Pier review

Which is to say, they take your manuscript and throw it off the end of the pier:

The founding principle of the Journal of Universal Rejection (JofUR) is rejection. Universal rejection. That is to say, all submissions, regardless of quality, will be rejected.

Then again, there are advantages to submitting your work to them. For example:

You retain complete rights to your work, and are free to resubmit to other journals even before our review process is complete.

(Poached from Mrs Mason.)

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Mr Shipstone, line one, please

Free energy from the sky? Maybe, maybe not:

A U.S. conversation group has sued the federal government over its approval of a major solar power plant in the California desert, the latest in a string of challenges to the nation’s renewable energy goals from the environmental community.

According to court papers, the non-profit Western Watersheds Project alleged U.S. regulators approved Brightsource Energy’s 370-megawatt Ivanpah solar energy plant without conducting adequate environmental reviews, and asked the court to order the defendants to withdraw their approvals.

The Project’s argument:

The complaint said the project’s approval process failed to analyze and mitigate the Ivanpah plant’s impact on migratory birds, the desert tortoise, which is a threatened species under federal law, desert bighorn sheep, groundwater resources and rare plants.

OMG! This could turn the desert into — a desert!

Actually, this should surprise no one: green folk in the Pyrite State presumably don’t object to solar power, only to people actually making money from it.

(Title filched from Robert A. Heinlein.)

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The Maltese walkin’

Minka Kelly, walking the dog:

Minka Kelly walking the dog

Compare to, for instance, Rufus Thomas.

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Insufficient traceability

On the first of May, in Discovery Bay, your cash ain’t nothin’ but trash:

The Discovery Bay [CA] Community Services District board voted this week to ban cash transactions for all services, including water bills and park reservations.

Board members said the new policy will ensure the safety of town clerks and save the district time and money.

But then there’s this:

Discovery Bay is home to a group of residents whom officials say are uncommonly antagonistic toward local government. The town, which receives about seven records requests each month, recently began publishing the names of those requesting public records in the agendas for its biweekly meetings.

The law requires that those requesting public records pay the cost of copying. In the past, they’ve been able to pay in cash. No more.

A former board member is up front about the reason for the change:

David Piepho, who retired from the board in December, a month after the no-cash policy was introduced, says the change was designed to put an end to anonymous requests, which he believes are inappropriate.

“You’ll find that a lot of the rules that the CSD deals with are created because of the same four or five antagonists,” he said.

Take note, citizen: if you want something from us, you will identify yourself, and we will do with that information whatever we deem appropriate.

It’s a good thing they don’t have any smartass bloggers who own guns.

(Via Fark.)

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New York regrooved

The Knickerbockers of New York do exactly two things well: the punched-in points from the paint (from Amar’e Stoudemire) and the long ball (from everyone else). These coincide not so nicely with the Thunder’s weakest points, which explains how the Knicks led this one through most of the game — well, that and OKC’s dismal 38.6-percent shooting. Still, it was tied with half a minute left, and Kid Delicious landed a three-point buzzer-beater to put the Thunder up, 101-98, earning a split of the season series and delighting an often-frustrated Saturday-night crowd.

Maybe the Knicks were weary; they’d lost to the Spurs last night, and to the Rockets two nights before. But they didn’t play like a tired team, and the standard New York strengths were very much in evidence: Stoudemire had a double-double (18 points, 12 rebounds), Danilo Galinari had 23 points including three treys, and Bill Walker had 12 points including four treys. Six Knicks, in fact, posted double-figure scoring.

But the Thunder owned the boards, and the Westbrook-Durant Axis of Awe put together a 58-point show. What’s more, Serge Ibaka was clearing left and right: he finished with 15 rebounds to go with 11 points. Daequan Cook was briefly unstapled from the bench, though he went scoreless. And while OKC was still horrible from beyond the arc — five of 17 — well, they got the last one to fall, right?

This particular homestand lasted only one game: now it’s back on the road, at New Orleans on Monday and at Minnesota on Wednesday. The next game at What Was The Name Of This Arena Again? will be Friday, against the Washington Wizards, who are looking for a road win. Any road win.

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Climate semi-controlled

One of the first things I noticed when Gwendolyn moved into the garage was the fact that her automatic HVAC system seemed to have a whole lot more buttons and knobs and whatnot than the manual systems I’d had in previous automobiles: if she’s going to do all the work, I shouldn’t have to futz with the controls, right?

Well, maybe. Two situations seem to flummox the system, and they tend to run just about six months apart. In mid-summer, it’s the heat: the A/C can cope with 95-degree days, even 100, but if the car’s been sitting in the sun for ten hours, the interior is more like 120. I could leave the sunroof open, I suppose, but this tends to invite unwelcome attention from certain segments of the population.

This being mid-winter, though, the issue is cold, and it’s magnified by a perfectly-defensible design decision: there will be no air through the floor vents until the temperature gauge has budged from the C position. In the morning, I’ll start the car up, and the machine will notice that it’s something like 45 degrees in its immediate area; once we’re out of the garage, though, the temperature plummets to subfreezing. Which wouldn’t be an issue, really, except that the little electronic brain also has orders to prevent sudden changes in the interior temperature, so it’s about half a mile, maybe more, before the system is ready to acknowledge that yes, it’s farging cold out there, we’re turning the fan up to two, and maybe we’ll do three or four later if the situation permits. I get better results with the seat heater, which gets almost hot enough to boil a monkey’s bum in that same half-mile.

Still, it’s almost 11 miles to work, and if 9.5 to 10 are in relative comfort, the system has more or less done its job, and I haven’t had to touch the temperature knob, which stays on 75 year-round. On the other hand, I’ve never had to go anywhere with Vodka McBigbra.

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What a dork

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More bionic than ironic

This just seems wrong on several levels:

First issue of Steampunk Palin

In this one, the former Alaska governor is blown to smithereens, which I like to think is a small town on the Kenai peninsula; she is subsequently rebuilt, presumably at a cost of $6 million or so, and somehow powered by steam. She then organizes a team of similarly-constituted cyborgs to take on the evil Professor Greenhouse.

I like the cover art, I guess, but I suspect there’s not much of a story here: if there were, they wouldn’t have had to fill up eight pages with pin-up pictures. Now I don’t object to such things — I have a picture of Susan Storm as desktop wallpaper, fercryingoutloud — but eight pages? Beats the hell out of writing, I suppose.

And besides, if we need stories where hot air, dripping wet, is considered a viable plot complication, I hear Keith Olbermann is looking for work.

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The whole gale

For some reason, this title resonates with me: “The wind has been ripping through the trees these past few days, and my hair desperately needs a trim.”

Maybe it’s just because the wind pretty much always seems to be ripping through the trees around here; it once ripped one of my trees in two. Or maybe I could just blame it on Marilyn Monroe.

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Decease and desist

An email asking “Are You Dead Or Alive” in the subject line is almost certainly dubious — if I haven’t updated in a couple of days, you can probably assume I’m dead, or at least that they’re throwing me onto the cart — but I looked at this one anyway, and it’s dazzling in its inanity.

“Miss Donna Story” writes:

We received an Email from a Lady called, Mrs Carol Cage, she called us this morning with this telephone number: +1909275xxxx, Informing us that you died three days ago, She said that we should send your ATM CARD to her, Mrs Carol Cage, home Address: Watertown, Wi 53094, usa. and also she provided this bank details for the transfer:

Bank details and part of phone number redacted. Incidentally, the number in question seems to be located, not in Watertown, Wisconsin, but in Fontana, California.

“Miss Story” continues:

She stated that she is your next of kin beneficiary, and she also told us that you instructed her to claim your properties including your fund that is in this office in case you are not there to be found on earth.

She said that you told her that there is transfer charge she will pay in other to receive the fund, that I should let her know the cost for her to pay, Please let us know if this is true or not because we are confused now about this claim because she requested that we should send to her the Name and Information to pay the required delaying fee to enable us transfer your fund to her.

“Delaying fee”? (“There’s a late charge for the late Mr. Hill.”)

Anyway, to avoid this presumably-unpleasant situation, I must send them a whole crapload of personal data. Of course.

As for Donna Story herself, evidently she really gets around.

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Dysfunctional space

A sibling visiting the palatial estate at Surlywood once swore up and down that the premises were at least as large as his own, even though the County Assessor measures a 35-percent difference. This is, I suggest, something they used to call Good Design: the ceilings are a mere eight feet, and the bathroom is maybe a little bigger than one of San Quentin’s, but otherwise it’s a pretty efficient — with or without a comma between “pretty” and “efficient” — use of the limited available space.

The opposite of this, apparently, is where Daphne hangs her hat and stares in disbelief:

Two thousand square feet should be enough room for our small family. Hell, if you spent any time with us, you’d wonder why we even need that much space since we always seem to be crowded in one tight circle of a room. Unfortunately, our house was designed by an absolute moron who lacked any crucial comprehension of spacial flow or system design. He also failed to possess a scintilla of esthetic sensibility. The entire left side of the house resembles a dungeon maze of narrow halls and weirdly sized, dark rooms that everyone avoids like the pages of Proust. Tell me, is it so difficult to plan at least two walls featuring windows in every room? Maybe plant a skylight in the long run of an interior corridor, maximize storage space, carve out appropriately sized air-flow intakes that won’t choke the air conditioning system into grisly death seizures every summer?

I might fail on a couple of rooms, window-wise. The living room has only the one exterior wall — what used to be the second now adjoins the garage — but there’s enough glass for two, maybe three walls. However, the master bedroom, you should know, has actual windows on three walls out of a possible four, which is a neat trick.

In the past I have suggested that construction techniques have gotten sloppier in the last six decades, and I suspect Daphne will back me up on this:

When we bumped into a secondary bedroom to expand the master bath in the last good house, we discovered existing two by fours that weighed at least twice as much as our newly bought lumber and there wasn’t a bowed one in the bunch after years of service. The quality of common building materials has degraded, so has our respect for qualified craftsmen in the trades and they’re both as rare as hen’s teeth these days. When housing turned into a cheap, mass-produced commodity of banal cul-de-sac boxes, crudely built by unskilled labor with shoddy materials intended to maximize profit at the expense of quality, we ended up with the shittiest living spaces imaginable. They may look shiny on the outside for a few years, but they degrade into expensive, falling apart nightmares not long after you’ve hung the pictures and planted a few shrubs.

The house at Surlywood could use a coat (or two) of paint, but it’s in pretty good shape for being almost 63 years old. A couple of walls are showing crack, so to speak, and I have all the excuse I could want to rip out the bathroom tile, but as banal boxes go, this one can probably go on for a long time.

Oh, and the last HVAC guy who was out here was briefly shaken by the size of the unit, and it’s not often I can say that.

“Only two tons?” he asked.

I pointed out that the house was barely a thousand square feet, for which a two-ton capacity was appropriate. “Looks a lot bigger,” he said.

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A regular Siberian khatru

ColdI’d thought I’d seen all the cute little 60-pixels-square (roughly) NWS forecast icons, including the one Fillyjonk says “looks like an attack of cotton balls”, but this one is new to me: found at NWS Indianapolis, it was captioned simply “Cold,” which, with a forecast high of 11, certainly seemed to fit.

On an impulse, I dialed up Fairbanks, which gave me the data for the Middle Tanana Valley. Apparently they eschew icons there. And with no highs this week above 10, I don’t suppose they need ‘em.

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Quote of the week

Greg Mankiw proposes to reduce the federal deficit:

I have a plan to reduce the budget deficit. The essence of the plan is the federal government writing me a check for $1 billion. The plan will be financed by $3 billion of tax increases. According to my back-of-the envelope calculations, giving me that $1 billion will reduce the budget deficit by $2 billion.

Hey, it works for health care, or so they say:

Healthcare reform, its advocates tell us, is fiscal reform. The healthcare reform bill passed last year increased government spending to cover the uninsured, but it also reduced the budget deficit by increasing various taxes as well. Because of this bill, the advocates say, the federal government is on a sounder fiscal footing. Repealing it, they say, would make the budget deficit worse.

So, by that logic, giving me $1 billion is fiscal reform as well.

Indeed. Perhaps they should write similar checks to all of us.

(Via Glenn Reynolds, who makes a counteroffer: “I’m prepared to do it for half what Mankiw wants.”)

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The plot sickens

For those of you just tuning in, a paragraph of background:

“It is absolutely, absolutely unacceptable to shoot indiscriminately. Target only politicians and their staff and leave regular citizens alone.”

A bit of gallows humor from Travis J. I. Corcoran, proprietor of TJIC.com, recently 403ed into silence for reasons possibly having to do with this:

A blog threatening members of Congress in the wake of the Tucson, Arizona shooting has prompted Arlington police to temporarily suspend the firearms license of an Arlington man.

It was the headline “1 down and 534 to go” that caught the attention. “One” refers to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in the rampage, while 534 refers to the other members of the U.S. House and Senate.

Police are investigating the “suitability” of 39-year-old Travis Corcoran to have a firearms license.

Which is rather like having mice investigating the suitability of your pantry, but that’s not what I wanted to bring up.

Rather, I’m wondering if The Powers That Be are trying to gin up a news blackout. As noted, tjic.com is 403ed for the moment; Mark Alger put up a post about Corcoran’s plight, which I noticed first as a Facebook link from NetworkedBlogs, which I vowed to go back to when I had some free time. That link is gone, though Alger’s actual post is intact, and Guy S., who posted something similar, noted at Alger’s place:

Mark, my post was also “deleted” on [Facebook], via the Networked Blogs app. However, the WordPress app, which does the same thing, is still showing the post.

Sounds suspicious to me. Perhaps WordPress doesn’t have an political agenda — or if they do, they keep it to themselves, thank you very much.

(Update: Guy S. says it’s not a scheme by NetworkedBlogs. See comments.)

In the meantime, there’s this:

It’s not like there isn’t a ton of case law on how the First Amendment applies to threats of political violence. Arlington will lose this, if it ever gets to trial. Post Heller and McDonald, they’ll lose even worse. Idiots.

But this is, as JayG points out, an attack not only on the First Amendment, but on the Second as well. An attack of this sort — groundless in logic, and arguably mendacious in nature — is an attack on all.

Corcoran’s one mistake, if you ask me, was not titling it 2 down and 533 to go, thereby giving them a wild goose to chase. I’m told they’re quite good at that in Taxachusetts.

But the exasperating aspect of it all is this:

We live in a world where a significant proportion of the population thinks speech that makes them uncomfortable is the same thing as shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre.

Nor is there any cure on the horizon, unless you want to herd them into a theatre and burn it down, which strikes me as ultimately counterproductive.

And one other thing: “firearms license”? Isn’t that just a hair incompatible with “shall not be infringed”?

If it can happen to one guy in New England, it can happen to any of us, anywhere.

Spartacus updated

“There ought to be one day — just one — when there is open season on senators.” — Will Rogers (1879-1935)

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All the retro-cute you could want

Yeah, her again. He’s there too.

I trust this requires no explanation.

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Poor Andrew Ian Dodge. I don’t even want to know what led him to title the 409th Carnival of the Vanities “Colon Clear.”

Allow me to divert the discussion, then, to an overhead shot of 409 Colon Street, Staten Island, New York, as swiped from Zillow:

Aerial view of a portion of Staten Island

Further diversion: A joke from my grade-school days:

Q. Name four islands whose names are questions.

A. Hawaii?; Samoa?; Jamaica?; and Staten Island?

I suppose you had to not be there.

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