And a shortage of blinker fluid

When you say that the electrical system of a car is “flatly insane,” it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that said car is some misbegotten British box whose electrons are flowed sporadically at the whim of Lucas, Prince of Darkness. “With a monopoly in place,” says the anonymous Wikipedant, “Lucas proceeded to supply electrical equipment that was commonly cited as the best reason not to buy a British car.”

Yet somehow, without buying from Lucas, the Americans managed to duplicate the experience, as Ric Locke explains:

The electrical system is quite flatly insane. Things work or not according to some scheme I have not yet identified, probably having to do with the phases of the moons on some planet in the Andromeda galaxy. For instance, the turn signals — which are driven by the computer, not anything simple like a flasher module — are supposed to have an audible signal, a soft beep each time they flash. That started working one afternoon last September, worked perfectly for a day and a half, and hasn’t worked since.

Most annoyingly, from time to time it just stops. While traveling down the road the engine quits as if the ignition had been turned off — no coughs and spits like fuel starvation, no “run down”, no nothing; just one moment running, the next moment not. So far it has not yet failed to start again once the transmission lever is set in Neutral and the ignition is switched off and on to reboot the computers, but it’s annoying as can be. (No, I don’t think it’s a Windows operating system. That’s barely possible for the time period, but the logo doesn’t show up anywhere.)

Early-90s Mazdas showed signs of this latter, which was eventually traced to thermal overload in the ignitor. This part was theoretically available separately, but part places in general and dealers in particular would rather have sold you the entire distributor.

On a car of a Certain Age, however, I tend to suspect that the wiring harness has assumed the general shape and inscrutability of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (pasta be upon him), and only divine intervention can save it.

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Without benefit of visuals

As most of you have noticed by now, I have long been mystified by the appeal of fishnets, and by “long” I mean for at least seven years, even at those moments when I’m inclined to celebrate their presence.

Sienna Miller, in this clip, explains the process to Steve Buscemi:

Well, okay, if you say so. I’d like to think there’s a bit less BDSM to it, but what do I know?

(Via Ferdinand Bardamu.)

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Quote of the week

Ready for the Federal government to be shrunk to a more manageable size? Don’t hold your breath while you wait:

Remember that money is at stake. If, for example, a federal Cabinet department were deemed unConstitutional, it would open the way for claims that the funding for that department had been illegally appropriated and must be returned via a tax rebate. But governments give no refunds, now or ever. It would be the height of absurdity to imagine that the trillions of dollars poured into the Department of Health and Human Services, for example, would be returned to American taxpayers, even if it could be raised.

On the other hand, seeing it declared defunct, its regulations vacated, its facilities emptied, and its personnel scattered to the four winds, would almost make up for not getting a check for the proceeds, wouldn’t it?

No one in federal office will vote for any diminution of Washington’s power to tax and tyrannize us — certainly not with retroactive effect. Any vows of fidelity to the Constitution made by Congress over these next two years will be tactical only.

Which is likely true, but as tactics go, we’ve all seen worse.

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However many weeks’ notice

The Man of the West tells us of the resignation letter he’s actually going to send, and then of the resignation letter he feels like sending. Scissored from the latter:

I have to be on good terms with the rich and the poor, with the native and the foreigner, with the saints and with the wickedest of the reprobate. I have had to extract information from people who do not speak the language and from people whose illnesses render them no longer able to speak at all. I have had to communicate with people who cannot hear and with people who cannot see.

Possession of these characteristics, alas, does not apparently pay well:

I don’t begrudge you the cost-saving moves; that’s just business. I am just saying that effectively cutting my pay doesn’t really constitute an incentive for me to stay.

Traditionally, one quotes Johnny Paycheck and/or David Allan Coe at a time like this, but sometimes it takes Jello Biafra.

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Andrew Ian Dodge, who knows about such things, advises that we’re CoTVing into the 112th Congress with this week’s edition of the Carnival of the Vanities, the 407th in the series.

Of course, the 112th Congress hasn’t done a whole lot yet. I suspect, though, that it will be a lot like its predecessor: anxious to put its stamp on things which won’t particularly arouse the electorate. For instance, there was a measure to designate May as National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. (If you’re not aware of either asthma or allergies, raise your hand.) More than a hundred co-sponsors signed up for H.Res.407.

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Depletion allowance

Last Thunder/Mavericks clash, Dirk Nowitzki played barely a quarter before retiring to the locker room with a sprained knee, but the Mavs won that one anyway. This time, Dallas was still Dirkless, and Caron Butler, poor fellow, is out for the season with a ripped tendon. Despite that, the Mavs jumped out to an early lead and were up 55-51 at the half, at which time Scott Brooks gave the Thunder a spelling lesson, emphasizing the letter D. OKC outscored Dallas 22-15 in the third quarter, and ran out to a double-digit lead in the fourth. Then in the last minute, DeShawn Stevenson rolled out two consecutive treys and nearly pulled off a steal on the next possession; Kevin Durant nailed two free throws, the Thunder got a stop, Rick Carlisle wandered out onto the court for some reason, Durant handed him the ball for no apparent reason, and Stevenson put up one more trey before the horn, making the final score 99-95.

All the Dallas starters posted double figures, except Jason Kidd, who didn’t score at all but did get ten rebounds. Shawn Marion, who’s been shooting over 50 percent most of the season, had an admirable 25 points; Tyson Chandler, ever ferocious, got 14 points and 18 boards. Were Nowitzki and Butler missed? No doubt; but there’s also no doubt that the Mavs know how to step up.

Telltale statistic: Oklahoma City pulled off 13 steals. (The Mavs had four.) This was a game of ball movement, first and foremost: 41 assists (OKC 23, Dallas 18), and only three blocked shots. Durant finished at 28, about his average; Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green returned to form, and Serge Ibaka had eight rebounds and hit six of six shots in 24 minutes — and accumulated, again, six fouls.

So the Mavs win this series 2-1, but I suspect we’re not done with these guys just yet. In the meantime, the Grizzlies will be in town Saturday; next week, it’s an odd back-to-back, at Houston on Wednesday, followed by a visit from the Magic on Thursday.

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Perhaps she’ll have a Spanish guitar

Fark blurb:  Toni Braxton might unwear her dress for Playboy.

She tweets:

New Year, New opportunities. So I have been considering taking up Playboy’s offer to feature me on their cover this year. What you think?

Well …

Toni Braxton circa 2009

You won’t see me complain, although I’m pretty sure Hef isn’t running out of twentysomethings just yet. (Besides, it’s just a cover; it’s not a pictorial, fercryingoutloud.) And anyway, she could use a few extra bucks right about now.

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Mark his words

For some time, Ferris O’Brien has been buying quarter-pages in the Gazette to promote The Spy; last week’s ad said simply “We are The Spy.”

This week’s ad says: “We are The Spy™.”

I have a feeling things are about to get interesting.

(If you haven’t heard them lately, they’re at

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Mrs Johnson strikes back

“Harper Valley P.T.A.” came up on the shuffle during the commute, and for just a moment I flashed back on the killer line: “And then you have the nerve to tell me, you think that as a mother I’m not fit.”

And I remembered hoping against hope that in the next line Jeannie C. Riley would have sung, um, something else to rhyme with that. Wasn’t going to happen, of course — it was 1968, after all, and writer Tom T. Hall, iconoclast that he was, still wasn’t about to break an AM-radio taboo — but to this day, I find myself thinking up more forceful denunciations of that little Peyton Place.

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Beware of the blah

It creeps, and leaps, and glides and slides across the road, and it might just make you a worse driver:

If you’re bored during your drive to work, there’s a greater chance you’ll speed, a new study from Australian researchers says.

The [Newcastle University] study, which looked at 1,563 drivers, found people are willing to take more risks behind the wheel if they aren’t enjoying the ride.

Well, of course; we want to get it over with quick, because it’s so dreary, drab and dull, and besides, we have to get around that rolling chicane from the Anti-Destination League who proclaims to the world how moral he is by going 58.5 in a 60 zone in the left lane.

Besides, it’s not like we have to spend 90 percent of our time avoiding lift-throttle oversteer:

“As cars come fitted with more gadgets to make driving easier and planners remove more of the distractions, it comes as no surprise to me that people are finding the pleasure of driving has become rather a chore. With that comes an increase in the risks drivers take as they mentally switch-off instead of focusing on the road,” professor of transport Edmund King said in a release about the study.

“Oh, I’ll just answer this one text, and —”

“We may need to start considering some radical schemes such as putting bends back into roads or introducing the concept of shared space as it would force motorists to think about their driving and pedestrians to think about cars,” [lead researcher Dr Joan] Harvey said.

There’s no scheme more radical than forcing people to think, especially since so many of them would rather not.

(Via Autoblog.)

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A house of cards divided

Somewhere around half the population pays somewhere around none of the income tax, and Fausta sees this as a disparate-impact issue:

This means that a lot of people do not have their earnings directly decreased and seized by the government the way the earnings of the tax-paying minority are. Abstractions like federal deficits don’t hit you in the gut directly; having half (or more) of your yearly earnings taken away does. Until and unless each and every wage earner is taxed, nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, is going to change.

They might actually be paying Social Security and Medicare taxes, which are not exactly insubstantial, but the government persists in the fiction that somehow those taxes are different, despite the fact that everybody (well, okay, not everybody) knows that it all ends up going into the same bucket, and that the ostensible Trust Funds contain, at best, a fistful of dusty $2 bills and a stack of freshly-issued IOUs. We would be better served by an end to this particular fairy tale.

And since “OMG they’re going to tax poor people!” will not sit well with overpaid editorial writers and political hacks, I propose we invert Fausta’s insight: “Until and unless no wage earner is taxed, nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, is going to change.” Hey, it worked through 1912.

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In search of rank, I reckon

Search-engine optimization, I said once upon a time, is the 21st-century version of phrenology. Not that this discourages folks from attempting to game the system. For instance, here’s Mickey Kaus:

Why does this item have a cheesy headline like “Krugman vs. the Whippersnappers!”? Hey, you try to Search Engine Optimize an item like this. Google is the enemy of forthrightness, and of good humor. In the future, every headline will have the words “Sarah Palin” in it.

Hmmm. Nobody reads my Sarah stuff, unless there’s a photo involved. Then again, I’m not exactly running a Mickey Kaus operation here.

(Suggested by Fishersville Mike.)

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Further adventures in tracking

Those of you who pay attention to the shoe stuff around here might possibly remember that a few days back, I wandered onto and noticed that they had recommendations for me, one of which I posted here to see what kind of reaction it might get. I decided to wait a while, then go back and see if they had something new for me.

Which they did:

Whirl by Stuart Weitzman

Before you: Stuart Weitzman’s “Whirl,” a sandal which meets my definition of “insubstantial”, in a color called Bronze. There’s also an Oyster version, which you might find more useful if you’re visiting the Neutral Zone, though I should point out that one reviewer took exception to the color descriptions and returned both pairs. The heel stands a moderate (for these days) 3¾ inches; the upper is kid; the price, for the moment, is almost 50 percent off, albeit still too close to $200.

I’ll go back in a week or two and see what else they’ve cooked up.

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Point of no return

Terry Teachout was kind enough to quote David R. Dow:

[T]he day I decided to propose was the day I realized I would never run out of things to talk to her about and I would never get tired of looking at her.

Similarly, these.

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There’s almost an app for that

The American Association for Nude Recreation now has its own iPhone app, including a directory of AANR-affiliated clubs.

However, you can’t actually click on the club sites: you’ll have to enter those URLs on your own, Apple being disinclined to allow anything in an app that runs the risk of showing more than trivial quantities of flesh with a single click. I’m guessing that Apple is still steamed about that whole Garden of Eden thing.

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The Drs are in

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