The regular crowd shuffles back out

Perhaps it’s not worth it to be distinctive anymore:

Nordstrom has been gradually cutting back on its in-store pianists in recent years. The Nordstrom store at Brea recently laid off many if not all of its piano players — an in-store manager declined to comment — while the store at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa also has terminated a number of people from its musical team. Some newer Nordstrom stores lack pianos altogether. Last year, the Orange County Register reported that the new Nordstrom at Fashion Island in Newport Beach opened without a piano.

My first impulse was to blame it all on people listening to their iPods while shopping, but the company tells it differently:

A spokesman for Nordstrom said in a statement that the company has “learned that most customers like the energy and environment that a more contemporary, recorded music offering helps create.”

The spokesman also said the company is “not getting rid of pianos in our stores completely, but the fact is that most of our stores across the country don’t feature a piano… We’re really sorry if some of these changes may disappoint some of our customers.”

There is apparently no truth to the rumor that Walmart will be recruiting kazoo players for their new West Coast Supercenters.

(Via Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings.)

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Damn, that hurts

Unfortunately, that utterance, in and of itself, is insufficient:

Scientists from Keele University found that letting forth a volley of foul language can have a powerful painkilling effect, especially for people who do not normally use expletives.

To test the theory, student volunteers placed their hands in a bucket of ice cold water while swearing repeatedly. They then repeated the exercise but, instead of swearing, used a harmless phrase instead.

Researchers found that the students were able to keep their hands submerged in the icy water for longer when repeating the swear word — establishing a link between swearing and an increase in pain tolerance.

Given the mood of the moment, it shouldn’t be too long before some other researchers discover that there are in fact no “harmless” phrases, that there is literally nothing you can say that can’t offend someone. Like I give a flying fish.

(Swiped from Fausta, dammit.)

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We are all subwoofers now

Apparently state law in Ohio forbids barking at a police dog:

[Ryan] Stephens, 25, of Mason, was charged with the misdemeanor taunting offense on April 3 after a police officer said Stephens was “making barking noises and was hissing at the police dog inside of the car,” a police report says.

Silly man. You’re only supposed to hiss at police cats.

Next question: Is Ohio one of the 16 states in which Happy Fun Ball is still legal?

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Marquee performance

We should all have moviehouses like this. Dennis Olson of Brands Are Opinions got this shot at Minneapolis’ Uptown Theatre in late March:

Now showing Jane Eyre

A couple of weeks later, look what they’re showing:

Now showing Kill the Irishman

It is, indeed, the title.

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Ford calls it the Third Age Suit, and it reflects the unfortunate (to me, anyway) reality that not all of its customers are young and/or lithe:

Restrictive apparel simulates the physical limitations associated with arthritic joints, failing eyesight and poor hearing. Since its inception, the suit has been instrumental in the design of cars with backup cameras and a more elderly-friendly “H-point,” known to us non-engineers as the point where your hips swivel when getting into a car.

The suit works by restricting the flexibility of the upper body with a corset-like harness that hinders range of motion. Similar harnesses make moving the elbows, knees and feet a chore, and the suit also simulates decreased dexterity and sense of touch with latex-lined fingerless gloves.

I have yet to figure out how this suit manages to disable the cancel switch on the turn signals, but then I’m not any kind of engineer.

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Fling and flex with Oedipus Rex

The prodigious gravitas of Samuel L. Jackson notwithstanding, basic cable and broadcast TV are not about to let you hear a certain four-syllable word. Rick Paulas at Wired compiled a list (which presumably will be on their Web site next month) of substitutions that have been reported, including this endorsement from Ordell Robbie (played by, yes, Samuel L. Jackson) in Jackie Brown:

AK-47. The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively got to kill every Maryland farmer in the room, accept no substitutes.

But top honors, say I, go not to a Jackson derivative, but to the anonymous Fark submitter who came up with this:

Bruce Willis to sell New York apartment at a loss. Yippie-ki-yay, market failure.

Which, incidentally, links here.

(Title swiped from Max Shulman.)

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Which is not called “Fred’s Law”

Governor Fallin has signed Senate Bill 406, which basically doubles the restrictions on protest demonstrations at funerals. From the bill itself:

The Legislature finds that:

  1. it is generally recognized that families have a substantial interest in organizing and attending funerals for deceased relatives,
  2. the interests of families in privately and peacefully mourning the loss of deceased relatives are violated when funerals are targeted for picketing and other public demonstrations,
  3. picketing of funerals causes emotional disturbance and distress to grieving families who participate in funerals, and
  4. full opportunity exists under the terms and provisions of this section for the exercise of freedom of speech and other constitutional rights at times other than the period from one hour two (2) hours before the scheduled commencement of funeral services until one hour two (2) hours after the actual completion of the funeral services.

Also doubled: the distance at which pickets are permitted, formerly 500 feet, now one thousand.

The McCarville Report quotes the governor:

“Protesting a funeral for political purposes is an abhorrent and disgusting practice,” Fallin said. “While such distasteful protests have been ruled constitutionally protected and cannot be legally prohibited, this legislation will help protect grieving families from people who are looking to exploit their suffering.”

The measure takes effect on the first of November.

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People who must die

It is written, of course, that all of us must die, but there are a few I wouldn’t mind seeing go early.

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Zooeypalooza 10!

Enough of this, I say. Several teasers, yet two whole months without a Zooeypalooza. In Colonial days, this would have been considered an Intolerable Act.

Zooeypalooza 10!

As always, you can decrease the reduction on any individual photo with a simple click.

Previous Paloozas: ZP 1, ZP 2, ZP 3, ZP 4, ZP 5, ZP 6, ZP 7, ZP 8, ZP 9.

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A thought while waiting for Friday

You know who else didn’t like that Rebecca Black song? You guessed it. [Some captions might not be suitable for your workstation screen.]

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Do I look squelched to you?

“Why does every Marxist, slut and drug addict have a blog?” asks this character on Yahoo! Answers:

It seems that those who should be living in the dark to hide their wicked deeds are progressively broadcasting their disgusting endeavors. Why is it that these people are unashamed of their behavior? Have they bought into the moral relativism that their liberal professors have taught them? Lady Gagme and Hanoi Jane Fonda are traitors, not role models. Why is it that the filth they perpetuate is endorsed by Big Brother and the liberal propaganda machine, yet any attempt to spread truth and decency is squelched? How do people find these lunatic, Charlie Sheen like ravings entertaining? Most of all, why does every lowest piece of scum take it upon themselves to share their moral turpitude with the rest of the world?

I dunno. This particular lunatic, if not particularly Sheen-y, raving is pretty entertaining, in the manner of a rural train wreck, and its perpetrator is clearly not ashamed of it. I’m wondering, though, which enemy — other than “taste personified” — could have been the recipient of aid and comfort from Lady Gaga.

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Faceplant down under

Apparently gravity works the same way on the opposite end of the world:

[New South Wales] Ambulance paramedics report a rise in triple-0 calls by women suffering ankle fractures, dislocated knees, head injuries and broken wrists caused by falling from their steepling shoes.

Triple 0 is the official emergency number in Australia. And apparently the situation is worsening:

NSW Paramedics spokesman Craig Pusser said women were now more likely to injure themselves from taking a tumble in a pair of sky-high heels than on the sports field.

The worst of both worlds, therefore, would be a sprint race in stiletto heels. There is, however, an occasional contributing factor that may not always be mentioned:

Ambulance figures show accidents spike on weekends, especially at horse racing carnivals and in nightclubs, when “more often than not there is some level of intoxication which contributes to falling”.

“Spike,” indeed.

(Via this Jeff Borland tweet.)

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Strange search-engine queries (272)

Tax note: Time spent reading this collection of bizarre search strings from the previous week is not considered deductible. God knows I couldn’t deduct the time I spent putting it together.

how will your 99 150 act if your trans goes to safe mode:  Oh, you’ll know it, all right. You’ll be stuck in one gear, and then you’ll be stuck in the shop for several days.

online dating Email Love man and 2011:  Who knew the Chinese were into online dating?

elderly people liking cheerios:  Because a big, heaping bowl of Cocoa Krispies will leave them writing on the floor with a glucose reaction.

5-HT and nzt and where can i find the real thing:  If you really believe that if it’s on the movie screen, it must therefore exist, go see Atlas Shrugged. Or Hop.

growing in disinterest in life:  Um, no. You’re losing interest in life. This is a common misunderstanding of the word “disinterest,” perpetrated by people who should know better.

cool s words that you dont hear too often:  You probably don’t want to hear “succubus” too often.

dont end sentence with a conjunction:  And?

why won’t earthlink let me move my website to another host:  Why aren’t you asking them?

what is nicole kidmans inseam:  How kind of you to notice that she needs new pants.

What would an eleven-year-old girl from Nuuk, Greenland be doing at 5:30 pm tonight:  Just off the top of my head, I’m guessing she’s not sewing pants for Nicole Kidman.

how would you feel if you won a war:  If you ever win one, believe me, you’ll know.

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Welcome to Crunch Time

Statistic I’d seen at TrueHoop (and mentioned at game’s end by radio guy Matt Pinto): “How important is Game 1 of this series? George Karl is 0-10 in any best-of-seven series in which his team loses Game 1.”

And someone asked me the other day what I thought would happen with this playoff series. Said I, the Thunder win it in six, but those two losses will be ugly.

Well, there was a bit of ugliness in those last two shots Russell Westbrook put up, but they both went down, and they turned a one-point deficit into a three-point Thunder lead, to which the Nuggets had one response: they fouled Kevin Durant, who sank two free throws to extend the lead to five. Danilo Gallinari drew a foul coming back and brought Denver back to within three, but by then there were only six seconds left and the Nuggets were out of timeouts. Denver fouled, of course, and Westbrook hit one of two at the stripe to put it out of reach, 107-103, giving George Karl a healthy start toward 0-11.

Not that the Nuggets were really out of this one: they led early, sometimes by double figures, though the Thunder had closed to within one by halftime. Measures of closeness: Denver hit 39-77 from the floor, Oklahoma City 38-77; OKC had 37 rebounds, Denver 34; OKC suffered 11 turnovers, Denver gave up 11; scoring in the fourth quarter was 21-21. Nenê, who departed for a few moments with a reported knee contusion, came back to finish a 22-point performance; Gallinari added 18 more. The Ty Lawson/Raymond Felton combine served up 13 assists and 22 points.

But then there was Westbrook, who ran the point most of the night for OKC, finishing with 31. And there was Durant, who finished with 41 and nine rebounds, both game-high. Then again, these guys are All-Stars, and that’s what All-Stars do in the playoffs. (Eric Maynor added 12 points in less than twelve minutes.)

The series resumes Wednesday at the House With No Name.

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While we wait for flux capacitors

Ronnie Schreiber turns up a well-kept 1948 Packard, straight eight and everything, and in passing mentions one of the differences between Then and Now:

It’s not the easiest car to drive. Today we measure luxury by the number and kinds of toys a car has. In 1948, luxury was more about quality construction. Though Packard had introduced air conditioning by the time this car was made, the only luxury equipment on this model was a heater, radio and vacuum operated windshield wipers. No power steering, no power brakes, not even an automatic transmission. Packard would not introduce the Ultramatic transmission for another year. This straight eight powered car has a “three on the tree”, a 3 speed shifter on the steering column, along with overdrive that is engaged by pressing on the clutch pedal at highway speeds.

The Ultramatic (a $199 option starting in 1949) was unique in a couple of ways. The Big Three had had the engineering facilities to develop their own automatics; the independents, by and large, didn’t. (Ford, in fact, bought Hydra-Matic boxes from GM before finishing up its own version.) Smaller automakers usually teamed up with existing gearbox suppliers. But Packard did the Ultramatic entirely in-house.

And Packard’s slushbox, at high speeds, did not slush: once you were up to speed, the torque converter would lock up. Most other manufacturers didn’t hit on this gas-saving idea until the 1970s. The downside, of course, is that the device was fiendishly complex, and while Packard continued to improve it, the failure rate cast a pall over the company’s otherwise-sterling reputation.

Today, though, it’s toys that drive the market, at seemingly all price points. Car and Driver complained the other day that one of their test cars didn’t have automatic climate control. The offending vehicle? A Hyundai Elantra. (It did, C/D noted, have heated seats.)

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UT diversifies its investments

University endowments are no less susceptible to wide swings in value than any other collection of equities these days, and those schools which worry themselves about “socially-responsible” investments have fewer options for hedging.

Meanwhile, the University of Texas is buying gold:

The University of Texas Investment Management Co., the second-largest U.S. academic endowment, took delivery of almost $1 billion in gold bullion and is storing the bars in a New York vault, according to the fund’s board.

The fund, whose $19.9 billion in assets ranked it behind Harvard University’s endowment as of August, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers, added about $500 million in gold investments to an existing stake last year, said Bruce Zimmerman, the endowment’s chief executive officer. The holdings are worth about $987 million, based on [Friday’s] closing price of $1,486 an ounce for Comex futures.

Hedge-fund manager Kyle Bass, who sits on the UT fund board, explains it this way:

“Central banks are printing more money than they ever have, so what’s the value of money in terms of purchases of goods and services? I look at gold as just another currency that they can’t print any more of.”

They can dig it out of the ground, but there’s not all that much to be dug.

(Via Fark.)

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