Life on Level 7

For those who may be curious, these are the sections of Yahoo! Answers I usually hit, and the lame questions I expect to find in each.

Under Cars & Transportation:

  • Buying & Selling: “I bought a car a week ago and it broke down. Can I sue?”
  • Car Makes: “Which is faster?”
  • Maintenance & Repairs: “Which fuse do I change to get my car to go? I shift the gears and nothing happens.”

Under Computers & Internet:

  • Programming & Design: “Could you tell me what’s wrong with my code — FAST?”
  • Other—Computers: “How do I get unbanned from [message board]?”
  • Internet/Other: “How long is the waiting list for Pinterest?”

Under Society & Culture:

  • Etiquette: “Is it ok to leave a turd in the punchbowl if it’s clean?”
  • Other: “How come [members of ethnic group] always act like that?”

You can see what I’m up against.

(Appearances in other sections are usually responses to keyword searches.)

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Strange search-engine queries (327)

The recipe for this Monday-morning breakfast feature: Select eight to 12 particularly silly search strings from the previous week’s system logs. Add snarky commentary as needed. Present around 7 am, give or take half an hour. Goes well with: cereal, sausage, that first desperately-needed cup of coffee. Does not go well with: dachshunds.

is it friday:  No. It’s Monday. Now move along.

a sedan anvil:  This attempt by Acme metallurgists to produce an anvil that could be carried by four men, thereby making it at least theoretically portable, failed when they couldn’t find four men who could carry it.

what does tote that barge mean:  Obviously asked by someone whose body has never been aching and/or wracked with pain.

what does it mean “i have scaled these city walls”:  I managed to climb up one side and down the other, only to be with you, and now my body is aching and wracked with pain.

Girls hunting with bow in undergarments:  How the bow got into their undergarments, they’ll never know.

zooeymania:  How we’re supposed to get into her undergarments, we’ll never know.

what is faith hill’s inseam measurement:  How generous of you to offer to make pants for her.

what looks nice with orange shoes:  Faith Hill in flared pants.

hell no button:  Something sorely lacking in most dialog boxes.

paranoia is good:  Which one of my enemies sent you here with that?

which vehicles have dip sticks:  At any random club on a Saturday night, probably all of them.

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Charged with compliance

Technologies notwithstanding, there are really only two types of electric cars: real cars, which the manufacturers hope to sell in mass quantities, and compliance cars, which the manufacturers hope will get California off their backs. Green Car Congress explains the difference:

We’d suggest that any plug-in car has to meet the following criteria before it can be considered real:

  • It’s sold outright to consumers, not only leased; and
  • It will sell at least 5,000 or more a year in the U.S. or reach total global sales of 20,000; and
  • It’s offered outside the “California emissions” states, or will be within 18 months

Any car that doesn’t meet those tests at a minimum isn’t a serious volume car; it’s either part of a test fleet or it exists just to comply with the [California zero-emissions vehicles] requirement.

The Nissan Leaf, for instance, has achieved Real status: it will sell in five figures this year in the US and can be had for purchase at pretty much any Nissan store you can name. Honda’s Fit EV, not so much:

Honda obligingly revealed that it would lease the Fit EV for $399 a month (on a base price of $36,625), but not offer it for sale.

And, it said, it plans to offer only 1,100 of them from 2012 through 2014, starting in California and Oregon this summer, expanding into six East Coast markets next year.

The very model of a modern for-compliance car.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Final rolls

Reports of the death of East Coast session drummer Buddy Saltzman left me wondering how to give him a proper send-off. Saltzman is justly famed for his work with the Four Seasons, especially on the hyperpercussive “Dawn (Go Away),” where he’s all over the kit. And it’s Saltzman who was pressed into duty when Tom Wilson got the idea of turning Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” into a folk-rock number.

But the first thing that came to my mind is this wondrous bit of Shadow Morton-produced teenage angst, from Janis Ian’s first album:

“Janey’s Blues,” track 11, is a full album and 180 degrees away from “Society’s Child,” the hit on track 1; it starts out as gently as you’d expect from something released on Verve’s folky Forecast label, but as Janey’s story unfolds and the perfidy of both parental units is bared, the music escalates, until Artie Butler, representing Janey on the organ, seemingly flees to Wherever, Saltzman marking every step of the way with sheer ferocity. It’s listed with a playing time of “5:84” in the original LP’s liner notes, which doesn’t matter, since you won’t be noticing.

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A mere factor of two

Kevin Drum does some vague noodling on energy matters:

[V]irtually every form of energy seems to be almost as efficient as burning oil, but not quite.

For example, on either a power/weight basis or a cost basis, batteries are maybe 2x or 3x bigger and less efficient than an internal combustion engine. Not 50x or 100x. Just barely less efficient. And you see the same thing in electricity generation. Depending on how you do the accounting, nuclear power is maybe about as efficient as an oil-fired plant, or maybe 2x or 3x less efficient. Ditto for solar. And for wind. And geothermal. And tidal power.

I’m just noodling vaguely here. Maybe there’s an obvious thermodynamic explanation that I’m missing.

Let’s give everything the benefit of the doubt and say that it’s a straight 2x across the board. (If we were being rigorous about the whole thing, we’d never say “2x less efficient”; we’d say “half as efficient,” which is at least as accurate and a lot less clumsy.) Now: based on six years’ experience with my current ride, I have determined that I can drive to and from work, one round trip, on one gallon of gas, which as of yesterday at the Shell station at 36th and Portland was $3.64. (V-Power, you damn betcha.) I will be the first to tell you that internal-combustion engines are not particularly efficient, for which there’s an obvious thermodynamic explanation. However, I cannot, and will not, feign any enthusiasm for any technology or policy which increases my costs to $7.28 or beyond.

Warren Meyer attempts to explain how Drum could come up with this sort of thing:

[I]n engineering, a 2-3x difference in most anything — strength, energy efficiency, whatever — is a really big deal. It’s the difference between 15 and 45 MPG. Perhaps this is Moore’s Law corrupting our intuition. We see electronic equipment becoming twice as powerful every 18 months, and we start to assume that 2x is not that much of a difference.

Our “energy policy,” and I use the term loosely, is seldom if ever left up to engineers: instead, the task is farmed out to policy wonks with a capacity for vague noodling and an enthusiasm for evangelizing beyond anything you’ll ever find in a young-earth creationist. I’m surprised the two groups haven’t combined their efforts yet: “It takes many thousands of years for organic matter to turn into oil, and, well, the Earth is barely six thousand years old. No wonder we have no oil.”

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Invasion of the Smaller Fry

I’ve already sent these up to Facebook, but the overlap between my readership there and my readership here is gratifyingly small, so I’ll put them up here as well.

Background: daughter Becky, her mom (my ex) and all three of her young’uns showed up on my doorstep, which gave me an opportunity to show how much better a photographer I am than any of them were.

Yeah, right. This came out well:

Where the girls are

Shot by me in my living room. But the ex shot this one in my driveway:

Hedging a bit

And she was so worried that it wouldn’t come out. Note le visage du canard on grumpy Gramps there.

Oh, and we hit Italia Express for lunch. Everyone was favorably impressed.

(Click-to-embiggen works; it will take you to Flickr.)

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Digital fingerprint

The gold standard for incompetent robbery is the guy who wrote his holdup note on one of his personalized deposit slips. It would be hard to match that online, but this, received Saturday morning in my email, comes close:

Dear Chase OnlineSM Customer,

We noticed invalid login attempts into you account online from an unknown IP address .
Due to this, we have temporarily suspended your account.
We need you to update your account information for your online banking to be re-activated
please update your billing information today by clicking

Just verify the information you entered is correct.

P.S. The link in this message will be expire within 24 Hours . You have to update your payment information

2012 JPMorgan Chase & Co. All rights reserved.

Atlas Cycles (Haryana) Ltd, Sahibabad, India

!– Virus-Free Mail Using AntiVirus for PostMaster Enterprise & QuickHeal Engine –!

Message header does in fact say from

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No, No, Nowitzki

When you’re down 3-0, you throw in everything up to and including the kitchen sink. Rick Carlisle, a reliable pitcher of plumbing fixtures, began this one by starting both Jason Terry and Jason Kidd. It didn’t hurt that Kendrick Perkins exited, eight minutes in, with a hip strain. Three quarters down, and the Mavs were up thirteen.

What didn’t Carlisle allow for? James Harden having only the best playoff game he ever had, racking up 29 points. He powered the Thunder to a 28-10 run in the first nine minutes of the fourth. Dallas quit hitting from the field with 5:47 left; even the departure of Serge Ibaka with six fouls did not empower the Mavs, and Harden iced the deal with 10 seconds left, putting Oklahoma City up by five. Kevin Durant added one more free throw, and the Thunder get to celebrate dethroning Last Year’s Champs, 103-97.

As for Dirk, well, he was Dirk, logging a game-high 34 points. But in that fourth quarter, he was reduced to begging at the charity stripe: he had one field goal in those twelve minutes. Jason & Jason wangled 27 between them, but starting them both weakened the Dallas bench a bit — any time your bench is led by Ian Mahinmi, “weak” comes immediately to mind. The Maverick reserves scored 23 points, or six less than James Harden.

With the Beard taking care of offense, Durant turned his attention to defense, ending up with a double-double: 24 points, 11 rebounds. And Derek Fisher put together yet another line that belies that Old Man crap: five of six shooting for 12 points and a plus-21 for the night. Radio guy Matt Pinto pointed out that Oklahoma City has beaten Dallas in six straight games — last two of the season, plus four in the playoffs. As for Mavs owner Mark Cuban, I suspect he’s standing in front of an ATM right about now.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets and the Lakers fight it out, and one of them will be the next-round opponent of the Thunder. When we’ll know for sure, no one knows for sure.

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Yes I R

From the What’s Wrong With This Picture? files, here’s Lisa Rinna enjoying an indoor section of the Great Outdoors:

Lisa Rinna in something uniqe

Right you are: that shrubbery needs to be trimmed back at once, lest it present a safety hazard to someone entering or leaving the deck.

And Rinna looks pretty good here, so I’m guessing this was taken either long before or well after her plunge into the shallow end of the Fountain of Youth.

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A week’s worth of Na

Fumbling through the records here can sometimes give you, or at least me, some preposterous ideas.

But then, I barely twitch the needle on the Shame-O-Meter, so:

What? The title led you to expect, um, something else?

Oh, all right, then:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Quote of the week

Promoters of the Affordable Care Act avoid using the word “rationing.” But, as Roxeanne de Luca reminds us, that’s exactly what’s going to happen:

We’ll eventually all have “free” doctor’s visits but be denied life-saving treatment, which is the exact opposite result that you want for insurance, which is supposed to cover the really expensive things you can’t pay for yourself. It would be like homeowner’s insurance that covers a leaky faucet for free but doesn’t give you a cent if your house burns down.

Although I must note that my own homeowner’s insurance has doubled in price in three years, and I haven’t figured out a way to blame that on Congress. Yet. (Yes, there was that nearly-five-digit claim, but as one might expect from a shared-risk scenario, people who didn’t have those claims got their premiums hiked as well.) Doesn’t cover leaky faucets, unless they do something like leak into the wall. I’ve replaced one in eight and a half years; it wasn’t doing anything other than wasting water.

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Eighty-eight is enough

Well, no, not really: if it’s your life, you might hope for that 90th year, and no one could blame you.

Then again, no one could blame you for putting up the bravest possible face otherwise:

I do NOT want to be non compos mentis and immobile at that age. I have advised everyone to wheel me out into the forest preserve, turn around with a finger to the corner of their mouths and say, “Oops! She was JUST there! Really. Where did she go?”

And the feral hogs or bobcats can have their way with me.

She’s kidding. She said so:

For those aghast, no, I do not think suicide or assisted suicide is right. IT WAS A JOKE.

Now if you want to be aghast at something, my first thought on reading this was “How old is Frank Lautenberg?” But no: nothing feral in New Jersey, except other politicians.

Me, I’m three decades away from 88. Either I’ll make it, or I won’t. Too soon to tell either way, really.

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Taco Bell was not mentioned

This was a different sort of cramming altogether:

The last question on my Beginners Spanish final exam was: “How did you prepare for this exam?” The students had to answer the question in the past.

Some of them went over the grammar to prepare, some read the textbook, other looked at their notes. One student, however, wrote the following, “I didn’t really prepare. I just watched Latin American soap operas and El sabado gigante. And on my way to class, I listened to some Spanish music.”

Don Francisco would be pleased.

Now: tres conjeturas who got the top grade in the class? (Hint: you won’t need the second, let alone the third.)

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Careful aim

I sighed and grabbed the Glass Plus, and then came to what seemed an inescapable conclusion: birds have evolved sufficiently to be able to target an area on one’s windshield squarely within the driver’s line of sight just about every time. (There’s just as much glass on the passenger side, but they don’t bother to drop anything over there.)

And they do all that without frickin’ lasers, unlike this shark:

Marine biologist-cum-TV personality Luke Tipple attached a 50-milliwatt green laser to a lemon shark off the coast of the Bahamas in late April. The escapade was sponsored by Wicked Lasers, a consumer-focused laser manufacturer based in Hong Kong that produces some of the most brilliant — and potentially dangerous — handheld lasers in the world.

I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of coupling “consumer-focused” and “potentially dangerous.”

The lemon shark, Negaprion brevirostris, was chosen for its comparative docility. Not that you personally need to worry:

Steve Liu, Wicked Lasers CEO, told Wired: “If there was a way the shark could operate the laser on its own accord and use it against humans, we wouldn’t even attempt this.”

“Shut up and take my money!” shrieks Dr Evil.

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That new Black magic

Rebecca Black’s single “Sing It” drops Tuesday; however, thirty-second lo-fi previews — does “preview” make any sense for audio? — abound, and Thursday RB dropped in on Radio Disney’s Candice to cohost the Dot Com Top 3, and not incidentally to play the whole song. (Which may explain the lo-fi nature of the previews, since your local Radio Disney affiliate is very likely on AM radio; certainly mine is.)

A full review will have to wait until I can hear this thing in some semblance of high fidelity. (RD’s satellite feed comes through here in stunningly bad sound.) It is, as I would expect, catchy, a bit repetitious, and while I didn’t hold a stopwatch on it, I’m thinking 3:15, on the dubious basis that her three previous singles ran 3:30, 3:25, and 3:20. At this rate, by the time she reaches her twenties, she’ll be doing songs on the Wire scale. (Pink Flag, with twenty-one tracks, runs less than 36 minutes.)

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The endochronic

While Isaac Asimov was working on his doctorate, he was also fiddling with writing science fiction. In 1947, he sent a piece to John W. Campbell at Astounding, and Campbell promised to honor his request for a pseudonym, inasmuch as this sort of dalliance in pulp might jeopardize his progress toward his Ph.D.

The story, “The Endochronic Properties of Resublimated Thiotimoline,” published in 1948, was a hit, even though Campbell claimed to have forgotten Asimov’s request and put his real name on it. The concept was audacious: a substance that dissolved in water before actually contacting the water — up to 1.12 seconds, said the spurious research. The explanation was no less, um, astounding: carbon atoms routinely have four bonds, but in thiotimoline, one of those bonds extends into the future, another into the past. There is, of course, an equally spurious source of this compound: the so-far-undiscovered shrub Rosacea Karlsbadensis rufo.

(Asimov later noted with some delight that not only were the university examiners not upset with his digression, one of them threw in a question about it toward the end of his appearance before them.)

Three more thiotimoline stories appeared, the last in 1973. I have to wonder what Asimov, who died in 1992, might have thought had he known that twenty years later, a My Little Pony fanfic writer would give his mystery substance a shoutout:

“Twilight Sparkle, in recognition of your superior intellect, I have a particularly interesting harmonic challenge for you. You will link stars to both Friendship and Magic. Can you do that, flaemmchen?”

“Yes I can, Professor!”

“Now wait just one apple-bucking minute,” [Applejack] said. “What’s with giving her the special challenges?”

“I think I’ll need a special challenge!” said Twilight. “Otherwise, this contest will be over before it starts! Just like when you dissolve thiotimoline in water!”

People ask why I bother with stuff like this. It’s for moments like that.

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