The question of the age, answered!

And that age, incidentally, is thirteen.

NHTSA distraction data

The government concludes that kickin’ in the front seat is not quite as safe as sittin’ in the back seat, so if you were wondering which seat you should take, there’s your answer.

(No, this couldn’t wait until Friday. NHTSA graphic siphoned from The Truth About Cars.)

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O happy (or bored) Belgians

Last time we checked in with Belgium, four months ago, they didn’t have a government. Today, they still don’t have a government:

Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme resigned in April last year, but he is still turning up for work.

In fact, by mid-August he will have been a caretaker prime minister for longer than he was an elected leader with a mandate to govern.

This may sound odd — Belgium is after all the home of surrealism — but the oddest thing is that, after one year, there is no solution on the horizon.

How long can this go on? Belgian law says nothing about Leterme limits:

“Technically this can last until the next federal election has to be called in 2014,” says political scientist David Sinardet.

Assuming, of course, someone can form a government then. Sinardet, a professor at Antwerp University and the Free University of Brussels, doesn’t seem worried:

“We have a new form of government, a new form of democracy, proving to the world that this crazy idea that you need full government with full powers may be just not true.”

Articles of Confederation, anyone?

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Drawing a quarter

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So that’s what they mean by “public” radio

Melanie is driving around town, listening to classical music on the radio, and one of those ubiquitous fund-raising breaks finally gets her attention:

“We need your donation. Yours. I’m talking to you.”

I pulled into the center divide lane, to make a left turn, and thought, “Yeah, sure. You mean me. Of all the people in the Portland Metro area, you mean me. Right. Uh huh.”

“Pick up the phone and call us. Yes, you in the Subaru.”

There are, I have to assume, lots of Subarus in the Rose City. Even so:

[T]hey were obviously watching me, pointing at me, demanding I call. They knew I hadn’t done so yet.

Now if they give away an oil change as a membership benefit, I’m going to be awfully suspicious.

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Neither surf nor turf

There was some minor grumbling last month after word got out that some guy in Wisconsin had bought $140 worth of lobster, steaks and Mountain Dew with food stamps, and the usual noises were being made about how this was absolutely inevitable or how this was utterly unacceptable. (Best example of the latter, in fact a contender for QOTW here, was by a commenter at American Digest who said that there were only two things you should be able to purchase with food stamps: gruel and diet gruel.)

Well, it turns out that the buyer wasn’t partying at taxpayer expense at all, but trying to turn a few bucks:

Louis Wayne Cuff, a 33-year-old Menominee man, was arraigned in 95th District Court in Menominee last week for food stamp trafficking, a felony. Cuff’s arrest resulted from a monthlong joint investigation by the state Department of Human Services’ Office of Inspector General and the Menominee County Sheriff’s Department.

Cuff, who allegedly used a Bridge Card to buy the stuff and then sold it for 50 cents on the dollar, faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He is free on a $5,000 bond. His preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 15.

They probably don’t have diet gruel in Wisconsin prisons, either.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Buncha butterheads

Behold the Anti-Lady Gaga:

Gao Yuanyuan for PETA

This is Chinese actress Gao Yuanyuan, thirty-one, doing a promotional piece for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: the dress is made of, yes, lettuce, and the necklace of chili peppers.

If you’d rather see the young lady in something less edible:

Gao Yuanyuan not for PETA

(Latter photo from, in case you thought you saw a tattoo.)

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Much too far ahead of his time

Wikipedia on Joe Meek:

Meek was one of the first producers to grasp and fully exploit the possibilities of the modern recording studio. His innovative techniques — physically separating instruments, treating instruments and voices with echo and reverb, processing the sound through his fabled home-made electronic devices, the combining of separately-recorded performances and segments into a painstakingly constructed composite recording — comprised a major breakthrough in sound production. Up to that time, the standard technique for pop, jazz and classical recordings alike was to record all the performers in one studio, playing together in real time, a legacy of the days before magnetic tape, when performances were literally cut live, directly onto disc.

And Meek did all this in a three-floor apartment in Islington, before any of your present-day big-name producers, before the Beatles, before even Phil Spector.

Not much of Meek’s material got over to this side of the pond: “Telstar,” a spacey instrumental by the Tornados (“corrected” to “Tornadoes” by London Records for the US release), made #1 in 1962, and the Honeycombs’ stomping “Have I the Right?” hit #5 in 1964, aided and abetted by the ongoing British Invasion.

What these two tracks have in common is major compression and weird-sounding instrumental bits: Meek was fond of the clavioline, a proto-synthesizer thing invented after World War II. He puts it to good use here on a later Tornados track, “The Ice Cream Man”:

YouTuber “patrickphan2,” I suspect, hadn’t even been born yet when Meek died in 1967, but he came up with a very Meeklike sound for this track: an instrumental bed intended for people who want to make parodies of Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” Joe would have approved, I think.

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Strange search-engine queries (280)

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things.”

“Never mind that,” said the Oysters. “We want to know about this stuff:”

145 iq people:  Are just as dumb as the rest of us, once comfortably planted in a position of power.

why do certain shoes stick to floors:  Have you seen your floor lately? Yech.

don’t use 134a making meth:  Since when do tweakheads have environmental concerns?

backyardnudeswimming:  Don’t even think of trying this until you get a pool.

what if susanna reid had an ample j lo rear end?  The world would judder on its axis from the shift in gravitational field.

how to put your penis inside a woman:  And this comes from France, yet. Quelle dommage.

uncertainty blows:  You sure about that?

katie couric satanist list phone numbers names from 57 st proctor gamble johnny carson causing war on usa:  This query from a Wii explains why game machines should not be allowed on the Web.

over the line balls:  Weiner jokes are so last week.

Donner Party Platters:  Garnish with Herb and Rosemary.

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Finally, some economies of scale

The Chevrolet Volt goes national this fall — dealers in all 50 states are now taking orders, though most of the country won’t see the car until November — and GM has announced that the $41,000 base price will be reduced to $39,995. (The $7500 Federal tax credit continues.) A Volt tricked out with everything on the option sheet will creep into the $46,000 range, assuming the dealers don’t slap a few thousand worth of “market adjustment” onto the sticker, which is a lot to assume.

What no one knows so far is how much real demand there will be for Chevy’s plugmobile once the floodgates are opened. Worst-case scenario is something like what happened with the US version of the smart fortwo: everybody who wanted one got one early, and then sales tanked. About the only thing we can be sure of is that Glenn Beck won’t buy one.

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Heat diffusion

John Hawkins continues to compile these 20 Hottest Conservative Women lists, and while I am not one to turn up my nose at pulchritude generally, there’s one problem built into all such photographic compilations: even if the judges are taking other factors into account, the presentation is so purely visual that the reader, by default, tends to assume that contender #A is better-looking than contender #(A+9).

Neo-neocon, tongue in cheek, noted that she didn’t make the cut, and asks: “[I]s the entire enterprise a heinously ageist and discriminatory plot?” Nothing so complicated as all that. This is standard male sports-bar stuff, on par with “Would the Celtics have sucked so bad in the playoffs if they hadn’t traded Kendrick Perkins?” Since Boston did trade Perk, there’s obviously no way of knowing for sure.

And we don’t know what criteria the judges were using. I suspect Sarah Palin, #9, lost a couple of points for being too close to 50 and for sounding like Hubert Humphrey on helium, but it’s not like they’re going to disclose the methodology or anything. If you gave me the choice of any of them for a dinner date — let’s not presume beyond that — I’m going with Ann Coulter, #17, because I believe the table conversation, once begun, will never flag, and because there’s not a chance in hell she’ll show up in a peasant skirt. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

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In a hurry or something

A little reminder that they make those laws for us, not for themselves:

The N.C. Highway Patrol said Thursday that it will be difficult to investigate an allegation that state Sen. Don East, R-Surry, was driving 145 mph on U.S. 52 during a joyride with state Sen. Stan Bingham, R-Davidson.

Troopers typically must see a driver speeding, and a state law gives legislators immunity from prosecution based on anything they say in the General Assembly, a spokesman said.

Bingham said Monday on the Senate floor that East had taken him on the joyride in East’s muscle car, a Dodge Charger SRT8, according to a report by the News & Observer of Raleigh.

One could argue, I suppose, that East wasn’t even trying that hard. Still, were you or I to hoon around at high velocity and insane enough to say so, well, acceleration has consequences.

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Where is your cod now?

I take back all the horrible things I muttered when I spent seven bucks for a box of fish sticks yesterday:

Biomass of Popularly Eaten Fish

When they say “overfished,” this is what they mean.

(From the Guardian, filtered through GraphJam.)

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Junk under wraps

As I said before this Weiner thing came to a head:

I am reasonably certain that no one has seen it; I am equally certain that no one wants to see it.

[“I often quote myself,” said George Bernard Shaw. “It adds spice to my conversation.” Obviously GBS was meant to blog.]

A reasonably-representative reaction from an eminently-sensible woman active in social media:

Early in my tweeting days, there was a guy who started chatting with me. The conversation moved to DM (direct message, supposedly private) and then to exchanged cell phone numbers and calls. Before I knew it, there at 9:00am one morning came the triple-chime announcing picture mail. I clicked to open and there was naked genitalia winking at me. In unsolicited and ungroomed high definition. Hold up, playa. I don’t know your middle name, your street address or your city of birth yet but I now know more about you than some men I’ve dated! No. Sir.

I suspect this reaction is far more common than “Oh, goody, a picture of a Yugoslavian crotch bugle.”

I mean, come on, people:

At least let me get an adult beverage and half an impure thought going.

It’s only fair.

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He said, somewhat gingerly

Lore Sjöberg finds a yummy metaphor for his CMS travails:

I keep hearing that Drupal can do things that WordPress can’t, but I haven’t reached that point yet. I’ve just reached the point where Drupal can do things WordPress can, but in an incredibly more obtuse and somewhat less reliable way. If Blogger is a pre-assembled gingerbread house, and WordPress is a set of pre-cut gingerbread panels, frosting, assorted decorative candy, and an instruction manual, Drupal is a bag of flour, two eggs and a map to the nearest grocery store.

I once (and once is enough) built a blog on Lotus’ Domino platform, which, extending the metaphor, includes a picture of the old Nutrition Pyramid and a Jack in the Box store-locator app. Trini, more talented than I, actually managed to build one using a WordPress theme in less time than it took me to regrow the hair I pulled out trying to get the variables to work.

And you’ll notice nobody dares mention TypePad.

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Enough to burn your Sedgwick off

Clipped from the National Weather Service’s 3-day history at Wichita, Kansas:

NWS screenshot

This would seem to call for a WTF, but no, it’s not a typo:

[T]he temperature as 1 a.m. neared on Thursday had climbed to 102.

Readings surged 17 degrees in 20 minutes — from 85 at 12:22 a.m. to 102 at 12:42 a.m.

As if 85 after midnight wasn’t bad enough. What the fark happened?

The spike was the result of a heat burst, which occurs when dry air plummets to the Earth’s surface as a thunderstorm collapses, meteorologists said. As the air nears the ground, it heats dramatically.

They’re not kidding about “dry air,” either. That column next to the temperature is the dew point, which dropped from the middle 60s to the upper 20s. That’s a relative humidity on the order of seven percent. You might as well send your sinuses to Arizona.

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Ed Kelley moves on

Will the Black Tower ever be the same again?

Ed Kelley, a veteran journalist and award-winning editor and reporter, has been named the new editor of The Washington Times.

Mr. Kelley, who is leaving his post as editor of The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, will oversee both news and opinion content for Washington Times Media, a multi-platform news organization focused on exclusive reporting and compelling conservative opinion. He assumes his duties July 1.

I tweeted the Oklahoman article on Kelley’s impending departure to Robert Stacy McCain, who spent about a decade at the Times; McCain deemed it “a good ‘heartland’ choice,” presumably suggesting that the last thing the #2 D.C. daily needed was Yet Another Beltway Insider in charge of the newsroom.

What I’m not clear on is what the #1 OKC daily needs. My initial thought was “Where is Stan Tiner when you need him?” (Answer: He’s running the Sun Herald down in Biloxi.) Tiner was named Executive Editor of the Oklahoman in 1999, prompting this remark from me:

From the looks of things, Tiner has issued two commands: “Make this paper look less like a throwback to the 1950s,” and “Get this paper’s perceived politics out of the 1850s.”

Those things eventually became the rule, but not on Tiner’s watch; Edward L. Gaylord, after all, was still alive. And maybe that was the problem: for most of its existence, the Oklahoman has been run by someone named Ed, and Stan Tiner, through no fault of his own, was not named Ed.

So OPUBCO can’t fill this slot in-house, unless Mike Shannon changes his name by deed poll. I’m pretty sure Ed Driscoll isn’t interested in the position, though it’s an even safer bet he won’t be asked.

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