Message received

From the “Mysterious Ways” file:

I would like to share a story of an angel. I went to sell my rings to pay for Makayla’s dental surgery. Got an offer from jeweler, when I was pulling out of the parking lot a man handed me an envelope with a $1000 said hope it helps. It also paid for my surgery on the 12th. Angels are among us, have faith in God and mankind. Bless all of you.

Scripture is full of miraculous tales, and for some of us, it’s awfully easy to think, “Well, that was then, this is now.”

Well, this was day before yesterday.

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And when he drives, people can see his car

This guy is already getting mocked on Yahoo! Answers, but since most of you have enough sense to avoid that particular time sink, I’m porting his complaint over here. “Some websites have been displaying my IP address to the public,” he says. “How do I make them stop?”

I was curious about what an IP address is, so I googled “What is my IP Address?” and all the websites I found keep displaying the same random number, so I phoned SHAW [a major Canadian ISP] and asked them instead what an IP is.

They told me what it was and then told me what my personal IP was, and to my shock, it’s the same as the ones displayed on all of those websites.

These sites are handing out my personal information to millions of people around the world, I need to make them stop as soon as possible, and I may be taking legal action. Does anybody know what would be a good starting point for all of this?

“Pulling the plug” comes most immediately to my mind.

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Sort of limited camouflage

The Car and Driver guys (August) got a chance to play with Caterpillar’s new D7E, a 30-ton behemoth of a ‘dozer with sort of a hybrid drivetrain. Like most of its brethren past, the D7E generally ships in the same shade of yellow as that mustard you bought at the dollar store, but this is not the same bogus any-color-you-want deal Henry Ford used to pull: as long as you’re signing the check for $600,000 (at $10 a pound, it’s cheaper than ribeyes), they’ll happily apply some different paint, and this is where I do my best Johnny Carson Memorial “I did not know that”:

[D]id you know that machines destined for landfills are often painted blue? That’s done in an effort to fool birds into thinking they’re looking down at water. Apparently they prefer to launch their sloppy missiles onto land, and this tactic reduces the amount of guano spattering dozers.

This tactic doesn’t occur to drivers of actual cars, only 12 percent of whom opt for blue. It may be that the birds are not impressed by that small a body of fake water.

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No cure for Hogwarts

There continue to be calls for “please, just one more sequel,” though I hardly think J. K. Rowling will go in this direction:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Vuvuzela

(Concocted by the legendary MC Thumbtack.)

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Strangest spring we ever saw

I’m not asking you to forget Moose and Squirrel, but I do think you’ll be at least slightly interested in Moose and Sprinkler, especially with Alison Krauss on the soundtrack.

(Swiped from Mrs Suderman.)

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Sport futility

I’ve mentioned before (most recently here) that I’d prefer a normally-dimensioned wagon to the current crop of SUVs and simulated SUVs (usually designated “crossovers”). I am not particularly doctrinaire about this, by which I mean that if someone gave me, say, a Toyota RAV4 for Christmas, I wouldn’t pitch a hissy fit. And I’m not quite as hardline as Arthur St. Antoine appears to be in this opening to a luxo-SUV comparison in Motor Trend (July):

Please answer the following question as honestly as possible:

I require a sport/utility vehicle because:

(A) I chase gazelle across the Gobi Desert (well, I do some camping in locales without electrical outlets).

(B) A huge and rugged vehicle is essential for visiting the farmer’s market, picking up fresh organic greens, and chauffeuring Dacoda to her pottery class.

If you answered “B,” close this magazine immediately, shred it, place the tatters in your compost heap, and buy a Honda Civic.

The comparo, incidentally, was won by a Land Rover LR4, which seems somehow appropriate for chasing gazelle.

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Cankular momentum

Somehow this doesn’t seem like a good idea:

After countless cracks about Hillary Clinton’s calves and Gold’s Gym recent Cankle Awareness Campaign, it’s no surprise women are turning to cosmetic surgeons for help with a perceived new problem: chubby cankles. But is surgery to the delicate ankle area a good idea? Some plastic surgeons say liposuctioning the lower leg is definitely doable (a French cosmetic surgeon recently discussed his success with the technique at the annual meeting of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons).

Sounds creepy to me, and I’m a bona fide leg man.

But others point to severe pain, excessive post-surgery swelling and a lengthy recovery time as arguments against cankle lipo. “The ankle is a tough area,” says Dr. Joel Schlessinger, a board certified dermatologist from Omaha, Neb. “There’s not a lot of fat there but there are a lot of nerves and blood vessels and the lymphatics that allow fluid to drain are somewhat less available in that area. Trauma to them can lead to swelling which leads to a prolonged recovery.” As Schlessinger puts it, “There are so many other areas where tumescent liposuction performs brilliantly. But this isn’t one of them.”

Not to mention the fact that you can buy a lot of pantsuits, or just dark hose, for the amount you’d pay to have this drainage done.

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Is your dachshund undocumented?

Listen up, because the City of Brotherly Love is about to give you some shih tzu:

The City of Philadelphia has outsourced a firm, PetData, a Texas firm (once again throwing jobs out of Philadelphia) to license all dogs in Philadelphia. Now, only 10% of the City actually licenses their dogs. That comes out to about 2.5 million “undocumented” canines in the City.

This is an insane idea. Very few dog owners in this City, even people who work at pet stores, know about this law and the penalties incurred for not following it.

Apparently the idea was to do this without anyone noticing:

The City of Philadelphia didn’t notify anyone about it. Most complainants against the law say they didn’t find out about it until their dog was missing and picked up by the SPCA.

At which point they were presumably fined $300, plus $16 for the first year’s license fee.

Then again, it’s probably what people have come to expect these days:

So far, Mayor Nutter’s administration has alienated soda drinkers, cigarette smokers, home owners, parents of kids that go to private school, parents concerned about the proximity of sicko sex offenders to their home, public transit commuters, private businesses and now dog owners.

Nutter will get reelected, though. Like Mussolini kept the trains running on time, Nutter kept the public pools open.

On the other hand, with a name like “Nutter,” surely he can come up with an interesting spay/neuter plan, can’t he?

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Not your father’s HUMMER

In fact, this little Tweety-colored beastie is not a HUMMER at all: it’s a first-generation Scion xB that thinks it’s an H4.

Scion xB with HUMMER body kit

If you’re wondering why someone would do such a thing, the reason is probably something like this:

This Hummerified xB was parked in the field that serves as the parking lot for the Oregon Country Fair, an annual hippie festival that typically trebles the number of mysterious, quirky and incomprehensible cars in and around Eugene for several weeks each summer.

Given this milieu, the EcoHUMMER is almost certainly intended as a parody of the HUMMER aesthetic, albeit at a significant penalty to the xB’s impressive around-town efficiency. Which seems a little self-defeating, and based on the reaction of several nappy-headed gents lounging nearby, the irony (or whatever they call it these days) of the retrofit was lost on the fair’s more thoroughly laid-back elements. “Like, why would someone do that?” one glassy-eyed fellow asked his friend. “Like, why would he want to make his car look like that?”

Still, it’s a fitting tribute to HUMMER’s polarizing influence, that someone was inspired to retrofit a Japanese city car to resemble one. It’s even more fitting that reactions to a replica HUMMER are just as confused, emotional and intense as they are to the real thing.

I’m guessing the vehicle flanking the faux-HUMMER is a genuine Mercedes-Benz turbo-diesel — running on vegetable oil, of course.

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Too much social

Did you ever get the feeling that there were just too many connections out there?

Everything on the internet has been made social, which, for all the great rhetoric, means we find out when people who are on our digital friends lists are at McDonalds, or we are faced with a pile of confusing symbols that seem to suggest # and @ are taking over the language.

I would like to prune my Facebook friends list. I’m afraid this would either hurt people’s feelings or, possibly worse, they wouldn’t even notice. I would like to prune my Twitter list down to people I either know or who are writing things that build up my thought life though, again, I don’t want to offend someone.

I would like to turn off comments on this slowly dying blog.

Confession of sorts: She announced later that she had, indeed, pruned her Facebook friends list. I immediately dragged my own list out of its normally-undisturbed slot on the left sidebar to see if I’d been eased out. I hadn’t. (And then, being me, I wondered how I’d managed to get onto her list in the first place.)

How do you say “I don’t know you. You’re probably very nice. I can’t add your voice to the mix right now. Sorry.”

Just like that, I suppose.

It’s a lot of noise, you know. It splits my attention far too much. I neglect important things when I’m busy in the care of everything. I envy my friend, in some ways, who never created a Facebook account, or anything similar. “Don’t do it,” I said. “Just don’t.”

I question my own wisdom in creating a Facebook account. Yet it’s kept connections open among some people who need connections open: myself, my ex, our two children, and by extension their 4.3 children. It’s brought me back in touch with people I used to visit a decade ago; it’s brought me back in touch with people who built the local modem community 25 years ago; it’s even brought me back in touch with people from my high-school class, which graduated 41 years ago.

But I can’t allow it to become a time sink, which is why I’ve automated so much of the process: spending all day on Facebook (or worse, on Twitter) is bad for one’s mental health, and not conducive to holding a job.

So I left her a note, not on Twitter, not on Facebook, but on that “slowly dying blog.” It read something like this:

I am always just a trifle unnerved when you venture into “Why bother?” territory, mostly because I know this isn’t as important to you as Real Life — and it shouldn’t be — but partly because I’ll miss you when you’re not around.

Clumsy, but true. There are times in our lives when that’s the best we can do.

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Buckeye Joads

I’m proud to be an Okie from … Ohio?

My best friend from high school recently moved to Charleston [South Carolina], following her boyfriend. She said there is a very distinctive anti-Ohio attitude in the city.

It got me thinking about The Grapes of Wrath, with its references to the derogatory “Okies” from Oklahoma that fled Midwestern dust bowl despair for California’s lettuce bowl during the Great Depression.

Are Ohioians the new Okies?

I guess I never thought much about how our economic diaspora might be affecting other communities. Aren’t we the ones responsible for the gangbuster real estate industry in the South?

Two points before we go further:

  • Oklahoma is not in the Midwest. Borrow a map.
  • I lived in Charleston for most of the 1960s, and while I didn’t have any particular problems with assimilation, at the very top of the social scale I could detect the slightest hint of “What, you can’t trace your ancestors back to 1670?” (It didn’t help that when I finally managed to get a girlfriend, she had a family tree going back all the way to King Richard, and the first King Richard at that. And no, she didn’t wave this in my face; I found it out much later.)

But let’s continue:

According to my friend, Natalie, however, the job market in Charleston is abysmal. In Ohio, she sold print advertising. Now the college graduate is a waitress, and she’s not optimistic about her prospects.

Ohioans are attracted by South Carolina’s beaches and sun. About 40 percent of the state’s residents were born elsewhere. It is a “magnet state,” while Ohio is just the opposite. Natalie said all of her friends, a group of about 10, are from Ohio.

Charleston is a tourist town and it is has a tourist economy too. That means lots of service industry jobs, few corporate headquarters and a cyclical business season that all but shuts down in the off-season.

Then again, forty years ago people, especially young people, were trying to get the hell out of South Carolina, which they considered backward, hidebound, and excessively sweaty.

So this, too, I suspect, is cyclical. I don’t feel out of place in the Carolina Low Country — I’ve been back for short visits twice since I moved away — but I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of it as the sort of place where I could put down roots. Maybe it’s just due to the fact that by the time I reached an age where the idea of “roots” started to matter to me, I’d already wound up as, you should pardon the expression, an Okie.

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Not for stone-throwers

I’m putting this up mostly because it would make Trini’s eyes bug out, fan of startling architecture that she is:

Glass house by Drew Mandel

This house was designed by Toronto architect Drew Mandel, and it’s featured in Atom Egoyan’s 2009 erotic thriller Chloe. You can just see Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson living there, right?

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper can see herself living there, were the following conditions met:

[I]f I had jillions of dollars, and a ton of Windex to keep all the fingerprints off the glass, and perhaps no toddler who would completely fall down those unguarded stairs, I would love to live here.

Having once managed to fall down unguarded stairs in a house with a whole lot less glass than that, I can see her point.

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Outflanking maneuver

Now this just might have potential:

[W]hile the left is all in favor of diversity, professors in fields with “studies” in the name (and in the liberal farts in general) are often US-born and thus “privileged” (to use the left’s own term) in comparison to the rest of the world. Why not have a kamikaze propose that grievance studies professors must all be H1-Bs from Third World countries? To the left: “Why are you against more opportunities for Third World scholars?”

Given the vast quantity of absurdum in the Groves of Academe, the occasional reductio ought to do them some good.

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The rats of NIMBY

This is not something you want to see with your breakfast cereal:

[T]here it is, in living color and bold as brass, a middle-sized member of the rodentia, upon whose species the [Indiana] Department of Natural Resources is spending a half-million of my money in order to reintroduce. Them. Of which. (Grammer-MEDIC!)

Psst, DNR? It’s a RAT. Eats some of your food, fouls the rest. Just like the cute little white-footed mouse the paper tells me they resemble. State bird biologist John Castrale — who I’d like to think may have more of an eye on hawk and eagle food than he lets on, but that’s just me — is quoted saying, “These species were here for thousands of years … we have an ethical responsibility to maintain … diversity.” Wonder how he’d react to an infestation of brown roaches? They’ve got all kinds of seniority, their species havin’ “been here” for millions of years!

Neotoma magister, as it happens, makes the IUCN Red List as “Near Threatened,” which is rather a long way from “nearing extinction” and exactly one step above “Who gives a shit?” The name “Allegheny woodrat” should tell you that it’s kind of out of its range in Indiana, and this won’t make you think otherwise:

The Allegheny Woodrat prefers rocky outcrops associated with mountain ridges such as cliffs, caves, talus slopes, and even mines. This is mostly true for Pennsylvania and Maryland. In Virginia and West Virginia, woodrats are found on ridges but also on side slopes in caves and talus (boulders and breakdown) fields. The surrounding forest is usually deciduous.

We’ll give the Hoosiers “deciduous,” but that’s about as far as we need to go. And it’s not like we evil humans are driving the species to extinction:

Whatever supposedly-valuable niche is filled by a critter whose job it is to ruin my cornflakes, we can do without it. We can especially do without havin’ to put rats on Welfare with my tax money. Doggone it, they’ve failed at the species’ most iconic behavior and if the little thieves can’t manage to breed like, f’pity’s sake, rats, we should not be proppin’ them up.

Aside: A deceased field mouse showed up in the hallway at 42nd and Treadmill this morning. I was not motivated to mourn.

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Bucharestive

Romania’s prime minister Emil Boc has announced a 5-point increase in the nation’s VAT, to 24 percent, in an effort to guarantee $25 billion worth of bailout courtesy of the International Monetary Fund.

The austerity plan negotiated by Boc and the IMF calls for a reduction in the national deficit from 7.2 percent of output to 6.8.

The Romanian government also plans to cut salaries of public-sector employees by 25 percent; an effort to cut public-sector pensions by 15 percent was ruled out by the nation’s Constitutional Court.

Comparison: For 2010, the US deficit was 10.64 percent of GDP.

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Strange search-engine queries (230)

Another Monday, another trek through Deep Server Loggage, in the hopes of finding something worth reporting before Al Gore gets his globally-warmed little hands on it.

mary fallin topless:  This would not get her elected governor, I suspect. Not that I’d want to discourage her or anything.

meaning of atomic dust:  It means that our quantum mechanics and such aren’t any better at housekeeping than the rest of us.

double dork butt rash:  Remember when punk bands had punchy names?

nano anvil:  Currently under development by Acme for the new Warner Bros. series Really Tiny Toon Adventures.

become invisible (just like a vampire or ghost!) poof:  This may not save you if there’s a nano anvil heading for your scalp.

what do 2 and L mean on transmission changes?  You wanted to learn how to drive, hotshot. Now RTFM.

al gore no shirt:  Well, of course. Have you noticed how warm it is?

dissolve bikini form nsfw:  Not safe for beaches, either, necessarily.

hitl hitler the hitlest:  If I is the hitler, you is the hitlee.

i’m losing my ability to conversate:  That should cut down on the talkage around here.

nonce’s bolt hole mr. tourette’s:  Aw, stick it in your own bolt hole.

anything wrong with using a slightly “expired enema”:  Aw, stick it in your own bolt hole.

“where oh where can my baby be” cthulhu:  The Bholes took her away from me / She’s in the Dreamlands so I got to take care / And maybe we’ll be reunited there.

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