Further comment would be superfluous

The Crimson Reach:

I haven’t really seen much of anyone whose first, instinctive reaction to the Boston bombing was to admonish the rest of us that the bombing just shows that We Should Ask Ourselves Why They Hate Us. Sadly, that feels like progress.


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Loan extension

So I’m wandering into the Belle Isle Library on Saturday afternoon, and there’s a sign at the door to the effect that this facility will be closed for a couple of weeks for recarpeting. Which is a good thing, since the low-pile stuff they put down back in the Eisenhower administration is down to no-pile.

And then I calculated that given the usual two-week loan, the items I checked out that day would be due smack-dab (or at least smack-dab-ish) in the middle of that couple-of-weeks period. Do I drop them in the slot on the library wall? Don’t have to, said the staffer on duty at checkout: they’ll be due the Monday after they reopen, effectively giving me 23 days instead of 14.

Yeah, I know, but I had to ask.

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About three-fifths full of it

When someone tells you that we need a “conversation” on something, invariably it turns out that what this someone really wants is a lecture on that something, of which you are expected to be the docile, nodding recipient.

And maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, if they actually knew what they were talking about. But what are the chances of that? A quote from a would-be “conversation” maker:

Michael Hallett, chairman of [the University of North Florida]’s criminology department, who is white: “We have more African-Americans in jail today than we had as slaves. It’s a new Jim Crow.”

Now perhaps you could make a reasonable case that we haven’t sufficiently expunged the old Jim Crow, but you couldn’t do it using Hallett’s imaginary numbers:

In 2008, according to ABC News, the nation’s prison and jail population was 2.3 million people. By 2010, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, it had fallen to 1.6 million, but let’s stick with the 2008 data because the NAACP’s Criminal Justice Fact Sheet also used the data from that year in its statement that “African Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population.”

1 million is a big number, apparently too big to be handled by the chairman of the criminology department at the University of North Florida, who is white, but it is not bigger than 3,950,546, the total slave population of the U.S. in 1860.

Perhaps we need to have a “conversation” on innumeracy.

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Barsooming nothing goes wrong

If this proves to be the reality show that ends all reality shows, it will be worth it for that reason alone:

A Netherlands-based non-profit group called Mars One is seeking video applications from pioneers willing to take a one-way trip to Mars and become stars in a new interplanetary reality show.

Oh, yes, they’re quite serious:

Mars One wants to send four hardy souls to the Red Planet in 2023 using hardware from Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. It plans to land a Curiosity-style rover by 2018 to scout out locations for the settlement and then fire out food, equipment, power generation and life-support systems using SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy lifter and Dragon capsule.

And they’re going to pay for this — how, exactly?

Mars One estimates that the TV rights for the landing alone would come to several billion dollars, and once there, the colonists will be constantly covered by cameras that will stream back live footage of life on Mars.

Well, at least it’s not Real Housewives of Deimos. Not yet, anyway. Then again:

Interestingly, the first four colonists will be selected by popular vote of the general public. As a card-carrying member of the general public, I’ve got a list of people I believe should be shot into space, never to come back.

Indeed, why stop at four?

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Just try to get a buggy whip these days

“The disruption economy,” Dave Schuler calls it, and he has plenty of examples to cite:

[I]magine a world in which not just individual businesses or even industries and trades vanish but in which complete business models, groups of industries, are failing and being replaced by new ones practically on a daily basis.

He cites Aereo, a multi-antenna television service that delivers over-the-air channels to subscribers for about one-fifth what cable companies charge, which has a couple of networks threatening to drop their local signals in response. But that’s hardly the only one:

[H]igher education’s business model is not long for this world. The big law firms’ business model has already changed and there are hundreds or thousands of young lawyers standing dazed in the wreckage. One of the insufficiently remarked-on aspects of the PPACA is how much it changes physicians’ business model.

Retail has been in ferment for decades. Soon there will only be online sales as exemplified by Amazon.com, boutiques (which are mainly a hobby business), and Walmart. J. C. Penney’s problems, still being covered in the business pages, are that there is no room for yet another commodity retailer.

And why do you think your favorite magazines, or for that matter the ones you can’t stand, are so assiduously courting tablet owners?

Thirty years from now, the business landscape will be unrecognizable. (And so will I, but that’s another matter entirely.)

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Big Bezos is watching

Earlier this week, I bought a pair of shoes from Zappos. It was not the first pair I’d looked at; in fact, I’d gone to Amazon earlier, and looked at a New Balance slide. Apparently the Amazon Multi-Brain II remembered this — Zappos is, of course, now under the Amazon umbrella — and for the next several days, visits to Fark brought me an Amazon ad featuring exactly that same slide.

It’s not like I’d never seen that phenomenon before. A few days earlier, I’d done a feature on a Charlotte Olympia sandal with a “poodle heel”, sold at Neiman-Marcus, and for several days any Neiman’s ad I saw contained a line of shoes, starting with that very one: obviously they’d remembered that I’d been to neimanmarcus.com to look at it.

Finding $27 a bit easier to pry out of the budget than $1,695, I returned to Amazon and bought that damn slide. The Fark ads quit almost immediately. So this is the new paradigm for online advertising: nag, nag, nag.

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They’ll manage somehow

Everyone complains about work now and then. (Okay, there may be a few people whose complaint might be actually having to do some work, but the statement stands.) That said, some workplaces are demonstrably worse than others:

Bregna is actually a former employer of mine. They are infamous in the Colosse area for being the employer that cycles through IT people at a very quick clip. The average employee lasts less than four months. On employee satisfaction surveys, they are one of the five worst employers in the entire nation. Which sounds crazy. Crazy like a fox, I’ve determined. You see, Bregna was ever in search for a very particular kind of employee. And I’ve become convinced that the bullcrud they put you through was essentially a test to see whether or not you were Bregna material. Are you the kind of guy that doesn’t mind your restroom breaks being monitored for duration and frequency? Are you the kind of guy who wants every room, hallway, and restroom you enter logged into a system so they can give you advice on how to be more efficient? Do you think it signals your company cares when they tell you that you need to get a new roommate because your current roommate left the company? If so, then you are who Bregna wants. When I left, and they told me that they were sorry to see me go, I didn’t know whether to be proud of the deception or horrified that I could pose as an android so successfully.

I’ve done time at places like that, though not exactly that place, and not recently.

Note: “Bregna” is a pseudonym, as if you hadn’t figured that out already.

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What goes around sometimes stays around

They say that once something’s on the Internet, it’s there forever, no matter what you do. Not that everyone realizes that or anything:

I put my essay on her for revision help and really need it deleted before my teacher finds it by running it through plagiarism software and thinks I stole it I already deleted the questions now I just need them to be permanently gone from the internet, because when I search in google I can still track my essay, although when I click the link it says question has been deleted however it can still be found

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that some of my deleted-in-1999 pages are still in the Wayback Machine.

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Perhaps they’ll like it

In the process of grumbling about Air Google’s new digs, Warren Meyer notes:

By the way, if anyone read the fabulous book Barbarians and the Gate, they** will remember RJR Nabisco’s construction of a corporate aircraft palace in Atlanta marked the beginning of the end of that company’s fiscal extravagance.

Which, shortly thereafter, became the beginning of the end of that company, period.

But what I wanted to talk about was the footnote connected to “they”:

I know this is grammatically incorrect, but I am exhausted with English’s lack of a third person singular gender-neutral pronoun and hate saying “he or she.” English is a language built bottom up from actual usage, so lacking any better idea, I support “they” as the solution.

It’s a legitimate gripe, and “he or she” does sound somewhat clumsy. Still, I’ve used it fairly often, on those occasions when I haven’t decided simply to reword the whole sentence just to get out of using that particular construction. (And once in a while I’ll use “she” as the default, partly because of some vague concept of “fairness” and partly because I write stories in a fantasy universe with a preponderance of female characters.)

“They,” I suspect, can migrate from plural to singular; “you” did it, largely supplanting “thou” along the way. And what will we miss if — when — it does? Not much, really.

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Before she got her signature bangs

You guys at the Oklahoman are officially forgiven for this.

Addendum: Zooey Deschanel has in fact seen that.

Further addendum: The captioning service has apologized to ZD.

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She don’t use proofreaders

Flaming Lips typoDo you realize — that this howler actually appeared in the Oklahoman’s “Weekend” section today?

Then again, maybe it’s no big deal. I started typing FALMING into the Google search box, and before I finished the word they’d already suggested the correct name of the band. At the top of the suggestions, no less.

On the other hand, it took me three tries to come up with a working link to the online version of the album review. (This seems to work for now.) I hate to say that this is a common occurrence for the paper, but I’m not the only one who’s noticed this sort of thing.

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Dues having been paid

He won’t mind so much if you call him Sir, because he’s earned it:

I haven’t been worn out or defeated, and I’m not pretending that I’m going to take over the … whatever or save the planet. But I’m someone you can look up to if you are young, and I’m not going to pretend that life hasn’t taught me some serious lessons. I’ve got the deadpan humor to prove it. I know what to say when people die. I know how to react when shit hits the fan. I know when I need help and I know when I can be helpful. I know my dependents and my dependencies.

It never gets old. Facing life never ceases to be scary. I may be getting to that point at which I become like the old soldier who hasn’t died yet. Like the gambler who makes a killing cheating, gets caught and knows how to shut up and give the money back. I understand the role of chance, and I know not to ever depend on it but capture it when it comes.

Actually, I can say at least some of these things of myself, but I definitely don’t aspire to being called Sir.

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By way of introduction

In case you’ve just arrived from NewsOK.com, thank you for coming, and please be advised that Ms Gibson went to an awful lot of trouble to make me look more interesting than I actually am.

For the statistically-minded: there are over 21,000 pages here, somewhere on the far side of five million words. No one person has read it all. I’m not even sure I have read it all.

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Quote of the week

The Bayou Renaissance Man has traced the current political and cultural bifurcation, and this is what he finds:

I submit that the problem boils down to the distinction between two approaches to life, the universe and everything:

1. Everything that is not permitted, is forbidden

– OR –

2. Everything that is not forbidden, is permitted

Nanny Bloomberg is the absolute slave of #1.

It’s also worth noting that prohibiting something has never yet stopped it from happening. Forbid murder? It happens every day — once every 36 minutes in the USA, in fact, according to the FBI’s crime statistics for 2011 (the last full year for which they’re available at the time of writing). Forbid alcohol? Yeah … we all know how well that worked last time it was tried! Forbid drugs? Yeah, right. Forbid extramarital sex, even on the grounds that it’s a Divine command, not just a civil law? I was a pastor. I daresay that 99 out of every 100 couples I married were already sexually active — and between a quarter and a third of them were already pregnant! No, never in human history has forbidding something actually stopped or eradicated it. Not once.

Perhaps it’s time to put the NO POLAR BEARS ALLOWED sign back on the front door. (Obviously it works; I’ve never seen a polar bear on the porch.)

The only thing forbidding something has achieved, from a historical perspective, is to expand the authorities’ power to crack down on their subjects.

Then again, that’s all they want. “My way or the highway” — and you don’t even get to pick your own exit.

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For all you hot-headed believers

A couple of Fridays ago, I tossed up some live footage of Rebecca Black and Dave Days teaming up on a remake of Rihanna’s “Stay.” A formal studio version was promised, and it’s finally materialized:

It’s a bit more polished than the live take, unsurprisingly, and I admit to being impressed with this new serious-ish version of Days, who made his name as a parodist.

RB still refuses to take herself too seriously, as witness this goofy loop she put up on Vine.

And I can’t even begin to argue with this:

Although the reverse can be true: there are plenty of examples of songs I used to hate that I can stand now that they’re not being blared at me 24/7.

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Customer detention specialists

The economy being what it is, even here in this alleged Capitalist Paradise, former vendors would very much like to be present-day vendors again. I’m thinking, though, that after two and a half years, they should get the message that I’m not coming back to them, and I shouldn’t have to unleash a stream of old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon to convey that message.

Still, if they won’t take “You call me again and I’m going to cut off your head and crap down your throat” for an answer, what am I to do?

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