Modern research techniques

Ever since US News & World Report ceased to be an actual magazine, their stock in trade has been lists: top colleges ranked by percentage of graduates not going on welfare, top hospitals ranked by the ability to ignore sepsis, top cars ranked by the number towed from New York City streets for malparkage. You name it, has a list for it.

Well, maybe with one exception, it appears:

SiteMeter screen shot

Obviously, for their next project, they’re working on top babes ranked by the number of appearances in Rule 5 Sunday. Robert Stacy McCain should be proud.

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Mount Costly

Not a place on the map, but a fact of life. Last time I took Gwendolyn in for a spa day, the techs declared that one engine mount and one transmission mount were not long for this world. That was 1600 miles ago. As usual with stuff like this, there’s not going to be much change from a $1000 bill.

Still, what’s the alternative? Ditch her and buy someone else’s problems? It is a fact of life that no one ever traded in a car because it was running too well.

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Illuminatus Bank and Distrust Company

I found this revisionist history of PayPal in a Consumerist comment:

PayPal started as a religious extremist anti-government money laundering scheme. It’s hard to figure out why it was not shut down after 9/11 as the traditional Hawala money transfer method was in the arabic world were. Now PayPal stands as the New World Order bank, above the law, that the founders claimed to be against.

Although hawala persists, and the 9/11 Commission says that most of the funding for the attack came, not through hawala, but through ordinary wire transfers to actual banks.

Still, some people find it easier to see fnord than others.

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This is your final opportunity

Of course, it never really is. Ask Virginia Postrel:

I’m getting tired of these illegal telemarketing calls from “Card Services” offering to “work with the banks” to get me a 6% credit card rate. Instead of hanging up, I’ve been trying to waste their time by asking them questions about their operations, name, address. They claim to be in Miami. I suspect they’re not only illegally calling people on the Do Not Call list but also scamming the gullible. They seem to have credit bureau info (except not the part about how we don’t carry a balance), which is annoying.

Dear Dante: Is there room for a tenth circle?

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The late Mrs Dingle

Technically, this is English actress Sheree Murphy, thirty-seven today, who might be best known for playing Tricia Dingle for six years on the British soap Emmerdale. This photo by Sven Arnstein dates to 2006, by which time Emmerdale was two years behind her:

Sheree Murphy

Murphy left the series to spend more time with her family, and they wrote her out of the show in spectacular fashion:

After discovering that her husband, Marlon Dingle, had a drunken one night stand with Charity Tate whilst she was in India, Tricia intended to leave Marlon and Emmerdale. Upon leaving, Diane Sugden gave Tricia a letter from Marlon, it was a list of 101 reasons why Marlon loved her. After spending hours in the phone box, sheltering from a storm and trying to get a taxi, she decided to give Marlon another chance and returned to the Woolpack [pub] to see him. Just as she reached the Woolpack, lightning struck a tree. She tripped and a second bolt struck the roof of the Woolpack, making it collapse on top of her. She was found by Diane and Marlon and taken to hospital by helicopter. She was put on a life support machine until Marlon finally agreed to let her go after realising that there was no hope of recovery. She died on 8 January 2004.

Marlon, I understand, has never really gotten over her.

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Grasp this, pal

It’s hard to tell, but I think this spammer would like to subscribe to my newsletter:

I will immediately grasp your rss as I can’t find your email subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you’ve any? Please allow me recognise in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

(Found in the spam trap yesterday. I’m reasonably certain you’ve before.)

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If you’re going through hell

Screenshot from the OklahomanThis Oklahoman story [warning: autostart video] was all over the place yesterday, and most of the people distributing it noted that Prague High School’s mascot is in fact a Red Devil, who presumably knows something about, and perhaps has personal experience with, the hot nether regions. Hypocrisy, maybe? No worse than the norm for this species. As George Carlin said, forty-odd years ago:

I got fired last year in Las Vegas from the Frontier Hotel for saying “shit,” in a town where the big game is called “crap.” That’s some kind of a double standard, you know? I’m sure there was some Texan standing out in the casino saying “Aw, shit, I crapped!” They fly those guys in free.

Sometimes, of course, they say “shoot.”

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Pony tales

Considering I rather expected it to be an abject failure, The Sparkle Chronicles is being reasonably well received: over 400 have read the first chapter, and more than 900 were willing to go beyond that point. Some hated it and said so, but three times as many actually seemed to like it.

I didn’t know what to expect from Dead Pony Flying: the title might be considered off-putting to some, but it’s perfectly in character. This is a true short story, at a hair over 2000 words, and it pulled in about 70 reads in the first 24 hours with only one declared detractor.

Positive reactions, however, leave me with a quandary. (Had they been entirely negative, I could just take my stories and go home.) I have no particular objections to playing in this sandbox for a while longer — it’s familiar sand, which helps — but I have yet to decide whether I can accept being a 51st-percentile fanfic writer as easily as I’ve accepted being a D-list blogger.

If 51st is even where I belong. Someone put this up today, and I copied it over to my own area as a reminder:

[Y]ou do have to always be very careful when reading comments on your story on this site, as 10 positive comments to 1 bad one usually mean you did something wrong here; that’s how “nice” the community here is. I put that between quotation marks because I feel it actually stiffles the growth of some writers, as they become conditioned to believe their sub-par work is actually quite ok, and subsequently ignore anyone trying to point out the mistakes in the work by labelling them as a “hater”, and thus they never improve.

If I did everything right, I’d be figuring out how to spend my Nobel Prize money.

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Unsingle girl

The death of Helen Gurley Brown, who brought the ancient Cosmopolitan magazine (born 1886) from the depths of the industry to its heights, spawned a lot of discussion, some sane, some less so. The most pertinent commentary, I think, came from more than a decade ago, in this David Plotz report on HGB’s 2000 memoir I’m Wild Again, simply because she never really was all that, you know, wild:

I’m Wild Again is a strangely inapt title and a poor description of Brown’s life. She’s not wild again (and she may never have been very wild in the first place). This is the autobiography of a puritan. Wild chronicles how Brown exercises obsessively; doesn’t drink, smoke, or eat; has remained utterly faithful to her husband of 35 years; and lives for her job. The Cosmo girl’s dirty little secret isn’t sex. It’s work.

Which you’d have known if you’d read Sex and the Single Girl, which doesn’t really get into the sexy stuff until Chapter 12 — and there are only thirteen chapters in all.

(Via Kathy Shaidle.)

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New and maybe improved

Roger’s got a new question up: your favorite cover by the original artist. He cites as an example Lesley Gore’s remake of “You Don’t Own Me,” recorded in 2005 for the Ever Since album, which inevitably was reviewed here:

“You Don’t Own Me,” recast as a torch song, is darker and more emphatic than you remember it being four decades ago.

This is tricky for me. Del Shannon cut “Runaway,” one of those Songs in the Key of Me I’ve been talking about, twice for Big Top, the second time so they’d have a stereo master to put on the album. It’s almost, but not quite, indistinguishable from the 45.

For some licensing reason, “Runaway ’67,” cut after Del had moved to Liberty, isn’t YouTube-able in this part of the world. It’s radically different from the 1961 original, slowed down a bit and surrounded with the sort of vaguely menacing orchestration he bestowed upon Brian Hyland (!) for a cover of the Impressions’ “Gypsy Woman” in 1970.

In fact, if you fuzzed up “Runaway ’67” a bit and boosted the midrange past all understanding, you’d get something very close to ELO’s cover of Shannon’s “Little Town Flirt,” which showed up as a bonus track on the reissued Discovery album.

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More of those mysterious ways

It takes a certain amount of ingenuity to invoke the not-too-sacred name of Carly Rae Jepsen in a sermon based on the 24th chapter of Joshua:

God doesn’t operate on a “Hey, I just met you/This is crazy” basis. And that means we need to learn a little bit. Not everything. If someone asks us about the hypostatic union of the divine and human in Christ, we’re still free to say, “Gesundheit.” But we need to know something about Jesus’s message of how our relationship with God is broken, but God’s grace in Jesus heals it.

(Link added mostly because I couldn’t remember the details of “hypostasis” well enough to comment upon it.)

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Bars none

Time has compiled a list of the Ten Worst Cities for Cell Phone Reception, and guess who’s number three?

Like Jacksonville [#8], Oklahoma City is spread out over a huge area — more than 600 sq. miles. By point of comparison: Los Angeles, a city notorious for its spread (and endless, jam-packed highways) only covers about 470 sq. miles.

And this comparison means — what, exactly? If we had three and a half million people like L.A., we’d have better reception?

I have no personal experience with other carriers, but I know T-Mobile’s deadest spot in town: my office. A single bar is a joy forever, or for the two or three minutes it will last anyway. Reception on AT&T, which Time characterizes as the worst in town, is merely lousy in that room. (As with most cities on the list, Sprint is considered to have the “best” reception in town.)

Absolute worst, says Time, is Bakersfield, though they blame the problems there on a population growing faster than the wireless infrastructure.

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Half a dozen over easy

“Six Songs of Me” is a meme I didn’t invent, though I’ve done three installments of a series called “Songs in the Key of Me” (Vents #487, #685 and #754), none of them answering any specific criteria except having mattered to me at for some reason at some time. As it happens, the Guardian invented this meme, and I figure, if Peter can do this, so can I.

  1. What was the first song you ever bought?
    The Rolling Stones, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” summer of 1965.
  2. What song always gets you dancing?
    I hesitate to call any of my random motions “dancing,” but there are some tracks which refuse to allow me to keep still. I assume they’re looking for upbeat numbers here, but I’m partial to the slow jam: let’s say, the Clovers’ original “Blue Velvet.” (Although Bobby Vinton’s starched-white cover isn’t at all bad.)
  3. What song takes you back to your childhood?
    There are those who would argue that I never left. However, Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World,” and its surprisingly adept remake by Herman’s Hermits, are particularly pertinent to my life as a young brooding loner, since I did know much about history, biology and whatever, at least by comparison to the studs of the era, and it wasn’t doing me the least bit of good.
  4. What is your perfect love song?
    From the first act of the musical I Do! I Do!, “My Cup Runneth Over,” a fairly large hit for the fairly large Ed Ames in 1967, which nicely blends the miraculous and the mundane, and sets an expiration date of Never.
  5. What song would you want at your funeral?
    “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House, which maintains a message of hope amid a barrage of bother. Besides, it’s so damn beautiful, yet no one knows exactly what it means. Precisely the way I’d want to go.
  6. Time for an encore. One last song that makes you, you.
    Jackie DeShannon’s “When You Walk in the Room,” which speaks for all of us subject to insane crushes that we dare not act upon. If ever I’m infamous enough to justify a biography, this is the title I want.

Pick up on this if you like; there is no taggage involved.

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More Equestrian armaments

After My Little Abrams M1A2 over the weekend, I was keen to find some more ponified weaponry, and the first stop, of course, had to be Lurking Rhythmically, which has several Rainbow Dash-ed guns, including an AA-12 which, says Erin, can clear a room in ten seconds flat.

Then again, Dash has attitude, and of course Twilight Sparkle can be pressed into service as a machine gun, but I frankly was not expecting anything Fluttershy-related.

Shows you how much I know. Here’s a Fluttershy SKS, of which Neatorama’s John Farrier says:

It appears to lack the standard folding bayonet, but it does have Fluttershy’s cutie mark which will probably have the same effect on an enemy.

The logistics of that maneuver don’t add up, if you ask me. Then again, I’m not your go-to guy for Soviet-design arms.

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Today the pits, tomorrow the wrinkles

Elisson discusses the homely prune:

Face it: Prunes are kinda funny, which is why the dried fruit boys are trying so desperately to rebrand prunes as “dried plums.” Well, you’re not fooling anybody.

I buy my prunes in bulk at Sprouts (formerly Sunflower), and the word “plum” is never mentioned.

Okay, “bulk” may not be the word you wanted to hear just now:

[P]runes do get a bad rap, most of it undeserved. Possibly it’s their grim blackish-purple coloration (“Mmmm, bruisefruit!”), possibly it’s their legendary laxative effect. As to this latter issue, it has been blown out (you should excuse the expression) of all proportion. I will tell you that unless you’re a serious prunehound, you’re taking a bigger risk of crapping your pants by chewing more than one stick of xylitol-sweetened gum or having a handful of sugar-free chocolate-coated cherries.

The title, of course, comes from Stan Freberg.

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Der Untergang who couldn’t shoot straight

You know who else didn’t like the outcome of the Oklahoma elections?


(Via Mike McCarville, who is name-checked in the subtitles. Should you need background, we recommend the Oklahoma Truth Council’s postings on the subject.)

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