Weedman, spare that dandelion

Ford might need it for a floor mat:

“We’re always looking for new sustainable materials to use in our vehicles that have a smaller carbon footprint to produce and can be grown locally,” said Angela Harris, Ford research engineer. “Synthetic rubber is not a sustainable resource, so we want to minimise its use in our vehicles when possible. Dandelions have the potential to serve as a great natural alternative to synthetic rubber in our products.”

Not just any dandelions, though:

The suitable species for this project is the Russian dandelion, Taraxacum kok-saghyz, which is being grown at The Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC). A milky-white substance that seeps from the roots of this species of dandelion is used to produce the rubber.

Of course, the real advantage of using a dandelion for synthetic rubber is that it’s not particularly hard to cultivate. I put absolutely no effort into the ones I grow (albeit the wrong variety, alas).

(Via Autoblog.)

Comments (7)

Just one of the gyaru

This is yet another example of what happens when I get a single idea in my head and end up opening half a dozen browser tabs to follow up.

The idea was to find someone to bring up in the weekly Rule 5 sweep who hasn’t been there a dozen times before, and to have something to talk about besides “Isn’t she cute?” This being the 11th of May, I went first after women born on this date, and settled on Shiho Fujita, twenty-six, a singer/songwriter in the J-pop orbit who is known professionally as “sifow.”


Except that she’s dropped out of orbit: her last album came out in the summer of ’07 [warning: autostart video], and in early ’08 she announced she’d be taking a hiatus from her musical career to start a school for gyaru. And who are gyaru?

Gyaru is a Japanese transliteration of the English word gal… The name originated from a 1970s brand of jeans called “gals”, with the advertising slogan: “I can’t live without men”, and was applied to fashion- and peer-conscious girls in their teens and early twenties… The term gradually drifted to apply to a younger group, whose seeming lack of interest in work or marriage gained the word a “childish” image.

Which group would once have included sifow herself, although she apparently vowed to break out of that particular stereotype.

For further reference: sifow’s “Rule,” from MTV Japan. Apparently MTV Japan, unlike its American counterpart, occasionally airs music videos.

Comments (1)

This has got to gomance

If “bromance” is high on your Least-Wanted Neologisms list, you will probably not like “homance” any better:

I understand the urge to tag Bridesmaids with a category name. But homance? Not only does homance dispense with the R of romance, thus muddying the semantic waters, it also replaces the chummy, G-rated bro with the decidedly less family-friendly ho — which, lest we forget, is a truncation of whore. I haven’t yet seen Bridesmaids, but it’s pretty clear that this isn’t a movie about the misadventures of a gang of streetwalkers.

As it happens, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph, who had a lot to do with Bridesmaids, weigh in on the -mance suffix in Entertainment Weekly (#1154, 13 May):

EW: I’ve already seen this movie labeled a sismance, a sistermance, and — yikes! — a womance.

Rudolph: Sismance? That sounds like something that’s wrong with your urinary tract.

Wiig: [laughs] The problem is, it alienates viewers. If you say this movie is a chick flick, guys are going to not want to go. And we definitely didn’t write this movie just for women.

Rudolph: Let’s think of a new one now. Lady…mance? No, that’s a terrible one. I hope nobody calls this a ladymance.

Wiig: It’s better than womance. [laughs] How about it’s just a comedy? We wanted to write a comedy.

Rudolph: A comedy, with vaginas everywhere.

I’m just grateful no one came up with “vulvariety show.”

Comments (3)

No place for a Fiesta

Where can you buy a new Ford in San Francisco? The answer is “nowhere”:

Add this to the list of San Francisco’s distinguishing features: It does not have a single U.S. new car dealership within its 47.6 square miles.

The last one bit the dust [11] days ago, when San Francisco Ford Lincoln Mercury, on Van Ness Avenue’s Auto Row, shut its doors without warning or explanation.

Selling domestic cars on the West Coast has been problematic for decades; even in the 1980s, Toyota and Honda were displacing Chevy and Ford. So it’s not like San Francisco has suddenly decided to turn its back on Detroit or anything.

Although Dennis Fitzpatrick, regional VP of the California New Car Dealers Association, contends: “San Francisco is not loyal to anything domestic; its allegiance is to anything but domestic.”

Fitzpatrick sells Chevrolets — in the East Bay area.

Comments (9)

Good old Number Two

No, not that Number Two. I’m thinking fuel oil, which I haven’t had to deal with since I was a teenager, and technically I didn’t have to deal with it then in any serious way, since I was still a kid. Still, I remember the tanker truck coming up the street, and the humongous hose it deployed to reach the tank in the back yard.

Since it’s seldom used for heating around this neck of the woods, I generally don’t give the stuff much thought. (Most common in these parts: natural gas.) Once in a while, though, I get a reminder:

You have to buy that in big lots evidently, like a three-month heating bill that falls on you all at once. However I’ve found a company that has a plan you can estimate a year’s average consumption and spread the payment out on a month-to-month basis.

And of course we’ll never see prices like this ever again.

Comments (2)

Face off

On my nightstand at the moment: Jennifer Weiner’s Certain Girls, the sequel to Good in Bed, which I’ve already read. The cover, I noted, followed what I’ve come to think of as a chick-lit convention: show a female body part or two, but never an actual head.

And then I started wondering when this became conventional. I don’t really know for sure, but I decided to check my shelves. Fear of Flying? Conforms to the rule, but not really chick-lit. After fumbling around a bit, I turned up Wifey, a just-this-side-of-filthy 1978 novel by Judy Blume (!) that I’d bought in its first paperback release, perhaps because of its salacious-appearing cover.

Wifey is still in print, so I sought out the current cover. Different body parts, but same lack of face:

Wifey by Judy Blume

I conclude that this practice is at least 33 years old.

Comments (6)

You got that push and pull

The relationship between labor and management has almost always been adversarial, it seems. Ric Locke contends that it didn’t have to be that way:

Suppose that, instead of being set up as mirror-image power blocs, the United (X) Workers had been organized as investment alliances, sort of like what we call today “mutual funds”. Dues would be used to buy shares in the company, dividends and share-value growth would be used to finance workers’ benefits, and soon or late the union’s investments would result in an active voice in company policy. There were, at the time, templates for just that — the “fraternal organizations”, the Moose Lodge and Odd Fellows and many others, existed primarily for just that purpose. By now, after a century or better of continuous investment, the unions, representing the workers, would either own or control most large companies. Marx’s vision would be realized: the workers would own the means of production.

Which idea didn’t even occur to Marx; he was too busy peddling that class-warfare stuff. And look what we got instead:

What we’ve had, instead, was union leaders cementing their power by weakening the corporate structure. Over most of the Western world, we really haven’t added to our capital stock since WWII. Factories and the like have been financed by borrowing, because the tax structure established to keep union leaders in power well-nigh forbids capital formation on the ground that “capital” means “wealth”, which has to be taken away to Benefit the Poor. That policy is coming back to bite us in the butt at the moment.

And then there’s this:

I pity the Socialists… I have read all their books. I know all their arguments… I do not regard them as rational beings… If the lesser and immediate demands of labor could not be obtained from society as it is, it would be mere dreaming to preach and pursue the will-o’-the-wisp, a new society constructed from rainbow materials…

So said Samuel Gompers in 1923. I have to wonder what he’d say, were he around today.

(Title courtesy of Rufus Thomas.)

Comments (6)

This procedure evidently sucks

So you thought liposuction was permanent, did you? You might want to think again:

[R]esearchers randomly assigned nonobese women to have liposuction on their protuberant thighs and lower abdomen or to refrain from having the procedure, serving as controls. As compensation, the women who were control subjects were told that when the study was over, after they learned the results, they could get liposuction if they still wanted it. For them, the price would also be reduced from the going rate.

The result, published in the latest issue of Obesity, was that fat came back after it was suctioned out. It took a year, but it all returned. But it did not reappear in the women’s thighs. Instead, Dr. [Robert H.] Eckel said, “it was redistributed upstairs,” mostly in the upper abdomen, but also around the shoulders and triceps of the arms.

In other news, there is a journal called Obesity.

Lindsay Beyerstein sees a potential practical application nonetheless:

I predict some enterprising plastic surgeon will start promoting Truly Comprehensive Liposuction as an alternative to breast implants. If you suction fat from everywhere else on the body, the fat will only have one place to return to. I can see the late night TV commercials now.

Three parts sham, two parts wow, I’d imagine.

Comments (5)

Well, that didn’t take long, did it?

From Sunday evening to Monday noonish:

SiteMeter referral through USDOJ

I’d wave, but sudden motions run counter to my best instincts, y’know?

Comments (18)

Stretching it out, and then some

I have long believed that David Stern, if he thought he could get away with it, would stretch playoff series to nine games. This series with the Grizzlies already seems to have reached eight or so: the games have been long grinds, that apparently being Memphis’ favored pace. What’s more, Game 3 went into overtime; so did Game 4, when Mike Conley landed one from 26 feet with three and a half seconds left to tie it at 96. In Game 3, though, the Griz dominated those extra five minutes; tonight, they came from behind, and after both Conley and O. J. Mayo fouled out, Greivis Vasquez hit the long ball from just about the same place with nine seconds left to tie it at 109.

So there was double overtime, and it was 119-all when the Griz got three reasonable looks, missed them all, and with 6.3 left, the Thunder were unable to buy a bucket.

So there was triple overtime, and finally the Griz had nothing else up their sleeve: the Thunder pulled this one out, 133-123, and the series goes back to Oklahoma City Wednesday night.

Of all the things the Thunder could have done to beat Memphis — block Conley from beyond the arc, bottle up Marc Gasol and Zack Randolph — they did essentially none of them. (Gasol had 26 points and 21 rebounds; Z-Bo 34 points and 16 boards. Conley shot only 2-12, but hit 11 of 12 from the foul line.)

Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook somehow rolled up 40 points, Kevin Durant added 35, James Harden brought 19 from the bench, and you can say that OKC shot 9 percent better — or that Memphis shot 9 percent worse. (The Griz went 40 for 111, a blah 36 percent.)

But numbers didn’t matter in this 63-minute game which took nearly four hours. At some point, it becomes simply a matter of survival. And the Thunder will survive for Game 9 5.

Comments off

Scent of a duchess

I can’t say I was surprised that some people took it upon themselves to mock the pomp and/or circumstance that comes with a Royal Wedding; every punchbowl seems to present an opportunity for a turd. My own thinking runs something like this:

[T]here was tradition and decorum in the moments I saw, and I think in our modern world we’re sadly lacking in decorum sometimes. So it’s kind of nice to see.

I admit to being most delighted by the L plate on the vintage Aston Martin which whisked the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge away from the scene at decidedly sub-Aston-like speeds.

Much was made of the fashions on display, some dramatic, some dowdy. For some reason I was curious about the fragrance worn by Kate, and sure enough, someone had already done the research:

Given her down-to-earth style, I was surprised to read it was something I had never heard of. I don’t know what I was thinking she’d wear. Hell, I don’t even remember what I wore on my own wedding day. I was sure it wasn’t going to be something pedestrian like Estée Lauder Beautiful, or one of the Vera Wang scents, but this sort of surprised me. The scent is White Gardenia Petals by Illuminum.

The name, of course, practically gives it away:

The top note of Lilly evokes a tropical seaside location, whilst the heart notes of White Gardenia, Muguet and Jasmine bring a trio of white flowers into play. Amber Wood underscores this light and capricious bouquet.

Now I’m curious, though probably not curious enough to shell out $190 for 100 ml, which is about as much as it costs to run an HP DeskJet. And more to the point, as a result of suddenly-high demand, it’s backordered until August. The perfume, I mean.

Comments (2)


For some reason, the 420th Carnival of the Vanities is “not for AV.”

Which is perhaps odd, because at the time 420 culture began to evolve, it was sold to the marks participants as an essential part of a true audio-visual experience.

Comments (2)

Continuously-variable pragmatic

As they will happily tell you at the drop of a hat, the guys at Consumer Reports get no freebies: they buy everything they test. Back in April, they mentioned that they’d gotten their hands on a Chevrolet Volt, though the law of supply and demand being what it is, they’d had to fork out five grand over sticker to get it.

I suspect they got more than one letter like this, as seen in the June issue:

I was dismayed to read that the dealer added a $5,000 fee to the cost of your Chevy Volt. I would have walked (no, run) away. You should have done so, likewise. As a taxpayer, I am also dismayed that the dealer is using most of the $7,500 tax credit for this car to line its pockets.

Um, this is what dealers do when they have a hot product: line their pockets. The Volt is in high demand in the four or five places you can actually buy one. But there are doofuses out there who believe they have a Constitutional right to buy things at MSRP or lower. I see them all the time on message boards, usually with questions along these lines:

How much can I expect the dealer to knock off if I pay cash for the car?

A realistic answer — “Since he’s not going to make anything on the financing, he might actually charge you more” — leaves these people incredibly butthurt.

Besides, early adopters almost always get soaked. Ask the guy who thought himself incredibly fortunate to get a $900-list VCR for $750 in 1982. (I have reference to me.) And nobody was offering a tax credit, either.

For their part, the CR guys said that they wanted to get that Volt report out in a timely manner, and if that cost them extra, so be it.

Comments (1)

I remember when it used to come in a bag

Random Crap

For instance, here.

(Via Engrish Funny.)

Comments (6)

Strange search-engine queries (275)

It was a complicated mission: sneak into the place where the server logs are kept, secure a list of all the intel being sought, then depart quickly. And should anyone get in the way — well, I hear Davy Jones has some extra locker space these days.

unhandy shoes:  It could be worse. Suppose they were unfooty?

Who must die?  There’s a complete list here, starting at about 4:51.

is gender reassignment surgery covered on insurance:  Usually not, though I’d like to see them claim that it’s a pre-existing condition.

carly foulkes gained weight:  I blame AT&T, but then I blame everything on AT&T.

inverse gentrification:  See also “Detroit,” or maybe “Sudan.”

nude for yogurt advertising in korea 2003:  It occurs to me that I have never seen anyone eating yogurt while nude.

does christine o’donnell weigh the same as a duck:  I’m not even sure she’s made out of wood.

how did america adopt oatmeal:  A great outpouring of compassion; they couldn’t very well just leave it there sitting in the bowl, now could they?

when a man like mutt lange says he grew apart from his wife does that mean they are no longer sexually active?  Said Shania: “That don’t impress me much.”

If you accidentally spill phosphorus-32 onto your show, how long would it take before 99.9% of the material has decayed so that you can safely wear the shoes again:  Phosphorus-32 has a half-life of 14.3 days, so technically, about three months. However, we’re talking phosphorus here, so the shoes are probably ruined anyway.

is dwayne one syllable:  It increases 0.06 syllable for each degree of latitude south. By the time you get to, say, Tallahassee, it’s nearly two syllables.

can two hearts sync:  Yes, if one of them isn’t mine.

Comments (1)

Vobis non me dux

The least I can do is give this phrase a little push. This is where it came from:

If you think something needs to be done, you should do it. You should not assume everybody else thinks the same way or that somebody else will take care of it for you. You and I are not sticks in a fasces or cells in a jellyfish; we are individuals with the right to live our own individual lives without someone else telling us what we have to do.

In retrospect, it was a big mistake to put e pluribus unum on the currency, instead of “You ain’t the boss of me”. (Vobis non me dux?)

Then again, unum gets no play these days, what with everyone overly anxious about pluribus.

Comments (8)