This seems oddly specific

Willis Eschenbach spots an assertion in Science that can’t possibly be that precise:

In their June 10th edition, in their “BY THE NUMBERS” section, they quote Nature Climate Change magazine, viz:

1,211,287: Square kilometers of ice road-accessible Arctic lands that will be unreachable by 2050, a 14% decrease, according to a report online 29 May in Nature Climate Change.

In other news, there is a publication called Nature Climate Change.

Now surely, if they can call this to the square kilometer, they ought to be able to pinpoint an exact date and time: say, 1 April 2050 at 6 am GMT. Heck, Bishop Ussher was doing that much four and a half centuries ago.

Says Eschenbach:

The idea that a hyper-accurate claim like that would not only get published in a peer-reviewed journal, but would be cited by another peer-reviewed journal, reveals just how low the climate science bar is these days. Mrs. Henniger, my high school science teacher, would have laughed such a claim out of the classroom. “Significant digits!” she would thunder.

I don’t expect to be around in 2050, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet that this guesstimate is off somewhere between 0.5 and two million square kilometers.

Comments (2)

What it costs to build a road these days

TOLLROADSnews looks at the Sam Rayburn Tollway (aka State Highway 121) across the north Dallas metro:

[TX 121] is a typical modern Texan urban highway with the grade separated interchanges for the tolled mainline lanes which are straddled by parallel frontage road lanes. These frontage roads provide access and egress to and from the expressway lanes via simple slip ramps. They also allow untolled trips for motorists who will endure traffic signals at the at-grade intersections with cross-streets.

It might be a little bit more flexible than, say, Maryland’s Intercounty Connector:

The MDICC is a simple 3+3 lanes expressway with two fancy expressway-to-expressway interchange (at US29 and I-95) plus six other simple local diamond interchanges (MD355, Shady Grove Metro parking, MD97, MD182, MD650, Virginia Manor Rd).

Otherwise, these are fairly similar roads, both intended to take some traffic away from existing arterials, both set up for electronic tolling, and neither burdened with river crossings or anything complicated like that.

The Texas road, 26 miles long, cost $1.43 billion; the 18-mile Maryland road cost $2.57 billion. There are several reasons for this disparity, but one of the biggest was that the only question about the Sam Rayburn was who was going to build it in the first place, the toll authority or a private-sector concessionaire. In Maryland, however, the NIMBYs were out in full force, and, says the News, “Build/no-build conflict tends to produce added cost in delay and projects to ‘buy off’ environmentalist opponents.”

Most of Texas’ road-construction workforce is nonunion. By law, none of Maryland’s is.

And there’s this:

The state of Maryland came in with GARVEE bonds (grant anticipation revenue) bonds and an appropriation from general funds for about half the costs of the MDICC so there was much less pressure to contain costs than in Texas where the state DOT and the regional toll authority was expected to fully fund the TX121SRT.

ODOT doesn’t have any big schemes like this on its plate, but they’re still trying to finish the Crosstown Expressway 2.0 before the 3.0 version becomes necessary.

Comments (4)

Badass Prius

Okay, go ahead and laugh. I might give out with a chuckle here and there. On the other hand, if Toyota wants to bolt some performance parts onto its meek hybrid, who am I to complain?

The Prius PLUS Performance Package starts with a seven-piece aerodynamic ground effects kit that delivers an aggressive and lower-profile stance. It includes front and rear bumper spoilers, sleek side skirts and a uniquely styled rear diffuser. The custom body kit was aerodynamically designed and engineered to reduce the vehicle’s coefficient of drag, maintaining its already great fuel efficiency.

And kudos to the Big T for not claiming, as might an aftermarket firm, that fuel efficiency would go up with a body kit.

Complementing the body kit are race-inspired 17-inch forged alloy wheels. The higher strength-to-weight ratio reduces the unsprung weight, assists in keeping the corner weight down and performance up, while maintaining the Prius’ overall light vehicle weight and high fuel efficiency. The wheels are fitted with low profile 215/45R17 tires and have a custom offset, which increases track width yet maintaining Prius’ low rolling resistance. The attractive split five-spoke pattern with a liquid metal protective finish will keep the appearance looking great.

Base tires on the Prius are 195/65R15, so this is a major change. The custom offset means that aftermarket suppliers will have a problem making sport wheels for Prii, but Toyota undoubtedly sees this as a feature.

And while there aren’t any actual go-fast pieces in the package, there are some handling benefits to be had:

The performance side of the PLUS package delivers excellent traction and handling that will surprise any automotive enthusiast without sacrificing fuel efficiency. The track-tuned lowering springs lower the vehicle 1.1 inches in the front and 1.3 inches in the rear. This enhances the vehicle’s on-road performance through quicker turn-in, enhanced steering response and improved cornering ability. A tuned rear sway bar is added to help reduce body lean for flatter cornering and maneuverability. This helps provide the driver control and confidence while touring, mountain driving or just plain having fun. The sway bar is constructed of high carbon spring steel, powder coated to prevent corrosion and road damage.

Still no irs for the Prius, but space considerations are likely the controlling factor. (Heck, my medium-zoot sedan has a solid beam out back, and you don’t hear me complain. Much.)

I have to wonder if all these boy-racer parts herald a general Manning Up in the industry. Shucks, even the new New Beetle (officially designated “Beetle” without the qualifier) has been reskinned for reduced perceived simper.

Comments (4)

Warning signs

As with any other human activity, there are risks involved with visiting a clothing-optional beach: sunburn, getting sand in places where sand ought not to be, and perhaps the most exasperating of all:

It’s usually a man who arrives with no book, no cooler, and most tellingly, no sunscreen. Clearly he intends to stay just long enough to snap some nude photos.

In days of old, when cameras were large and easily spotted at a distance, this wasn’t such a big deal: the “visitor” would be approached and his film would be flung into the sea. This sort of confrontation is discouraged these days, and besides, rather a lot of these places are under Federal jurisdiction, where both nudity and photography are legal.

A friend of mine who visited a beach in Florida this year says she wasn’t accosted by photographers, but she was bothered a bit by one fellow who parked himself in her line of sight and then proceeded to apply SPF 800 to his twig and berries — in increments of 8 or 16 — while utterly neglecting the rest of his person.

Comments off

We blue that

I caught this item among the various vintage ads Found in Mom’s Basement, and I pass it on to you:

Print ad for Blue Cheer

The late Allan Sherman reworked “Chim Chim Cher-ee” into a satire on American advertising, and referenced the product this way:

“What does that blue magic whitener do?
Does it make blue things white, or make white things blue?”

Your mom knew the answer to that, of course.

Many years later, a band called Blue Cheer would come down with the Summertime Blues.

Comments (4)

There was a caterpillar here a minute ago

What do you do when your own personal aesthetic starts to shift? Tavi, four years into the fashion-blogger scene but still barely fifteen, is left with a quandary:

I took this picture a couple months ago, going for some Heathers/Twin Peaks vibes, but started thinking too much about how I look in it and avoided posting it for a while. I wasn’t insecure, quite the opposite — I didn’t want to post this photo because I look good in it. And, as someone whose “thing” for so long has been “Challenge beauty standards! Screw convention! Look like a grandmother on ecstasy at Fashion Week!”, that somehow felt hypocritical.

One of the factors, apparently, was No More Glasses:

Before I got contacts in March, I just never really counted myself in the general pool of people who might be considered attractive. I wasn’t insecure about how I looked, I just made peace with the fact that I wasn’t, to me, an attractive person, and decided to milk my charming personality instead. The glasses were an easy way to isolate myself from even having to consider keeping up some kind of face. Then I slowly came to feel that, well, maybe I did want my face to be visible. Maybe I liked my face. Is that not okay?

Now I admit to having read Style Rookie since 2008. When Tavi crashed the pages of The New Yorker last year, it suddenly occurred to me that omigod, there might be a swan there, albeit still playing those comfortable duckling games.

If I’d been paying closer attention, I’d have seen this on Tumblr:

i think i’m pretty now, at least applied to my own idea of pretty, which for me comes from all the things i really love, all the sometimes ugly books and movies and what i see on the walk to school, and i’m more intrigued by the idea of looking like a reflection of that and internalizing it and feeling like a part of everything i really love. and i don’t even think there is anything very subversive about what i look like/how i dress anyway?

Three months later, the internalization isn’t exactly seamless:

Right now, I could pretend to be an archetype of a feminist superhero and say I never want to be a conventionally attractive person. But, while I have so much respect for the people who can say that truthfully, I’m not there yet. I think it would be, in my case, much more effective to be honest and willing to have this conversation instead of signing myself to a stereotype I can’t fit. I admit to the basic human desire to be attractive. That’s certainly not all I want to be, and I’m not bending over backwards every morning for it, but it’s there.

The question in my mind: is she actually going in that direction, or will she decide that beauty is a form of currency, and work on building a nest egg?

Because there’s something here that doesn’t quite add up:

People who are conventionally attractive have the privilege of going through life knowing their appearance will usually not act as a barrier in accomplishing what they want to accomplish. Of course, this is a general statement, but typically, Pretty Woman does not have to worry about missing out on opportunities because of her appearance. (Pretty Woman also gets Richard Gere.)

There are, I suspect, occupational fields where said PW will miss out on opportunities because of her appearance, because she won’t be taken seriously; Dr. Christmas Jones, the nuclear physicist in The World Is Not Enough, seems decidedly atypical, and not just because she happens to run into James Bond. There’s nothing in the world that says that someone who looks like Denise Richards can’t operate a world-class weapons system, but rather a lot of people are used to seeing a grizzled old man in that chair — and some of them, it’s reasonable to assume, have some emotional investment in that familiarity.

So for the moment I’m filtering this through “She’s only fifteen.” This may be giving her short shrift, inasmuch as I was dumb as a post when I was fifteen, that whole National Merit thing notwithstanding, but I figure she’s got plenty of time, and she’ll have several opportunities to change her mind yet again, should she be so inclined.

Comments (1)

Copies, perfect and otherwise

A recent dialogue between a teacher and a professional term-paper writer yielded up this warning:

I was alerted to plagiarism by the sudden appearance, in a paper that is otherwise a morass of grammatical errors, of a series of flawless sentences with complicated structures. The correct use of a semicolon is a big red flag for me. As is the use — and often misuse — of specialized jargon or technical language that I’ve not discussed with them in class. Then I type those sentences into Google, and they all wind up being smoking-gun cases of plagiarism.

Hmmm. I get rather a lot of those in the search logs, but examples of misuse seem to outnumber examples of use.

Although there’s still a lot of this:

My favorite case this semester was plagiarism within plagiarism. When I informed this student that I suspected her paper was plagiarized, she said to me, “I got my paper from one of the students who was in your class last semester. How was I to know that she had plagiarized?”

(Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars.)

Comments (1)

I’m guessing this is a 666-series

SATAN license plate in Washington State

(Found, perhaps, by a Church Lady at FAILBlog’s That Will Buff Out.)

Comments (1)

Strange search-engine queries (283)

About every seven days or so, we go through the logs, and once in a while we find some real comic gold, though regular readers will note that we’ll settle for pyrite — or zinc, even — if that’s all we can get.

fun t shirt speed limit 4 pisquare:  Yeah, but my speedometer is calibrated in natural logarithms.

“men who are witty”:  Get girls who are pretty. Or so I keep telling myself.

want to purchase thallanylzirconio:  NZT is to Limitless what the Nissan Skyline is to The Fast and the Furious. Your chances of getting your hands on either are essentially nil.

Sarah Palin In Garterbelt And Nylons:  Your chances of getting your hands on either are essentially nil.

Darnell Mayberry & The Lost Ogle:  Neo-bluegrass band from East Virginia with new album A Little Dobro’ll Do Ya. Featuring “Cardboard Jim” Traber.

nudist skinny dipping:  Well, that goes without saying, doesn’t it?

there’s a zombie in my brain…  Probably just foraging for food.

nine west fred allard is a jerk:  I shudder to think how you’d respond to Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel.

sexy dress to attract husband:  Yeah, but whose husband?

peter noone cut or uncut:  I have no idea. Have you asked Mrs Brown’s daughter? She’s quite lovely.

funny he doesn t look jewish:  Glad we could clear that up for you.

Comments off

Bloat, bloat on

Computer security packages — formerly known as “antivirus software” — almost invariably evolve in the same direction: fatter, slower, more intrusive. I went through seven years of Norton on the notebook, and each new incarnation was more blubbery. Worse, Symantec seemed to be charging by the perceived pound. Out it went, replaced by Eset, which behaves itself better.

Eset will be going on my desktop when license-renewal comes around, near the end of the year. Having banished CA’s product for a variety of offenses, I temporarily swapped in a freebie: Avira’s, which cost nothing more than the indignity of a single pop-up ad at each update. It was a very efficient program — their “Luke Filewalker” routine scanned 800,000 files on this box in three hours — and otherwise kept out of the way.

Then came their newest version, which wanted to install a toolbar. I went into Cee Lo Green mode and propelled it off the premises. This leaves a few months to fill, and I have filled them with, of all things, a Microsoft product.

MS Security Essentials had, I reasoned, one advantage: it might keep up with the Redmond Patch-of-the-Week Club. (This is Eset’s one small failing: if it loads up and deems you to be missing the latest and greatest Microsoft hole-filler, it whines at you.) Haven’t been able to check that yet. Its scanner, however, is thorough, if not especially speedy, and in addition to the usually-expected dubious Java exploits, it found two gag programs from the 1980s, buried in an old self-extracting Zip file, that nobody else’s scanner had so much as acknowledged.

I have also installed this on my work box, thereby saving the department the cost of one AV license. My generosity clearly knows no bounds.

(Title from Cheech y Chong.)

Comments (7)

And to think I paid for mine

Jhunjhunu is a city of about 115,000 in northwest India, and apparently that’s enough for the local administration:

Get sterilized and drive away in a Nano car. This is what the medical and health department of Rajasthan’s Jhunjhunu has offered people to check population growth.

Well, one person, anyway. Tata’s bodacious minicar is only one of several incentives being offered:

The prizes include a Nano car, five motorcycles, five 21-inch colour TVs and seven mixer-grinders. “The aim is to encourage sterilisation in the district,” said Jhunjhunu CMO Sitaram Sharma. Provisional Census 2011 shows an 11.8% population growth in Jhunjhunu in ten years.

(Seen at Autoblog.)

Comments (1)

Anachronism watch

Sonic Charmer downgrades Super 8 to about 6.5 for an excess of mistimed cultural references:

If I were to have one gripe about the film, it’s that it gets so much about the period wrong. Why bother setting a period movie so specifically — June something 1979 — if you’re not going to do your research, even basic wiki’ing:

Rubik’s cube? Not yet sorry. The Walkman? Released in Japan first, later that year. “Don’t Bring Me Down” by ELO? July 1979. The kids sing “My Sharona” — only just released, not #1 on the charts till later that year. Three Mile Island meltdown? March not June. One kid says “awesome” as kid-slang for “great”, which I’m afraid I can’t admit into evidence till perhaps 1981-82.

The ELO reference at first threw me, since the Discovery LP was in fact released in June, but he’s right: the first single off the album was “Shine a Little Love,” which was sneaked out in May. “Don’t Bring Me Down” wasn’t released as a 45 until mid-July.

Of course, what amazes me is the persistence of “awesome,” which is still in heavy rotation in the vocabularies of seemingly everyone under thirty.

Comments (1)

Way to encourage donations, guys

On Form 511-G, Oklahoma taxpayers due refunds can donate a portion to any of about a dozen more or less charitable organizations, including the Oklahoma Pet Overpopulation Fund and a Low Income Health Care Fund. Other states have similar programs, though Illinois does it differently: they don’t actually hand the money over to the intended organizations. Instead, they use it to pay current bills:

Illinoisans donated almost $45,000 on their 2009 state income tax returns to crisis nurseries in Illinois, part of a checkoff system designed to help charitable causes.

None of that money has reached the Crisis Nursery of Champaign County — or any other nursery across the state.

Instead, the money is being used to pay other state bills, at least temporarily.

In all, state officials have borrowed $1.176 million in fiscal 2011 from 11 tax checkoff funds, according to figures provided by the Office of Management and Budget.

The state swears it will make good:

[T]he money borrowed in fiscal 2011 by law has to be returned, plus interest, within 18 months, said Kelly Kraft, spokeswoman for the Office of Management and Budget.

Still, if word of this gets around, a lot of people will be reacting the way Marcel did:

I’ve never done that, because I didn’t trust the state. Turns out mistrust was justified.

All the more reason to spread the word, I think.

Comments (2)

Way to make friends, guys

Wisconsin firefighter Matt Gorniak is bringing back a locally-famous parade float:

[A] re-enactment of the famous photo of three firefighters raising the American flag amid the rubble of the World Trade Center … created a rush of emotions as it passed through three parade routes in Milwaukee County back in 2002. Crowds spontaneously rose to their feet, offering thunderous applause.

With the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks coming up later this year, Gorniak and his church’s youth group decided to revive the float in Racine’s upcoming Independence Day parade, one of the biggest in the area.

Conspicuous by their absence will be any of his fellow firefighters:

Gorniak had recently invoked a little-used provision in his union contract and opted out of membership in the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin.

Members of the executive board of the Racine firefighters union ultimately decided not to support or march with his float.

How that provision works:

Under state law, public employees can drop out of the union and opt to pay just their “fair share” for the cost the union incurs for negotiating contracts. These nonvoting employees don’t have to foot the bill for the union’s political, social and ideological activities.

Officials say it is highly unusual for Wisconsin firefighters to ask to go fair share. But Gorniak — who describes himself as a born-again Christian who supports conservative politicians, including Gov. Scott Walker — filed his resignation letter and became a fair-share worker in late March or early April. He said he made the move in response to the protests in Madison over Walker’s collective-bargaining plan.

And God forbid your conscience should take precedence over the all-important Ideological Dollars.

(Via Christopher Johnson.)

Comments off


This time around, Andrew Ian Dodge is happily (I assume) CoTVing into the 4th, just in time for Independence Day, with the 428th edition of Carnival of the Vanities.

Speaking of 428, it was in that year that Armenia’s newly-minted king, Artaxias IV, was deposed. This did not bring any form of independence to the region, however: Bahram Gur, who ruled the Sassanid Empire, the last of the pre-Islamic Persian empires, annexed eastern Armenia, declared it a province, and installed a governor.

Comments off

The view from here down

This startling revelation appeared in the Telegraph:

The formula for a perfect woman’s foot is a size five, wearing three inch heels and red toe nail varnish, according to the study.

A study discovered men find size five feet, such as those belonging to Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardashian and Sophia Loren, are the most alluring.

Sophia Loren in flatsThat makes sense on this side of the pond only if you apply the conversion factor: size 5 in the UK is a 7 in the States. I question the need for the heel; I mean, really, are you going to turn away Sophia Loren in flats? (At right: Sophia Loren in flats.) And an ill-fitting shoe — lot of those going around these days — never helps matters.

Acidman, of course, would have heartily endorsed the red polish.

More years ago than I’d like to think about, I dated a woman who wore size 4. (To the Brits, that’s a 2.) She could literally stand in my hand, though I definitely preferred that she not wear heels when so doing. And she complained that finding shoes was a difficult proposition, with so many manufacturers sticking to the 5-through-10 scale.

Research by foot plaster company Compeed revealed nearly half of men will look at a woman’s feet on a first date and a third will make a character judgement based on the state of them.

That way, I suggest, lies madness. What sort of character judgment, other than “fastidious” or “not so fastidious,” can be made on that basis?

The poll of 2,000 adults found four out of ten women go to extreme lengths to cover their unkempt feet in the summer by hiding them in boots or shoes… Six out of ten women admit to trying to hide their feet from other people because they are self-conscious.

This must be something in the British temperament, because it doesn’t seem to come close to the reality of an Oklahoma summer.

(Via Fark.)

Comments (8)