Andrew Ian Dodge in his infinite wisdom has dedicated the 399th Carnival of the Vanities to “the poor sods trapped in CCHQ yesterday,” CCHQ being the headquarters of Britain’s Conservative Party in London, S.W.1.

Had the Tories 399 seats in Parliament, they wouldn’t have had to form a coalition government, but CCHQ is acutely aware of that and therefore I don’t need to mention it here. So I’ll throw in a reference to party chair The Right Honourable The Baroness Warsi, PC, who serves as Minister Without Portfolio in David Cameron’s Cabinet, and who argued in September that one reason the Conservatives did not win a majority of seats was outright electoral fraud, mostly on behalf of Labour.

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Quote of the week

TrueHoop’s Henry Abbott, arguing against the principle, in basketball and elsewhere, that everything in life can be boiled down to statistics:

Minerals, the most inert and immovable of things, are two-thirds the result of all these little organisms running around, falling in love, and doing all the silly and un-rocklike things we do. The mighty white cliffs of Dover wouldn’t have even existed were it not for all those plankton. Skin cells falling off our bodies right now might be mashed up, stepped on, carried away, and reprocessed into some totemic future equivalent of the Grand Canyon or Empire State Building.

It’s getting tougher to believe in static things at all. If those enormous cliffs are themselves depend on a process that involves all those whimsical little organisms, it’s kind of hard to believe that much of anything is really still. It’s hard to believe that anything is “like a rock” in the way we are used to thinking about that phrase. If you watch for enough years, just about any darned thing can change.

That does not mean jack about the NBA — except, just a little, doesn’t it make you a little suspicious of anyone peddling the idea that everything that matters could be explained simply? The crosscurrents of life result in the tremendous rocks, for crying out loud.

Perhaps it could be explained simply, had we access to all the information. Unfortunately, that privilege is not available to us at this time/in this place [choose one or more].

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There’s an app for that?

Well, no, not yet. But there ought to be:

Augmented Reality Available Girl Locator

I’m reasonably certain this could be easily adapted to locate guys as well.

Also suggested: an app that determines whether you need a shower. Then again, if you’re wondering if you need a shower, you need a shower. Trust me.

(Suggested by the Consumerist.)

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Call answered

If there’s a blog equivalent of “radio silence,” Smitty will be maintaining it for the next year or so: a Navy reservist, he’s been called up, and he’ll be storming the beach at Kabul next month. (Okay, “beach” may not be the word. Doesn’t matter at this point.)

Some of his parting words:

The exceptional American dedication to individualism, the ideals of the Constitution, and the courageous soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in whose bigger footsteps I follow make it all worth it. I’ve benefitted so much from the American people, educationally and otherwise. Thus, it’s with a sense of gratitude to you that I depart on this set of orders, finishing out my Navy Reserve career in active duty style.

From an old Army man to a seasoned Navy officer, a heartfelt salute.

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University communications are apparently now replete with txtspk:

A professor friend told a story just this week about receiving an e-mail including a student excuse and “FML.” This, obviously, is not appropriate.

I also recently received an e-mail from a journalism senior that included this type of abbreviated communication. I ignored the first case, although I thought it was highly inappropriate, and responded to the student’s concern. The next e-mail was practically incoherent because it contained so many of these abbreviations. I felt like I need a codebook to read it. I was offended. I hit delete.

I think I’d have sent back “tl;dr,” but then that’s just me.

Anyway, a stand is being taken:

[I]f a student wants to ask a question of their faculty, adviser, mentor, boss, professional reference, etc., they should use professional language — no matter how informal the communication method might be. Using informal language in these types of communications sends a message, and it’s not positive.

Bonus points for proper pronoun agreement, where appropriate.

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Hence the word “Marvel”

Dear God, another Zooey story, and this time Peter Parker is involved:

Deschanel would reportedly star in the Spider-Man reboot as Elizabeth “Betty” Brant, the assistant to Peter’s fast-talking, hard-edged boss J. Jonah Jameson at the Daily Bugle. Actress Elizabeth Banks dyed her blonde locks brown to play the character in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, but Miss Brant was never a major player in those films. Showbiz Spy indicates that that could change in [Marc] Webb’s reboot and claims that the director has “big plans” for the character and “wants a strong performer to carry the role and Zooey fits the bill perfectly. The role is hers if she wants it.”

At least it’s not Katy Perry.

(Via Fark.)

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We’d all hate to see the plan

Ted Rall (!) fomenting revolution? It is to laugh. And Ric Locke does:

If you intend to engage in violent revolution, history and experience hath shewn that there are two irreducible requirements:

1) You must provide yourself with arms, and have both the skill and fortitude to use them;

2) You must suborn the Army, and attract its leadership to promotion of the Cause.

Now the chances that leftazoids of the Rall stripe (three guesses where said stripe is, and bonus points for the RGB color code) will be able to pull this off are next to nil. They have next to no influence in the armed services, except among the Truly Disgruntled, but the real failure comes in that first item:

[P]eople who go directly into Cheyne-Stokes breathing when a lapel flops open to reveal a perfectly legal .38 Special being carried by a person who has been better “vetted” for responsibility than the average police officer are unlikely to successfully take up arms.

Bottom line: You’re better off carrying those pictures of Chairman Mao.

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Walking in the rain

Cue the Ronettes:

I want him,
And I need him,
And some day, some way [whoa, whoa, whoa]
I’ll meet him.

This is the spirit behind Well hello there lover:

What’s this? Oh. It’s a dandelion string. Tied around a bundle of love letters. Written to you. My someday husband. Because … And mind you, this is a rather important detail … I’m already entirely mad about you.

Single guy, incidentally, is single.

(Via Crawdads in my Sink. See also, um, this.)

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Hammond cheese

Church mice, so far as I know, didn’t take a vow of poverty, but they are universally recognized as poor, and therefore presumably are discriminated against:

Advertisement for Mason and Hamlin organs

For some reason, this title burst its way into my head Monday afternoon after lunch; when I stumbled across this picture (thank you, TYWKIWDBI), I knew I had to put it to use.

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A 4-A family

In Selective Service parlance, classification 4-A means “registrant who has completed military service.” Not that we’re going to be drafted any time soon, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t pass the current physical anyway, but we’re just a bunch of happy veterans around here.

Or were, anyway. My mother was a sailor. My father was a sailor, and he was a soldier before that. Among the five children, you’d find a soldier (me), a soldier’s wife, a sailor, and two actual civilians. We’re pretty much awash in DD Forms 214. I remember those forms well; then again, in my capacity as an Army personnel clerk, I got to type rather a lot of them, including one with my name on it. And while 75C might not have been an aspirational MOS — I went through fairly-mundane clerk-typist (71B) training, despite already being a better typist than required — I’m pretty sure I would have made a rotten 71M (chaplain’s assistant).

Usually it doesn’t occur to me that I am in fact a veteran until Veterans’ Day rolls around; the very word, in the back of my mind, calls forth the image of someone battered and bruised, but still pushing forward. The Middle East, my final active-duty station, wasn’t much of a war zone in those days, or if it was, nobody knew about it; the mission, or at least a major portion of it, was to keep an eye on the late, unlamented Soviet Union, not enough kilometers to our north. (We were, of course, officially a “logistics” group.) It’s not like I was routinely getting a weapon pointed at me.

Then I remember that for every man in harm’s way, there were several men — and women — behind the scenes, supporting those missions. We’d been through the same basic combat training, and we knew that should the fan be struck by fecal matter, we wouldn’t have to go to the front: the front would come to us. (I got a lot more weapons practice in those days than I’m getting now, a situation I need to correct.)

Still, I’ve never felt as though I’d earned the “hero” badge: as Emerson says, the hero is not necessarily braver, but he’s braver five minutes longer. I’ve always wondered if I had it in me to hold out for those five minutes. (My brother Paul? You damn betcha. You told him he was going to parachute into hell to assassinate Lucifer, he’d have asked for a list of minor demons to take out while he was down there.) But maybe I have more gumption than I let on: historically, it’s the trivialities that have tripped me up, while I’ve more or less breezed through the big stuff. “Courage,” said counterculture scribe Ambrose Redmoon, “is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear.” Even if that’s just another way of putting the “ape” in “apricot,” it’s still pretty accurate.

This particular family is, physically anyway, somewhat diminished these days. But I take heart in the fact that, each in our own way, we came, we saw, and we kicked ass. It’s not something you have to be a veteran to appreciate — but it helps.

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Pesky defined

Last year’s Philadelphia 76ers were sad sacks, and everyone knew it: the Sixers blog Depressed Fan was so called without a trace of irony.

This year’s Sixers have more tenacity, if not, for the moment, an appreciably-better record; they hung with the Thunder for 45 minutes, until Oklahoma City remembered the D word, cranked down the defense a bit, and scored a 109-103 win over Philly.

The Sixers delivered your basic balanced attack: five players in double figures. Reserve guard Jodie Meeks was the late-game hero, knocking down four of five treys; Jrue Holiday, who fouled out with 30 seconds left, delivered 11 assists with panache. But this night, the Thunder would not be denied: Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each delivered 31 points, and Serge Ibaka, starting in place of the injured Jeff Green, added 12. For a change, Durant didn’t play 40-plus minutes, although 39:52 isn’t much of a break. OKC shot a respectable 49.3 percent, though they still can’t buy a trey (2-14). On the upside, nobody does it better from the charity stripe: we’re talking 35 of 37. (Westbrook missed two of 11.)

Sports pundits would have classified this game as a gimme: we’re supposed to beat the Sixers. Yeah, we were supposed to beat the Clippers too. Still, 4-3 is on the right side of .500, and that’s the place to be. Portland will be here Friday night — late Friday night, the needs of the tube being supreme — and I suspect that one will be a serious grind-out from the opening tip.

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Mine eyes gazeth over

“Rule 5″ popularizer (and five-million-hit recipient) Robert Stacy McCain, on why eye candy has been deemed Bad For Us:

Even as our culture has become increasingly sexualized, it has become increasingly taboo to acknowledge sexual differences. We are all supposed to be androgynously egalitarian in our attitudes, for to be otherwise is to discriminate, and everyone knows that discrimination is wrong.

To adapt a phrase from a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “You have to be carefully taught” such beliefs, and we have been taught quite carefully indeed. The de rigueur denunciation of sexism, like the de rigueur denunciation of racism, is a conditioned response, a Skinnerian reflex. Anyone who critically examines these reflexes — who disassembles them into their component parts and asks why we react this way — can expect to be indicted for these Deadly Sins of the Post-Christian Era merely for questioning the categories.

Or for mentioning that “discrimination” used to be a good word; your friendly neighborhood epicure, you could be sure, had discriminating tastes. Now you never hear it at all except in connection with someone’s grievances.

McCain opens his piece with a reference to Christine Craft, the Kansas City TV anchor who in 1981 was sacked for being, per the title of her book, “too old, too ugly, and not deferential to men.” Said I, back in 1997:

Not being the sort of person who speculates on a woman’s deference level, I paid little attention to that angle, but she struck me as neither old nor unattractive — not that either of those characteristics is essential to the task of reading wire copy.

But the task, as interpreted by her bosses at the station, wasn’t “reading wire copy”: it was drawing an audience, and ninety-something times out of a hundred, they’re going to prefer someone who looks like Halle Berry to someone who looks like Yogi Berra.

Ultimately, I suppose, this is a good argument for radio — or for print, if there’s any print left.

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Dialogue of the week

To no one’s surprise, it’s from The Lemon Stand:

Me — “How did your massage go?”

Husband — “Other than the fact that the massage therapist looked like a former member of the East German Olympic Swim Team?”

No, no picture.

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Now this is a scary headline

“Canadian couple find second python in their home.”

Just to add to the terror level:

One snake is an anomaly. Two snakes are a family. And a local pet store informed the couple that they’ll likely meet some reptilian siblings in the near future.

Where’s Samuel L. Jackson when you need him?

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Spheres of influence

“No parent,” said Bill Cosby, “can justify Brussels sprouts.”

I ate rather a lot of them when I was a kid, though this was due mostly to the fact that rather a lot of them were served, and fussy eaters did not get dessert, assuming there was dessert, which there usually wasn’t. So they don’t make my personal unloved foods list.

Still, I understand the sign:

Vegetables in a bin

And for less than one-fourth the price of green beans, yet.

(Found at Miss Cellania’s.)

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Work that thing

David Holzman at TTAC explains how he evaluates a motor vehicle before signing the check:

My modus operandi for test driving new cars is to push them. I make hard right turns off of main drags without slowing down. Repeatedly. I make hard U turns. I get going on the highway at 60-65 and jerk the car into the next lane, and then back. Brakes? EEEErrrrp!

I’m not quite that hard on them, but I’ve had my salesman-scaring moments. West of downtown, westbound Linwood eventually runs into Virginia and heads north-by-northwest. Which means that if you’re on Virginia northbound, getting onto Linwood eastbound is wider than a hairpin, but not much.

“They’ve really improved the handling on these,” said the man in the plaid jacket.

“Is that so?” said I, northbound on Virginia, a block south of Linwood. I promptly floored it and slid around the hairpin.

(Yes, he made the sale, but not for the car being tested.)

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