Odometer check

This came down the stream last night, and at first I didn’t notice it:

It then hit me that I’m about five years older than Madonna.

As part of my ongoing effort to make myself feel better, here’s Rue McClanahan in the mid-Sixties as Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Rue McClanahan in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

She said she was too young at the time.

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The last rite of Spring

From a day in May, fourteen years ago:

This tornado’s remarkable wind speed (at the high extreme of the Fujita Scale’s F5) led to much speculation that the scale would be modified to include an F6 category, due to the winds possibly exceeding 318 mph (512 km/h). This speculation ignored the fact that the Fujita scale measures damage rather than windspeed, since the scale was developed prior to the introduction of Doppler weather radar. Windspeed estimates associated with the different categories represent the speeds scientists believe are required to produce that damage rather than the windspeed in that particular storm. The damage caused by an F5-designated tornado leaves very little room for a higher category.

The Fujita scale has since been enhanced, and there’s no EF6. Maybe there should be. What I said about that earlier storm:

[T]he worst managed to stay to my south and west, though not very far. At its peak, the funnel was nearly a mile wide, and its easternmost flank ventured to within half a mile of this desk.

I have since moved about fifteen miles west. And they’re saying that today’s Cone of Destruction at some point was so wide that you might not recognize it as a tornado, were it coming right at you.

And if that earlier storm really was packing “the highest winds ever recorded near the earth’s surface” — what the hell did we just see?

Welcome to Tornado Alley. Please have exact change. And you will be changed. Count on it.

Update: NWS compares the track of the two storms.

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To which, add 2

SAT-wise, I was always better on the mathematical side of things than on the verbal, and I think the reason for that was that the abstractions made more sense to me than the literature I was studying at the same time: screw Mr. Darcy, Fermat’s got a theorem to prove!

Over the years, the poles migrated, or something, and now I write all the time and fumble for the calculator, but I can still relate to numbers — or at least to some of them:

Prime numbers are those non-composite numbers that can only be divided by one or itself. On average, the gap that separates these numbers gets larger as their values increase. But a neat quirk about primes is that every once in awhile they also come in pairs, so-called twin primes. These numbers differ from another prime by two. Examples include 3 and 5, 17 and 19, 41 and 43, and even 2,003,663,613 × 2195,000−1 and 2,003,663,613 × 2195,000+1.

(Note: I did not check that last one.)

Ever since the time of Euclid, however, mathematicians have wondered if these twin primes keep on appearing for infinity. They have no doubt that primes themselves appear for infinity, but because mathematicians lack a useful formula to predict their occurrence, they have struggled to prove the twin prime conjecture — the idea that there are infinitely many primes p such that p+2 is also prime (i.e. the two number gap).

We are, however, just a little closer:

The new result, from Yitang Zhang of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, finds that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that are less than 70 million units apart without relying on unproven conjectures. Although 70 million seems like a very large number, the existence of any finite bound, no matter how large, means that that the gaps between consecutive numbers don’t keep growing forever. The jump from 2 to 70 million is nothing compared with the jump from 70 million to infinity.

I am reasonably certain that I couldn’t make head or tail of Zhang’s research, but I did know that the largest known prime, as of this past January, consisted of 17 million digits, against which 70 million (which has only eight digits) is barely a rounding error. (If you care, it’s 257885161−1.)

Note: There are two houses on my block which bear prime numbers. Not twins, though.

(Via the Crimson Reach.)

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Sez you

This year thousands of men will die of stubbornness

Take that, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality!

(Spied at one of Will Truman’s Linkluster roundups — specifically, #194. His numbering system, incidentally, is perhaps even more brilliant than the stuff I used to do back in the day to push the Carnival of the Vanities.)

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Strange search-engine queries (381)

As someone said in my tweetstream yesterday, it’s that time of year when cold air from the northwest collides with moisture from the southeast, and the results are somewhere between worrisome and apocalyptic, depending on which of the local experts you want to consult. Me, I just sort through the logs and keep my head down.

does a 1992 mazda 626 have a carbarator:  The ’92 is carb-free. No gluten, either.

don’t want no cornbread meat:  This isn’t that gluten thing again, is it?

The mainstream is always being skeptical towards the ethnic minorities, who are wearing long dresses and women covering their faces, and with some people wrap up their heads with a white cloth:  The mainstream is always skeptical toward anyone who might not vote for it.

landcruiser snarly growly diesel:  You say that like it’s a bad thing.

hope both sides lose:  Especially when both sides nominate losers.

what does the m mean on the drive shift in a mazda?  It means you’re too lazy to pop open the glove box and RTFM.

i find your lack of ponies disturbing:  Surely not mine.

invisible wife fiction story:  It’s just as well. Were it nonfiction, I can think of a few guys who should fear for their lives.

Eddy owns several restaurants and hotels near a local interstate. One restaurant, Sandwiches R Us, needs to be modernized. He is trying to decide whether:  he can afford to be sued by that big-box toy store.

lizard simulation:  Set the DVR to record a whole day of C-Span. You’ll get all the simulated reptilian behavior you could possibly want.

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About that job description

In my mind, there has always been a discrete line between the reporter, who is supposed to find things out, and the journalist, who, judging by the evidence of recent weeks, is supposed to keep things from being found out. Perhaps the difference is one of personality. Brett Arends writes:

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world. Once upon a time you saw people like this in every newsroom in the country. They often had chaotic personal lives and they died early of cirrhosis or a heart attack. But they were tough, angry SOBs and they produced great stories.

Do you want to know what kind of people get promoted and succeed in the modern news organization? Social climbers. Networkers. People who are gregarious, who “buy in” to the dominant consensus, who go along to get along and don’t ask too many really awkward questions. They are flexible, well-organized, and happy with life.

Had I been “flexible, well-organized, and happy with life,” you almost certainly wouldn’t be reading this, for whatever that’s worth.

Leo Durocher has already analyzed that latter type: “Take a look at them. They’re all nice guys, but they’ll finish last.” News may be no place for nice guys. And they’re not much use in politics, either.

(Found in a Doc Searls link pile.)

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Siri has a sister in the auto biz

With apologies to Macca:

Siri has a sister in the auto biz,
Says your car does everything you like;
Always second-guesses you, and makes you mad,
And makes you get out of the car and take a hike.
OBD, then AI, then who knows? Damn!
All these gadgets make you cry.
OBD, then AI, then who knows? Damn!
All these gadgets make you cry.

This is the sort of thing that makes me more determined to make my 13-year-old car last another 13 years.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Return to Lackanooky Valley

It’s one thing to bewail the perceived emptiness of your life; it is quite another to demand a fucking subsidy.


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Current ear candy

New York’s Ivory Daggers describe themselves thusly:

4 friends w/a mutual love for indie powerpop & hard-hitting rock. Sunny harmonies, gutsy, no nonsense guitar, infectious melodies & unashamedly heartfelt lyrics

I bought their Rococo Bang EP last night on the strength of the lead track, “Starry Night,” which goes something like this:

Also bought last night: the Patterns EP by, um, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.

Josh Epstein, half of DEJJ, actually wrote to Junior:

I sent him an e-mail explaining that we didn’t intend to mock him, especially learning what a cool guy he is. He responded and was so nice and down-to-earth. For him to take the time to answer me — I’m the gnat and he’s this big gorilla — was amazing. He said he’d be flattered, and that he liked our music. And he told us to be safe.

And that’s probably the best band name since Kathleen Turner Overdrive.

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Another note from the Central Scrutinizer

I probably shouldn’t say so out loud, but for some inscrutable (at least, the Scrutinizer can’t figure it out) reason, the auto-insurance bill is unchanged this time around, meaning the only serious budget adjustments for the second half of 2013 will be due to food and energy costs, which, according to the Fed, don’t count toward the core inflation rate and therefore don’t matter to the sort of people who matter to the Fed.

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Sorry, Wong number

Nancy Kwan turns 74 tomorrow, and had things gone just a little differently for her, she might have been hailed as one of the great dancers: she attended the Royal Ballet School in London, and upon her return to Hong Kong, she decided to teach.

Enter producer Ray Stark, who was working up a stage play (later a film) called The World of Suzie Wong. Kwan auditioned, and won one of the smaller roles, Stark having found her “alluringly leggy” with an “acceptable face.” I’m not quite sure what Stark meant by this, although it may have had something to do with the fact that Kwan was only half Chinese. You make the call:

Nancy Kwan in The World of Suzie Wong

And anyway, France Nuyen was going to play the lead in the film. Then Nuyen, whose love life had gone to hell — or to Marlon Brando, which might have been the same thing — was let go, and Kwan wound up with the role of Suzie and the crew wound up with a lot of reshoots. William Holden, the love interest, didn’t seem too perturbed. (Holden wasn’t in the stage play; that was, um, William Shatner.)

In 2007, Warner Bros. executive Brian Jamieson, then contemplating a release of a Nancy Kwan video package, was moved to make a documentary about Kwan’s sudden rise to fame and her subsequent near-disappearance. His film, To Whom It May Concern: Ka Shen’s Journey, screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival in 2010, drew this response:

Nancy Kwan with Roger and Chaz Ebert

The thumbs, of course, belong to Roger Ebert and his wife Chaz.

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At least he didn’t review the carpet

“Can’t you take a joke?” Well, yes, I can, even if it borders on the offensive, if it’s funny.

This title — “Small SUV Crashopalooza: Detroit Loses, Dykes Win” — was marginal at best, and then the article descended further:

“US small SUVs scored badly,” writes [Reuters]. Top honors took a trucklet that, according to the Urban Dictionary, is “driven by post-menopausal lesbians”: The Subaru Forester.

Well, hardly exclusively. But things got worse:

The Jeep Wrangler brings up the rear with a truly mediocre showing. Boo, hiss, Detroit — pussy-whipped by a Japanese transgender crossover that is also known as a “vag-wag?”

Now one could expect this sort of thing, I suppose, from a publication that gives out an award of sorts called “Ten Worst Automobiles Today.” Still, there’s a difference between pushing the envelope and ripping it to shreds, and there’s a difference between Funny and Not Funny.

One contributor is already rethinking his status:

Yours truly was up past midnight with several other editors, past and present, on what the hell to do. Resign. Boycott. Protest. It all seems well and good until you realize that, hey, my colleagues and my audience don’t deserve any of this at all.

To the editor-in-chief, who actually wrote the piece and therefore had no trouble approving it, I pass along the advice of the Martian (or whatever he was) to Sandy Bates in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories: “Incidentally, you’re also not Superman; you’re a comedian. You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.”

What would be funnier, perhaps, would be Subaru pulling its ads from the site. Karma has its amusing aspects.

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Superluminally speaking

The speed of light is enforced, not by radar, but by the very laws of physics, so we are helpless in the face of this dire predicament:

[A] star 10 light-years away is just now receiving material that went out into space in 2003. This means that on August 1, they will encounter Gigli, and the tragic thing is that because any signal we send now would also travel at the speed of light, we have no way to warn them.

If ever there was an excuse for the development of FTL travel … but never mind, we hardly need an excuse, do we?

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Pretty typical washing instructions, at least early on:

Hand wash only. Use mild soap and soft cloth in warm water less than 30cm (11 inches) deep and less than 50°C (120°F). Do not wash in dishwasher. Do not use abrasives, alcohol, solvents or harsh detergents. Do not submerge USB cable. Follow washing instructions in the Quick Start Guide.

The eyes bug out, I suspect, at “USB cable.” This is, in fact, a washable keyboard, by Logitech, and Tam will vouch for it:

The keys are spaced a reasonable distance apart to avoid fat-fingering and give satisfying, if not exactly IBM Model M-like, tactile feedback when struck. As a bonus, there’s a little brush clipped to the bottom of the keyboard for dusting stuff out from under the keycaps, and the USB connector on the cord has a tethered cap to cover it when you’re giving it a scrub in the sink.

Costs about as much as three crappy keyboards you’ll throw away in six months.

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Spend the day your way

There exists a roundabout at the five-way crossing of Walker and Classen Drive and NW 10th, and it’s been there long enough that everyone knows how to negotiate it, right?

Um, no. I’m not even sure I’m following the correct protocols. For doofi at my level or beyond, Doug DeMuro has written up a handy list of tips for roundabout negotiation, which should prove to be invaluable — or not:

I recommend printing this out and storing it in your car. That way, when a roundabout approaches, you can take your eyes off the road and frantically search for it as you drive through, thereby becoming the best driver in the roundabout.

And really, I’m not fearful: I think Memorial and Pennsylvania could make a very good roundabout. Of course, compared to what it is now, it would also make a good barbecue pit, or a good meteor crater.

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And down was gotten

Earlier this week, Rebecca Black discovered to her horror that her dad was listening to Nickelback.

Which gives me an excuse to post this:

What can I say? It’s Friday.

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