturalist,” but if they MEAN “naturalist,” they should say it. I daresay a lot of us, when we hear “naturist,” we think of what that wikipedia page is about, first. If I am talking about someone who studies nature, I always say “naturalist.”

Which makes more sense to me. (Arkansas, the Natural State — says so on the license plates — is the one state least hospitable to naturists, though they have no problem with naturalists.)

As for the creators of those intricate web samples:

(I wouldn’t be around spiders naked on a bet. I’m not an arachnophobe but if I’m about to get in the shower and I see one in the tub, it has to go before I will get in)

I have had this happen only twice, so I can’t generalize except as follows: On my own premises, I will attempt to coax the creature to relocate itself. In a bathroom in a motel in Albuquerque, I will fetch a shoe and do my worst.

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It’s all about the Benjamin J. Grimms

In shakier times, Marvel, having regained the film rights to the Fantastic Four comic, promptly sold them off to 20th Century-Fox, and Roger suspects that this is the reason why the comic is being killed off:

So, it would seem, if Marvel cancels the comic book, the movies won’t do as well. If Fox stops making movies, the rights to the movie portrayals revert to Marvel. THEN Marvel can (and probably will) bring back the FF, because, as someone who read the four-color items for three decades, almost nothing is permanent in the comic books.

FF has been sort of snakebit in theaters, anyway. The 1994 film version, breathed upon by Roger Corman, was made mostly to avoid losing the film rights, which a German firm had picked up for a mere handful of Deutsche Marks. (It was not, you may be sure, a special-effects fest, and Stan Lee claimed, well after the fact, that the producers never really intended to release it at all.)

Fox is rebooting the film franchise in 2015, probably for the last time: there’s supposedly a sequel scheduled for 2017, but if this thing bombs as badly as I think it will … never mind, I can’t even bring myself to think about this. FF was my favorite comic for a long, long time; I actually bought a bound volume of the first 40 issues for something like $100. Ostensibly, it was because I fancied myself a scientist almost on par with Reed Richards, but eventually I figured it was because I wanted to get my far-too-inflexible hands on Sue Storm.

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Just a few blocks ahead of you

One of the locals who believes fervently that there need to be enough traffic lanes to convey him — the hell with the rest of us — from Point A to any subsequent point without any discernible delay, once made the mistake of calling, in my presence, for the widening of Interstate 35 between 40 and 44, a five-mile stretch that is only two lanes in each direction for four of those miles. I have to drive those four miles twice a day, and when things are moving the way they’re supposed to be moving, there are, in fact, no discernible delays; the highway accommodates its capacity at the indicated speed limit — 60 mph — or perhaps a little over, with ease.

What’s slowing things down, of course, is this guy:

Do you know someone whose confidence in his driving strikes you as unwarranted? Who swishes back and forth among the lanes like a matador showing off before a packed stadium? Who routinely takes his eyes off the road for frivolous reasons, for example to send a text message? Who removes both hands from the wheel to grope through the snacks in his center console or the CDs on the passenger side floor? Have you ever said to yourself “He’s an accident looking for a place to happen?”

You’re right. The odds are that he, or someone very like him, will cause the next highway accident, and possibly a few lives in the bargain. But there’s no telling that to him. He takes the mere mention of risk as a mortal insult. He probably has one of those idiotic “NO FEAR” decals emblazoned on his rear windshield, where it can conveniently obstruct his road vision.

And even if he hasn’t caused an accident this time, he’s certainly caused discombobulation among his fellow motorists, who will slam on the brakes lest they encounter him more closely; the next 3.5 miles, the pattern repeats, and all of a sudden there’s a traffic jam despite perfectly ordinary levels of traffic. This is probably inevitable in an area where 75 percent of the drivers consider themselves to be above average.

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Endless loopiness

Will Truman will tell you that this is not the routine you want to see running at the Department of Motor Vehicles:

Basically, the issue was this:

1) Without the VIN, the car was not officially registered.
2) Registration was required before they could accept the VIN verification form.
3) The car could not be registered without an accepted VIN verification form.

You can prove you have (unofficial?) registration by giving them the temporary registration card, but we didn’t have that. The lady at the DMV was actually skeptical there was any way out of this that didn’t involve buying a new car.

But on their second visit, they somehow managed to exit this loop:

[W]e got a different lady who was much more helpful. Actually, she wasn’t helpful at all, but since it was a complicated situation and she had just started the job two days before, she took us to someone who could help us. Within an hour, everything had been settled. She basically called the person in the state capital who had transcribed the VIN number incorrectly, and they quietly corrected it, with everything quietly falling into place.

The advantage of dealing with new and untried personnel: they don’t yet know all the reasons why the customer is always wrong.

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On the hand-cut rocks

Just in case your drink doesn’t cost enough:

Now that we’ve entered the “craft cocktail” era, drinks with double-digit price tags are just par for the course. And in many cities, there’s a decent chance that your fancy craft drink now comes with a large, crystal-clear cube or rectangle that melts unhurriedly in your glass. That’s right: Artisanal ice is a thing.

Excuse me? That’s what we said when the Washington City Paper reported that a restaurant called Second State will charge $1 per “hand-cut rock” if you order from its rye whiskey menu. (If you order one of the cocktails, which range from $11 to $17, the fancy cubes are included gratis.)

And apparently it’s a cut above the stuff routinely coughed up by your Frigidaire:

Regular ice is cloudy because of the minerals like calcium in tap water, [Joe] Ambrose says. (Editor’s note: Air bubbles that form as water crystallizes also contribute to the clouds, as some commenters informed us.) So he filters water, and then puts it in a big machine made by Clinebell — the same machine that makes those huge blocks for ice sculptures.

The machine churns out 200- to 300-pound blocks of crystal-clear ice. Ambrose or his partner, Owen Thomson, director of the beverage program at Range restaurant, then cut up these giant blocks into 25-pound slabs or 2-inch cubes with a band saw.

“It’s hard work: You’re dealing with ice and slippery surfaces, and working with a blade that’s made for cutting up cows,” says Ambrose. “It’s a little scary, especially when the blades wear down and pop and metal goes flying across the room. Oh, and your hands get really cold.”

I expect a dispenser for these to show up in next year’s Sub-Zero hyperfridges.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Turn down the weather machine

Stephanie Bice won the Republican runoff for Senate District 22, in west Edmond and northern Canadian County; there is no further opposition, so she will take her seat after the first of the year. Between now and then, we can only hope that she will improve her grasp on what is and isn’t possible:

Preventing droughts? Are we hiring an Equestrian weather patrol? Because last I looked, the jet stream and the clouds didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to what we want. We can certainly mitigate the effects of drought, but anything beyond that is out of our hands.

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What do girls know about games, anyway?

The #GamerGate kerfuffle might lead some of you to think that OMG, there’s so much sexism out there. You probably should have seen it thirty years ago:

I got the job on a whim. I happened to be in the store looking at Intellivision games. I didn’t have an Intellivision, but was interested in perhaps buying a console. I got to talking to the manager of the store about video games and at the end of the conversation, he offered me a job. I took it.

That job was a lesson in sexism. All too often, guys would come in looking for advice on which games or console to buy, or to browse our massive D&D section and when I went to help them, they would ask if my manager was around, or they would tell me they didn’t need my help. I’d try to engage them, talk to them about the games, but they would always, in various phrasing, say they want a guy to help them. That they didn’t think I’d be able to answer their questions or know enough about the games to help them make their decisions. Sometimes I would be the only employee in the store (when my manager was there, he backed me up) and they were stuck with me. They would pepper me with questions, making me “prove” my knowledge or my fandom. This was the same attitude I faced as a sports fan — guys often making me prove my worth, as if i had to pass a test to be allowed into their “club.”

“But you’re a girl!” followed her all through womanhood:

I eventually quit that job — a job I thought was my dream job (I was only about 19, what did I know) — because I was tired of being on the verge of tears all the time. The thing was, I still loved working there. I loved being surrounded by video games all day. I loved that part of my job was demonstrating the games but I also loved that part of the job was demonstrating my knowledge and so often I wasn’t given that chance because I was a girl and what do girls know about video games?

Which is not to say that things have actually improved since those days:

I’m just as frustrated now as I was when I stood in that store and had a guy tell me “I don’t mind you working here because you have a nice ass, but I still want Steve to help me.” The harassment women are feeling today is a hundred times worse than that. The internet has allowed men to swarm in masses and attack as one. Women are being driven out of their homes because of threats made by rabid misogynists.

There are, of course, no stories with but a single side. If you’re just now coming upon this issue, here are two of them. My usual position on these matters is that everyone who steps into them eventually gets something unspeakable on their shoes. The “swarm” technique, I assure you, is genuine, an unwanted reminder of the atavistic tribalism that not one of us has ever completely outgrown.

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Nor will it stay dead

The auto company once known as Luftfahrzeug-Motorenbau GmbH, founded in 1909 by Wilhelm Maybach, wound down operations after World War II, and Daimler-Benz bought what was left of it in 1960. For some reason, forty years later Daimler decided to revive the make as an ultra-lux brand — sort of a Mercedes-Benz SS-Class, if you know what I mean — positioning it against the likes of Rolls-Royce. Between 2002 and 2011, Maybach moved about 3000 cars, about what Rolls-Royce did in any one of those years, and the badge was quietly put back into the vault.

Now it’s coming out again:

Once a name best known for providing a platform for Kanye West’s and Jay Z’s Mad Maxian fantasies, Maybach is set to return from the grave under the bright lights of the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show as a Mercedes model.

Car and Driver reports the Maybach will be around 18 feet in length, slotting between the S550 and the deceased Maybach 57, according to head of global design, Gordon Wagener.

Other features include a turbocharged V12, rear-wheel drive, Mercedes’ Magic Body Control suspension, luxurious materials, and a badge here and there to let the proletariat know a god and/or goddess is being chauffeured, not some Silicon Valley dirtbag.

The 57, in case you’d forgotten, was so called because it stretched 5.7 meters, out there with the late, lamented Buick Electra 225. (There was an even-longer 62, which made it four inches past the twenty-foot mark.)

Something this size ought to seat about eight; I expect it will hold just about half that many.

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Thoroughly bebopped

Nobody is expecting much from the just-out-of-blankies Utah Jazz this season. Still, they’d won four of six preseason games before wandering into Oklahoma City, and all five Jazz starters rolled up double figures well before the official beginning of garbage time, inside the four-minute mark. (Enes Kanter led everyone with 27 points.) It’s a situation we’ve seen before: the Thunder can defend, but they foul. They foul a lot. Utah took 41 foul shots, more than two-thirds of them in the first half, collecting 30 points. (OKC attempted 26, made 13.) And scoring is intermittent at best: the Thunder managed to hit ten of 22 three-point shots, but managed only four fast-break points all night. So the Jazz walk away with a 105-91 win — the seventh time out of seven OKC gives up a triple-digit score — and we get to wonder Wha’Hoppen?

It wasn’t all dross, of course: no game in which Nick Collison can make two treys can be considered a total loss, and training-camp invitee Michael Jenkins managed to create a +10 for the night without making a shot. What’s more, Perry Jones came up with 20 points despite bricking five free throws. Anthony Morrow is calm and collected and occasionally accurate; Serge Ibaka is starting to look like the Serge Protector of old. And Russell Westbrook (14 points, 11 assists) pitched no hissy fits.

Still, from about five minutes in, the Jazz looked like they owned the place, and since they have to come back twice more during the regular season — did I mention this was a preseason game? — well, this can’t be allowed to stand, especially if the Jazz are supposed to suck. Meanwhile, we look forward to the first regular-season game, a week from tomorrow, in the Rose Garden Moda Center.

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Swift entanglements

This Australian radio interview of Taylor Swift is — oh, who cares? It’s Taylor Swift, fercryingoutloud:

I snagged this still from Twitter:

Taylor Swift on 2DayFM Sydney

The 1989 album, as I may have mentioned before, drops next week.

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Meanwhile, a couple of miles away

Of late, Western Avenue has been known for medium to upper-crust eateries and cute little shops and brick walls.

The walls have been addressed here:

The final touches were applied late Sunday, in preparation for Taste of Western Thursday evening.

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Rhymes with “flatten ‘em”

Way back in those dear, dead days of 1976, the Recording Industry Association of America proclaimed a new certification: Platinum, which was twice as high as Gold. A gold record in those days required sales of one million singles, or 500,000 albums, so this was an aspirational goal. (The first platinum album was Eagles: Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975), which everyone has but me.) In 1989, as the singles market was evaporating, the RIAA cut the threshold for singles by half, but a platinum album still had to sell a million.

This year, the number of platinum albums is … one. And it’s a soundtrack, yet: to Disney’s Frozen. No individual artist or band has come even close to moving a million:

The two records nearest the magic number are Beyoncé’s self-titled album and Lorde’s Pure Heroine, but neither have even crossed the 800,000 mark, with sales of both having tapered off months ago.

Then again, Taylor Swift’s 1989 drops next week. I mention purely in passing that “Shake It Off,” the lead single, has already moved two million copies.

There were, as it happens, sixty platinum singles this year. As they did at the beginning of what the late Casey Kasem used to call the Rock Era, singles rule the popular-music market once more.

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Velocirapture

Well, I do know someone who would wear these:

Venus by John Fluevog

John Fluevog explains what this shoe is all about:

Inspired by fashion-forward members of the Cretaceous period, The Queen of the Skies Family takes a step back to a time when spikes were all the rage. The Venus, with its soft, Italian suede and stunning 4″ pillar heel, is the perfect companion to charm that sexy Paleontologist you’ve been eyeing with your best Deinonychus impression (and if you know what that is, you’re totally in).

Also in black, at the same $339 price.

(Seen here.)

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Who put the bömp?

Opening statistic: Iceland has only 320,000 people, about as many as Corpus Christi, Texas. That number makes this more believable:

[T]wo random Icelanders have about as much in common as second cousins, once removed, according to Dr. Kári Stefansson, CEO and co-founder of deCODE Genetics. That might sound like a lot, but accounting for the vast possibilities for genetic recombination in each generation, it really isn’t.

A consequence of this genetic similarity:

A collaborative venture between deCODE and software engineer Friðrik Skúlason, the Íslendingabók site developed as a corollary to deCODE’s genealogical research. “The reason why we have been able to lead the world in genetic research,” Kári Stefansson says, “is because we understand the structure of Iceland’s population so well.” DeCODE has an advantage over “the big guys in human genetics” because the organisation has intimate understanding of Icelandic genealogy, he says. “Our history is mapped in our DNA.”

DeCODE has attracted no small amount of international press over the years, but it is unlikely that its student app competition would have created such fervour now were it not for one of the novelty features of the winning ÍslendingaApp: the Sifjaspellspillir or “Incest Spoiler” alarm which alerts a user if the person she plans on going home with is a near relation. Using the app’s “new bömp technology,” users can tap their phones together and see how closely they are related. If the alarm has been activated — it’s turned off in default settings — it will either erupt with a discouraging siren, or issue a gleeful “No relation: go for it!” message, while a Barry White-esque voice urges you on with a subtle “Oh, Yeeeaaah.”

There are parts of the US, I am told, where an application of this sort might be useful.

(Via TYWKIWDBI.)

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Czardonic

Recent administrations, rather than trying to get anything out of those damn bureaucrats, have appointed so-called “czars” to take control of a matter without any of that tedious “responsibility” business. This works about as well as you might think, though clearly the process could be improved:

I would not mind the office so much if the office-holders, like some blood-soaked versions of dollar-a-year men, took it with the understanding that it would end with internal exile followed by a firing squad.

Even external exile would work, provided the location is suitably difficult to escape. Heck, if we rocketed them into the sun, we wouldn’t even need the firing squad.

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Oblivious to the winds

Stephen Gough, a skinny fiftysomething Brit, is known all over the UK as the Naked Rambler, having once walked the entire length of Great Britain, from Land’s End to John o’Groats, in his birthday suit, a trip that was delayed several times by unwanted attention from the legal authorities, who claimed that, well, he just couldn’t do that sort of thing; a second attempt was similarly interrupted.

There are a hardy few who think this is a great thing Gough is doing, though they doubt he’ll ever succeed:

I belong to a group of people who like Stephen believe in personal freedom and the right of us all to live as we please but the big difference is that unlike Stephen, I am not willing to give up my freedom to pursue my beliefs. If I and 1000s more had the same strength and belief as Stephen, then it would become a movement of freedom and there could be protests in pursuit of what we believe in. This is not going to happen! We are NOT going to get 1000s of naked people sitting in the streets demanding freedom. There just is not enough appetite for such action. Even if there were 1000s of people protesting on behalf of naturism, there will be far more who don’t agree and majority will win.

And Her Majesty’s Government has been shrewd enough to put Gough under an ASBO: even if he happens not to be breaking local nudity laws, which appear a bit more lax than those in the States, they can always haul him in for violating the terms of the ASBO. So they’ve got him coming and going.

Besides, hardly anyone wants anything goes, 24/7/365:

[T]here are limitations on activities even at naturists resorts. For example some people enjoy sex in the open, but they cannot do that even at Cap d’Agde which is the most advanced naturist resort I know. Those who try are subjected to the full force of the law as they would be anywhere in the world if caught in the act at a public place. The point being, we all live with certain limitations all the time, no matter where we are or who we are.

However, it is possible to do what you want in most cases if you respect others and have a balance in our life, which allows us to enjoy life and push the barrier a little at a time without declaring all-out war and suffering the consequences.

And let’s face it, this is not on the level of, say, the civil-rights movement in the US in the Fifties and Sixties: I would look silly trying to claim that my freedom is being circumscribed by not being able to traipse through the Men’s Furnishings department at Von Maur wearing only shoes and a smile. It would be nice, though, if the government didn’t spaz out if I went out that way to fetch the newspaper from the driveway.

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