Time your injuries accordingly

They say that you shouldn’t buy an American car made on Monday or Friday. At least, they say that in America. In Britain, they say that you should try to avoid having an accident during the first week of April:

It is the most dangerous time to be admitted to accident and emergency, a study suggests. Researchers found hospital mortality rates rise by 6 per cent on the first Wednesday in August.

Perhaps not coincidentally, that is also the day newly qualified doctors, fresh from medical school, are let loose on the wards of NHS hospitals.

(Via mommylonglegs, who dismisses this as “a big bunch of bollocks.”)

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Strange search-engine queries (191)

Once again, it’s time to go sorting through the week’s logs and see what people have been searching for. (Hey, it beats having to come up with actual content.)

failure to grasp the obvious:  I’ll keep that handy in case I ever need a new motto.

ZZ Top sexist:  I thought every girl crazy ’bout a sharp-dressed man.

“people don’t know pelosi”:  For that matter, some people don’t know jack.

i was turned on by catfight:  See? Somebody’s still watching America’s Next Top Model.

lortab make me dizzy:  Is that like “Calgon, take me away”?

jailbait hot young girls underwear sheer panties swim:  Not to be confused with Cartoon Network’s “adult swim.”

why people oppose naturism:  Because people are still out there searching for “jailbait hot young girls underwear sheer panties swim,” and God forbid they should see actual, non-hot grownups.

four letter that starts with f:  “Four” comes immediately to mind.

words that you dont hear often:  “You know, we just don’t get taxed enough” comes immediately to mind.

Why do we no longer use the word “doth”:  For it doth provoke snickering, yea, even unseemly degrees of smartassery.

giles is blunt and coarse: pg 96 – a fart on thomas putnam, that is:  Yeah, but at least he didn’t say “doth.”

woot bag of crap strategy:  About the only thing that works is “Get through before the server crashes,” and that not very often.

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From the Do Not Click On This files

As an interstitial in An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer, the Professor discoursed briefly on the career of Dr. Samuel Gall, putative inventor of the gall bladder, which began rather inauspiciously:

His educational career began interestingly enough in agricultural school, where he majored in animal husbandry — until they caught him at it one day.

Along similar lines, I suggest that you would be much happier if you do not click on this, although in terms of commentary on the subject, it’s arguably the best you’ll see all year. (Not safe for much of anywhere, really.)

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Memo to several banks

“The economy is in the crapper” is insufficient justification for sticking it to your customers:

I have a special dislike for being treated like a crappy customer when I’ve been a good one. Especially when it comes to debt. I look at it like … when you’re a good customer and you’re being treated like a bad customer, what that really means is that the lender in question will not be treating anyone like a good customer. Which means they’re a bottom-feeder. That means if you have the means to deal with someone else, you really should, just because life’s too short. And it will bite you in the ass. Soon.

Meanwhile, Darth Banker continues to intone: “I have altered the deal. Pray I do not alter it further.”

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Budgeting for toys

It’s not so hard to do, says Steve:

A man needs a truck or a sports car or convertible, the same way he needs one good revolver and a barbecue grill and smoker. A wife can probably spend the rest of his money entirely on herself if she gives way on these key issues.

Last three convertibles I saw were being driven by women, but the ladies have needs too, you know.

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Small cog turned very big wheel

Elvis Presley, of course, was sui generis: of all the Beyond Major names in the history of rock and roll, he’s the only one who never wrote his own material. Despite that, he put his own stamp on the songs he sang, sometimes to the extent of making them unrecognizable as anything other than Elvis songs. (Case in point: Leiber and Stoller’s “Hound Dog,” first recorded by Big Mama Thornton in 1953.) Still, even Elvis needed good material, and the man who got the best of it for him has just passed away.

Freddy Bienstock was born in Switzerland in 1928; he and his brother Johnny came to the States in 1939. At fourteen he got a job in the back room of New York music publisher Chappell & Co.; at sixteen he was a full-time song plugger, persuading the big bands of the time to play songs from Chappell’s catalog. In 1945, cousins Jean and Julian Aberbach had started a publishing outfit called Hill & Range, catering to country and R&B types that big-city music houses like Chappell tended to ignore, and in the middle 1950s, Bienstock eventually went to work for them.

The Elvis connection arose because Colonel Tom Parker, Presley’s manager, had been managing Eddy Arnold and was therefore a known quantity around Hill & Range; Bienstock was assigned to select songs for Elvis, a task he apparently was not looking forward to until Parker took him to see an Elvis show in Texas. The first song Bienstock picked out was a bluesy little Otis Blackwell number called “Don’t Be Cruel,” which was released on a 45 with “Hound Dog.” Both sides made #1 in Billboard, and suddenly everyone wanted to write for Elvis. H&R set up an Elvis-specific publishing operation as a subsidiary, and several early deals actually called for Presley to be named as a co-writer and to be cut in for a share of the take, a fairly common practice in those days. (Disk jockey Alan Freed, for example, didn’t actually co-write Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline.”)

Things got more difficult after Elvis came back from the Army and went out to Hollywood to make several dozen movie soundtracks, and eventually Bienstock decided he wanted to run the show. In 1966, he bought H&R’s British affiliate Belinda Music and renamed it Carlin after his daughter Caroline, though he didn’t sever ties with H&R for another three years. By 1984, he was big enough to take over Chappell & Co., where he started out forty years earlier. Warner Bros. eventually bought out his interests in Chappell, but Bienstock’s Carlin America company still has thousands of songs in inventory, and Caroline Bienstock is Chief Operating Officer. (Incidentally, Bienstock’s wife Miriam was a record-industry executive in her own right; she was previously married to Herb Abramson, one of the founders of Atlantic Records, and ran the business end of things while Abramson and the Ertegun brothers tended to the creative side. And Bienstock’s brother Johnny, in case you were wondering, ran Big Top Records, another H&R affiliate, the home of Del “Runaway” Shannon.)

There’s a splendid interview with Freddy Bienstock at ElvisPresley.com.au.

(Thanks to Phil X. Milstein for passing the word along.)

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It’s just a dial, fercrissake

Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, in addition to their radio show, have a syndicated newspaper column, which apparently goes out to the papers a week before it hits their Web site, so this is no ordinary cut-and-paste job: I actually have to type some of this.

A reader wrote in that his son, all of nine years old, wanted to know how come the speedometer goes up so high when you can’t drive that fast. Queries were sent to Toyota and Nissan; the responses were right out of the Haywood Jabuzzoff playbook. Truth be told, I’ve been known to ask that question myself. It’s marketing, said Ray:

[B]y placing a 140-mph speedometer right in front of your face, the manufacturer is suggesting to you that you COULD go a lot faster.

Tom chimed in:

[T]he image of being able to break out of your mundane life is what sells these vehicles.

I believe that rates a “Well, duh.” “What’ll this baby do?” goes back at least as far as Ben-Hur. (As the Beach Boys remind us, there is at least one woman out there who makes the Indy 500 look like a Roman chariot race now.) Fact is, though, the power of suggestion works just as well, or just as poorly, in reverse, as I’ve already explained:

American drivers of a certain age will remember the Joan Claybrook Memorial Speedometer, inflicted on motor vehicles sold in the States around 1980: not only did it top out at a mundane 85 mph, but automakers were required to give special prominence to the national 55-mph speed limit. This was every bit as stupid as you think it was, and was eventually abandoned, as was the double-nickel itself. The thinking, and I use the term loosely, was that if the speedo only reads 85, everyone will assume that this is the maximum speed of the car and no one will drive faster than that. The far more common response, of course, was “Hmmm. Wonder what happens if I peg this baby?” The Law of Unintended Consequences at its finest.

I can assure you, I pegged my ’84 Mercury several times.

Still, there is a gap between performance and reality: Gwendolyn’s dial reads to 160 mph, which is about 25-30 mph faster than she could possibly attain without serious engine mods and/or a seven-mile downhill straightaway. (Car and Driver‘s report on a non-Touring 2000 I30 says 131 mph tops.) Then again, every Infiniti I’ve ever driven reads to 160, so this is probably a scheme to save money on gauge design.

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Land pirates

Motor vehicles were being boarded in McIntosh County:

An Oklahoma sheriff and his deputy were sentenced to two years and three months in jail on Tuesday for the crime of stopping and searching motorists so that they could steal their cash. An undercover federal sting operation caught McIntosh County Sheriff Terry Alan Jones, 36, and Undersheriff Mykol Travis Brookshire, 38, red-handed. The pair were forced to resign their positions in May and plead guilty to Conspiracy Under Color of Law to Interfere with Interstate Commerce. “The court imposed the maximum permissible federal prison term, consistent with advisory federal sentencing guidelines,” United States Attorney Sheldon J. Sperling explained in a statement. “These sentences will not be subject to parole.”

A red flag goes up when I hear anyone at the federal level talking about “Interstate Commerce,” but these guys needed to be put away:

The sheriff’s office conspiracy came to light after Marco Delgado-Hernandez was stopped on Interstate 40 on November 5, 2007. Brookshire searched the man’s vehicle and found $7000 in cash. He then seized this money and allowed Delgado-Hernandez to go. The next day, the district attorney’s office refused to press any charges or authorize the monetary confiscation. Assistant District Attorney Scott Biggs specifically ordered the money returned.

Almost one year later, Delgado-Hernandez, who had not received his money back, began making phone calls. Sheriff Jones told him that it would take “several weeks” to process the paperwork. The district attorney ordered it returned immediately. This kicked off cooperation between state and federal officials to look into the matter.

There followed an elegant sting operation, in which six bundles of cash ($5000 each) were placed in the bait vehicle — five of which were reported to the DEA. Warrants were obtained, and the missing cash was found to have been split between the two.

Not that I think these guys have learned their lesson. While awaiting sentencing, Brookshire was charged with impersonating a police officer in nearby Cherokee County.

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Catchiest tune of the week

From the Popcap videogame Plants vs. Zombies, given fresh visuals by Wild Particle:

Music and lead vocal by Laura Shigihara (not pictured). I feel a crush coming on.

(With thanks to Fillyjonk.)

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Notice of underreported income

One year I made $1.26 interest on my checking account, which I duly reported to the Eternal Revenue Service.

So I was quite sure this curt little email notice was bogus:

Taxpayer ID: chaz-00000174073547US
Issue: Unreported/Underreported Income (Fraud Application)
Please review your tax statement on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website (click on the link below):

I am, of course, not crazy enough to click on said link, which starts with irs.gov but ends with a whole lot of misdirection, which means that “Fraud Application” is in fact correct, though not in the sense they’d like you to think. And how likely is it that the IRS would refer to me as “chaz,” anyway?

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In the matter of contraception

After our first child was born, the Mrs. went on the Pill, and it played hell with her insides. In my capacity as a guy with fewer-than-average clues, I wasn’t sure what was going on; she, having been told that “Hey, it works,” persisted in believing it for a couple of years. Certainly it seemed to work for friends and neighbors and relatives.

Came time for Child #2, and restored to more typical hormonal balance, she seemed a lot more relaxed, enough even for me to notice. And shortly after the birth, I took over this particular responsibility via surgical means. It ultimately didn’t save the marriage — once the scrambled-emotions stuff was factored out, it turned out we were quite horribly mismatched in the first place — but everybody wound up, if not exactly happy, at least comparatively undamaged.

Not that surgery is the only answer, as Stacy McCain notes:

Putting fake hormones into your body is a bad idea, to be avoided except as a medical necessity. If a woman is bound and determined not to have babies — well, tell your husband to start a blog, which tends to lower your risk of having sex. (To my wife: That was a joke, honey.)

Let’s see. In thirteen years and odd … hmmm … [remainder of manuscript blurred due to teardrops]

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The state offers to poke you

Well, kinda sorta. Remember this, from a couple years ago?

I was reflecting on the contents of my wallet, such as they are. And while I was running down the list, inevitably I came to “driver’s license,” and, hmmm, when does it expire? “July ’07,” I said to myself.

Came back a voice from nowhere: “Are you sure?”

I wasn’t sure.

But I was right, and it was renewed on time, and a good thing too, since that year the state passed a measure which was intended to control illegal immigration, and one side effect was that once your license expires, the Department of Public Safety doesn’t know you anymore and you’re going to have to come up with other forms of ID just to get it renewed. Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, except that DPS quit sending renewal notices, so you’re on your own.

Now you’re slightly less on your own. DPS has reinstated the notification system, but it’s opt-in: you have to specifically request it. And this is where you request it. The notification will be sent approximately 45 days before expiration.

(Snuck under my door by the Neighborhood Association.)

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Up to Parr

About once a month I get a hit or two from someone looking for revealing photos of Helen Parr, aka Elastigirl, the superheroine turned soccer mom from The Incredibles. And I figure there’s probably no point in trying to argue that Disney, with or without Pixar, just didn’t do that sort of thing, what with the dustup over Jessica Rabbit’s underwear or lack thereof.

However, there’s never a bad time to put up a photo of Holly Hunter, who gave Helen Parr a voice and an attitude, so you get both animated and real-life hotness in a single post. We should all age so well.

Helen Parr and Holly Hunter

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A position to aspire to

Funny Times is a monthly tabloid, mostly cartoons with a handful of columns, mostly reprints, mostly leaning to the left politically. I’ve been reading it for several years. It’s been a good source of quotes for the “It is written” thingumabob over on the sidebar, mostly collected by Jon Winokur for the “Curmudgeon” column.

And someone on the masthead has the best job title I’ve seen in ages. Sandee Beyerle is listed as “Managing Manager,” which may seem like something out of the Department of Redundancy Department until you take a look around at some of the people you know who are inexplicably billed as Managers.

(Close behind: Ryan Boren of WordPress, billed as “Bug Whisperer.”)

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Boulder than thou

Patti takes an informal survey of Mork-and-Mindy-Land:

My own estimate is that there is one independent coffee house for every twenty citizens of Boulder. In other estimates of mine, there is also one sushi bar and one yoga school for every thirty citizens. I still haven’t gotten into the yoga yet, which makes me about the only un-fit person here. Physical fitness is required of all citizens. Some day they’re gonna find me out.

It is not precisely true that I left Los Angeles because I couldn’t meet the standards of appearance, but, well, I couldn’t. Of course, that was around twenty years ago.

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A gentle McRibbing

Let’s just suppose that the bane of your existence is McDonald’s, that iconic vendor of exactly the sort of semi-tasty foodlike substance that turns the heart of the Nanny State colder than a Shamrock Shake. Were it within your power, you’d transport yourself as far away from Mickey D’s as you possibly could. Then again, perhaps you’re not interested in spending the rest of your life in Queen Maud Land: you’re not about to leave the States. There’s always Alaska, but — no?

Okay, here’s where you want to be: a few miles northwest of Glad Valley, South Dakota, just off SD 20. Stephen Von Worley has calculated this to be the McFarthest Spot, 145 miles via rural two-lane — 107 miles as the crow flies, assuming you can get a crow to eat this stuff, and based on my observations of urban blackbirds, I’m certain you can — to the closest Big Mac.

The author does not guarantee that McDonald’s will refrain indefinitely from locating a restaurant in this McFree Zone. And should you find a Dairy Queen, you’re on your own.

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The elder statesman

How I bestrode blogdom like a Colossus, and other fictions and fabrications.

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The opposite of bondage sandals

The reaction to that odd Givenchy shoe was about as negative as I anticipated, but this comment piqued my curiosity:

I’m currently wearing a pair of Merrell shoes that do a pretty good job of disguising the fact that they are very comfortable.

Which is not an inconsiderable virtue for shoes. I poked around some Merrell listings, and found this interesting pair of Mary Janes:

Plaza Emme by Merrell

This is Plaza Emme, “Plaza” apparently denoting this particular outsole design. It’s definitely sorta cute, it comes in four colors — this is “Wine” — and while it looks a bit bulky to me, Zappos, which sells these for $100, says that the size-7 version weighs only 10 ounces, about a quarter less than I thought. Best of all, there’s a reasonable chance that it won’t maim you while you’re wearing it.

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Home, on a range

It was a lovely late-October day yesterday, just the sort of thing I’m seldom prepared for in September. With the temperature at sunrise in the upper 40s and then failing to break 70 all day, about ten degrees Fahrenheit below the seasonal norm, but with 80s and possibly 90 promised for the weekend, I was unwilling to crank up the furnace. (Besides, I’d just written a check for a sub-$20 gas bill, and I know I’m going to miss those.)

What to do? The brainstorm finally arrived: run the oven’s cleaning cycle and let the residual warmth waft through the premises. I couldn’t remember when I’d done it last, so I fished out the manual and looked at the back cover, where I habitually record the last service date.

Which was blank, which means I’ve never cleaned this sucker in the six years I’ve been here. “It didn’t look filthy,” I thought, and banishing thoughts of Sylvia Plath, I took a look inside. And it really wasn’t filthy: there was a little bit of scuzz across the bottom, and a fair amount of gunk on the door, but that’s it.

Then it occurred to me that I really should RTFM, and found this curt little note:

Soil on the front frame and outside the gasket on the door liner will need to be cleaned by hand.

Okay, fine. ScotchBrite in hand, I scraped off said soil, wiped up the residue, latched the door, and hit the magic switch. The stench was amazing: I had to fire up the attic fan, which basically defeated the whole idea of basking in the warmth.

And then I wondered: how much had this little experiment cost? The house was actually fairly warm when the cycle completed, up about 2.5 degrees from when it started despite the attic fan. I did the math: 3000 watts X 4.25 hours = 13 kwh = about $1.10 at the current (sorry about that) rate. I might have been able to run the furnace for less than that.

But no matter. The oven is clean. The burner pans, on the other hand, are kinda grungy, but they don’t have a cleaning mechanism other than good old elbow grease.

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Missile tofu

News Item: The [UN] Security Council unanimously passed a U.S.-drafted resolution that endorses the eventual goal of “a world without nuclear weapons.” It lays out steps for nuclear powers to trim their arsenals, while making it harder for other nations to convert civilian nuclear programs to military ones.”

Top Ten other things the UN Security Council believes the world should be “without”:

  1. The heartbreak of psoriasis
  2. The Jonas Brothers
  3. Temperature variations
  4. Pesky bloggers
  5. Billionaires, except for that Soros guy
  6. Type A Taipei personalities
  7. John Bolton
  8. Michael Bolton
  9. Anyone Adam Sandler has ever sung about approvingly
  10. Parking tickets for diplomats

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