It’s a “TSA scarring” Carnival of the Vanities, the 400th edition. Since we’re all pretty well soured on the Transportation Security Administration, aka the Federal Feelers, let’s think about some other TSA: say, the 400 series of bathroom fixtures by Italian manufacturer TSA.

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Already gone

When I see a tweet like this, I pay attention:

Finally found the best shoes ever. Naturally, they’re no longer available in my size. http://bit.ly/b9fdcR @kennethcole

“Best shoes ever” is pretty definitive a judgment, but this is someone whose judgments I respect, so I looked up the shoes in question:

I Feel by Kenneth Cole

This is “I Feel” from Kenneth Cole’s “Gentle Souls” line, and this is what he means by “gentle”:

Flaxseed pillows [patent pending] embedded in the footbed distribute and mold to the shape of your foot to provide cushioned support with every step. This revolutionary technology is lined with the finest, most supple deerskin to insure a comfort that’s as natural as walking.

About time we got some use out of those damned deer.

There are brown and black versions of this three-inch-tall pump, which normally runs $265; as a closeout, it’s about a third off, and some of the sizes are already gone, hence the tweeted lament. The Gentle Souls line includes flats, heels, and boots, at prices ranging up to $400.

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Scrutinizing the new and improved insurance bill

I’ve done this before, more than once, but never let it be said that I am averse to recycling an old premise.

The deal here is simple enough: compare the new auto-insurance bill to the old auto-insurance bill, and kvetch as appropriate. It is with considerable amazement that I report, however, that there is no change in the premium this time. None. Not so much as one thin dime.

(Yes, this is a repeat from May.)

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Reduced fuelishness

Your friends at the Environmental Protection Agency, when they’re not worrying themselves into a dither over scary poisons like carbon dioxide (which my trees actually seem to like for some reason), dabble in fuel-economy statistics, and they’re saying that the average motor vehicle sold in the States in 2009 was good for 22.4 miles per gallon, a record high.

Numbers from the EPA report:

[T]he average weight and horsepower of a new vehicle fell from the 2008 to 2009 model year. The average vehicle weight fell from 4,085 pounds to 3,917 pounds — though it is projected to rise to 4,009 for the 2010 model year.

Horsepower fell from 219 in 2008 to 208 in 2009 — but is projected to rise to 220 horsepower next year.

Since 1987, vehicles have gotten much heavier and more powerful. Two decades ago, the average car was 118 horsepower and 3,221 pounds. By 2008, average weight had increased by 25 percent and horsepower had nearly doubled.

The only car I’ve ever owned from the 1980s was an ’84 Mercury Cougar which sported a whole 120 hp and weighed around 3200 lb. Distinctly average for the time, I’d say.

Current wheels: 227 hp, 3342 lb, 22.4 mpg. Distinctly average for the time, I’d say, except for the weight. Those new cars must be carrying cement, dear.

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Bunch of government gawkseekers

You might think that someone who normally wears nothing but a smile wouldn’t object to the Transportation Security Administration’s tender ministrations at the airport.

Don’t be too sure:

They’re accustomed to baring it all, but even nudists think the stepped-up security measures being employed at many U.S. airports are overly invasive, the owner of Palm Springs’ largest nudist resort said Wednesday.

“It’s an invasion of privacy,” Michael Patrick Williams, general manager of the Desert Sun Resort, told City News Service. “Naturists aren’t really different from anyone else.”

It’s not like they get scanned during their leisure time, after all:

[Williams] noted that the Desert Sun Resort has strict conduct rules, including the ban of cell phones or other devices that might allow people to take photos or videos.

“We protect our guests’ privacy,” Williams said. “Naturists have as much right to privacy as anyone else.”

For some inscrutable reason, the American Association for Nude Recreation has taken the opposite tack:

The group suggests travelers think of the body scanning as a virtual skinny dip.

“Polls regularly show that about one in five North Americans have skinny-dipped in mixed company already,” [AANR Executive Director Erich] Schuttauf said.

Yeah, but I’ll bet they didn’t skinny-dip (1) at the airport (2) in front of some character with a badge.

(Via The Political Naturist.)

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Consider yourself belted

Judging by what I’ve seen at Yahoo! Answers — and from my vantage point at Level 6, I’ve seen rather a lot — there are people out there who dread the very thought of a car with a timing belt, probably because their cousin’s brother-in-law’s neighbor had a belt shred and it cost a hundred bucks apiece to unbend all 24 valves, or some such business.

Which is not to say that belts won’t break, or that there won’t be damage if they do. But apparently they used to be better, according to Joe Sherlock:

My first post-college job was with Uniroyal’s Timing Belt Division in Philadelphia. Uniroyal held all of the patents on the timing belt; made their belts from the finest rubber (prime-grade neoprene), fabric (neoprene impregnated, high-denier nylon) and tensile cord (high-strength, braided, coated fiberglass — precision-wound and preloaded for tension on a mandrel) and charged whatever-the-hell they wanted. Those well-made belts could go over one-million miles without breaking; in fact, the pulleys failed before the belt did.

Whatever the hell they wanted, apparently, was $1.76, which bought the belt for Pontiac’s little OHC six in the 1960s. The fan belt, meanwhile, was less than 20 cents.

But that was then, and this is now:

Now that the patents have expired, the Uniroyal plant has closed, everybody makes timing belts and the automobile companies demand a supply of cheapie, price-is-everything, quality-be-damned belts and that’s exactly what they get — a piece of black, rubber-toothed crap. And that is why timing belts must now be replaced at 60,000 mile intervals, lest they break and destroy the innards of the engine.

Of course, as I noted last time I was out car-shopping:

California is … the place where your 60,000-mile timing-belt replacement occurs at 105,000 miles, because the Assembly hath so decreed.

Incidentally, the car I bought has a chain instead of a belt, though if it breaks I’ll have to unbend 24 valves at a hundred bucks a bend — if I’m lucky.

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The depths of humiliation

It’s been Muntz in the making:

Nelson Muntz toilet-paper dispenser

(Via FAILBlog’s WIN!)

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Note to scammers

Being careful to specify the trademark registration for the financial institution you’re pretending to be should theoretically help enhance your credibility as you attempt to steal people’s personal information, but this line has other problems:

PayPal Account® Posible Fraud – Notification

For one, ® should modify “PayPal,” not “Account”; for another, you misspelled “Possible.”

Oh, and serwicse@payspal.com isn’t fooling anybody.

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Applied subtlety

Advice from Michael Bates to the Lingerie Football League:

If you do locate here, don’t even think about the possibility of a palindromic team name.

And by “here,” he means “Tulsa.”

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From the “None of your beeswax” files

The librarian known as Screwy Decimal (gotta love that name) reports having received a couple of marriage proposals from “overzealous patrons.” Said proposals apparently didn’t stick in her mind as much, though, as this little interchange:

[T]he most memorable marriage-oriented conversation I had at the library was with a sweet, well-meaning nine-year-old girl. She likes to hang out with me at the reference desk for extended periods of time when she comes in after school. One day, she grabbed my left hand and examined it, critically. Noticing how conspicuously bare my ring finger was, she gave me a puzzled look.

Her: “You’re not married?”

Me (cheerfully): “Nope.”

Her (skeptically): “Why not?”

And, well, things just got out of hand after that.

Disclosure: Having once made a perfectly useless offer to a Famous Dave’s server in Minnesota, I know the meaning of “overzealous.”

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Rockets fizzle

The depleted Houston Rockets, missing Yao Ming, Aaron Brooks and Chase Budinger — though Budinger was listed as available — managed to hang close for about fifteen minutes, but the Thunder were anxious to show that they can actually win big in the Froze Center, and they won big enough to persuade Scott Brooks to let eleven guys play: for the first time in I don’t know how long, Oklahoma City won four quarters in a row to post a 116-99 win in front of a slightly-less-than-sellout crowd.

In fact, OKC had enough of a lead to give the starters a rest; only Russell Westbrook (21 points, 12 assists) played more than 30 minutes. Serge Ibaka, still starting in place of the injured Jeff Green, wangled 11 points and eight boards, and if Ibaka were bucking for Green’s slot at the four, he’s making a pretty good case for himself. The Thunder hit exactly half their shots and went 5-12 from beyond the arc. Telltale stat: OKC gave up only eight turnovers, apart from the dribble-out, this game. They’ve had quarters this year with more turns than that.

Meanwhile, Houston had the always-scary Luis Scola, who outscored everyone (including Kevin Durant) tonight with 26, hitting 12 of 19. Perhaps the nicest surprise the Rockets got was the continuing development of rookie guard Ish Smith, who tied his career high of 12 points and served up five dimes in 25 minutes. But there really wasn’t a whole lot for Rick Adelman to be happy about.

Up next: a back-to-back on the road, Friday at Boston, Saturday at Milwaukee. In back-to-backs so far, the Thunder have been dropping the first one and winning the second. I suspect this pattern will continue, at least through this weekend.

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Mrs Butterworth, line two, please

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Careful with that bacon, Eugene

From my Twitter stream yesterday morning: “Should we assume an apron shortage in the UK?”

Here’s why:

It’s not quite the naked chef, but according to a new poll, one in 10 men likes to cook in the nude.

The extraordinary statistic was revealed today in a study of the cooking habits of 3,000 men and women across the country — with 12 per cent of men saying they prefer to do it in the buff, compared to just four per cent of women.

Based on that loaded word “prefer,” which suggests multiple experiences, I suspect that this is the percentage of unclothed folks who have already burned something unfortunate and lived to tell.

Again, this is a survey from the United Kingdom. Stateside, I suspect guys who cook are more likely to be on the back porch manning the grill, a location which does not always lend itself well to nudity.

And since when is 12 percent “one in 10″?

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Not available

News Item: [TMZ reported Tuesday] that Tony Parker had filed for divorce from Eva Longoria. But a rep for Eva tells TMZ that that is not true and that Tony doesn’t even have a divorce lawyer.

So Eva continues to be off the market. Not that this affects my plans in any way, except to give me an excuse to put up a picture:

Eva Longoria in 2008

This was, if I recall correctly, a publicity shot taken prior to the 2008-09 season of Desperate Housewives.

Note: I didn’t watch the TV coverage of the Spurs-Thunder game Sunday night — I followed it on the radio — so I have no idea if Eva was on hand to watch Tony lead all scorers with 24.

Update: Then again… (See Comments.)

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The future of medicine

It may well involve a whole new class of patients:

The Pepper Dog’s full panel blood test cost $89.00. Four bucks more than a non-insured human has to pay. If I were an M.D. I’d be trading up to a better class of patient and one more letter, D.V.M.

Not to mention the fact that nobody’s come up with a way for the government to take over veterinary medicine.


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Magoo, you’ve done it again

Bob Rivers’ Twisted Tunes conglomerate once issued a Sammy Hagar parody as sung by an old fart with “one foot in the grave and one on the gas.” The title, of course, was “I Can’t Drive, I’m 65.”

Inasmuch as I’m approaching this threshold, I am of course concerned about my ability to function on the New American Highway. (Actually, given the paucity of road funds these days, it may not be an issue at all, since traffic will be backed up from here to Laredo eight years from now, and sitting still doesn’t require much in the way of physical skills.) But apparently cognitive training via videogaming can be at least somewhat beneficial to the aging driver:

The study of 908 motorists aged 65 or older was conducted by giving one group memory training, one group reasoning training and one group speed-of-processing training and comparing the occurrence of accidents to a control group. The result: memory training had few effects on the number of at-fault vehicle crashes, reasoning training had a moderate effect and speed-of-processing had the greatest effect. The study used software from Posit Science including DriveSharp and InSight, both of which bill themselves as a mix of brain-building and entertainment.

Mean age of the research subjects was 73; the range was 65 to 91. (PDF of the results here.) Still unanswered: if actual driving games like Gran Turismo might be even better.

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