Transcontinental trash

It takes a certain warped genius to send out junk mail in an envelope that looks for all the world like it contains a W-2 form — in January, of course. Inasmuch as I already have my W-2 for 2011, I could easily have justified consigning it to the circular file, but curiosity won out. (The terrorists have won.)

Inside was a “VA Mortgage Payment Reduction Notice,” offering me some sort of refinancing offer that is “guaranteed by the Veterans Benefit Administration.” There is, it appears, no such agency: a va.gov page identified as such redirects to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, which is at 810 Vermont Avenue NW in Washington and has a proper government ZIP code: 20420. (The Feds run 20200 through 20599.) This, um, Notice has a return address of 2020 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, 20006, which according to the Oracle of Google is shared by, among others, Comcast, Hmong National Development, and World Net Daily.

Punchline: I don’t even have a VA mortgage. Nor is it FHA, Fannie, Freddie, or any of those F-ers. I do have, however, the ability to read the postage-meter imprint, and this particular example of tree waste was mailed, not from the District of Columbia, but somewhere near the Columbia River, from deepest Portlandia.

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Having been carded

Suze Orman has introduced something called the Approved Card, which appears to be a prepaid debit card with fewer fees than usual. The response from moneybloggers has been something less than entirely favorable:

All she was trying to do was launch a prepaid debit card that charges slightly fewer exorbitant fees than the competition, and sort of reports your spending habits to credit bureaus but not really. Then a whole bunch of “idiot” personal finance bloggers began ganging up on her on Twitter, and she had no choice but to lash out and remind them that they’re not real journalists.

This sounds like my own brand of idiocy, so I’ll suggest that if you must have a prepaid debit card, the one to have comes from American Express, which, as I’ve noted before, has only two fees:

  • If you refill it with cash, you go through GreenDot, which costs $4.95;
  • Second ATM withdrawal of the month costs $2 (not including any fees imposed by the owner of the ATM).

And depending on your predilection, there may be another advantage to going Amex: there are lots of places who don’t take it, so you may have an opportunity to rethink that impulse purchase.

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Fark blurbs of the week

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Something like training wheels

This town is not exactly world-famous for its “green” initiatives, but occasionally something happens here to gladden the hearts of treehuggers:

Bicycle lanes included in downtown Oklahoma City’s Project 180 could get a workout in short order by users of a shared-bike program called Spokies.

The program should launch this spring, Jennifer Gooden, the city’s sustainability director, told the Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday. Federal grant money paid for 95 bicycles to be placed at six stations downtown.

How much will it cost to borrow a bike? That hasn’t been decided yet:

People will be able to use automatic kiosks to check out bikes. The cost hasn’t been determined, but there will be plans to suit everyone from a one-time user who needs a bicycle for a half-hour to someone who lives downtown and rides the bikes often.

With downtown residency on the rise, this may actually be an idea whose time has come. (The one bicycle shop in Automobile Alley — once there were two — is actually flourishing these days.)

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How things haven’t improved

Andrea Harris, child of the 1970s, is not at all impressed by these years starting with 2:

[S]omehow we went from the relatively free-wheeling Seventies to the restricted, drugged, and psychotherapied 21st Century. We have “men’s rights” websites whining that women who don’t wear high heels and makeup aren’t “feminine,” when the idea that to be “feminine” a woman had to wear makeup and high heels is a recent development in fashion, not a basic trope of human nature.

Your MRA guys seem persuaded that women should simply fall into their laps. (Prepositions may vary.) Few remember, or will admit, that for most of recorded history it was the male who was prettied up for public consumption.

We have everyone and their dog getting a tattoo.

I remain tatless after all these year. Also dogless.

Everyone but me is on Facebook and has ten thousand “friends.”

Well, 150, anyway.

Everyone is either a treehugging hippy crap leftist Democrat who thinks the rich “1%” should pay everyone else’s bills, or a gun-hugging, Bible-flogging, commie-hating, sky-and-earth-polluting, globe-warming redneck Republican who thinks rich people should be able to do whatever they want with their money including piling it on the lawns of their mansions and setting it on fire. And if you beg to differ from either position one iota you’re a traitor and a fake.

The real GOP rednecks don’t have money to burn. Then again, since on the worldwide scale I qualify as one of the hated One Percent — well, maybe I’ll set my lawn on fire. It will make life a little more difficult for the weeds, and for any would-be Occupiers.

People are so neurotic about drugs that everyone, even non-smokers, act as if they’re having a continuous nic-fit.

It takes several dozen tablets and caplets and pills (oh, my!) to keep me going another week.

And everyone — everyone — links to the UK sensationalist tabloid The Daily Mail as if it were an objectively reported newspaper for proof of their positions.

As I did above.

Beyond that, we’re living in “interesting times,” which was either a Chinese or a Persian curse.

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It’s supposed to Sting

There’s a line of ex-workers trailing down the street
(That’s our Mitt back there)
There’s a capital gain and ain’t that awful sweet
(That’s our Mitt back there)
There’s a lot of red ink in the books today
It’s the same old debt as yesterday

It’s a leveraged buyout, it may cause some pain
It is certainly legal, but against the grain
Watch the GOP go spiral down the drain
As they try to sell us on the King of Bain

(Suggested by Nathan Wurtzel. And yes, I have beaten this particular horse before.)

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Adventures of the swat team

Not too surprisingly, one of the leading scorers for the New Orleans Hornets tonight was someone named Chris. I admit to having more than a little trouble adjusting to the post-CP3 Bees — more than half of their roster was replaced in the off-season — but they’re no slouches. For one thing, that’s Chris Kaman with 17 points. (Carl Landry had 17 more.) For another, they pulled down more rebounds than the Thunder, 42-36. But the Hornets seem way inconsistent: after thrashing the Nuggets in Denver night before last, they fell to those rotters from Oklahoma City, 95-85.

It was, of course, a long way from inevitable. New Orleans jumped out to a ten-point lead in the first quarter, and after falling behind by 12 halfway through the third, managed to pull to within three at the start of the fourth. But the Thunder’s throw-everything-against-the-wall approach — what can you say about a night when Kendrick Perkins gets an assist and no technicals? — paid off once more. OKC was fairly lousy with the long ball, hitting seven of 20, but the Hornets connected on only one of 16. Scott Brooks clearly has “perimeter defense” bookmarked somewhere. And no, we didn’t see Eric Gordon tonight, but I’m thinking it wouldn’t have mattered that much.

And you know, Kevin Durant looked a fair bit fatigued from time to time. Didn’t stop him from dropping in 29 points and grabbing ten rebounds. Add 22 from Russell Westbrook, and hey, it’s Batman and Robin all over again. Nominations for Commissioner Gordon are being accepted.

The Knicks come in Saturday night, followed by three road games against Eastern teams: Boston, Washington and New Jersey, the last on another Saturday, meaning four games in the next ten days. Considering the last ten days featured seven Thunder games, you can practically call this a vacation. Not.

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Brake shoes they aren’t

Cars in Depth editor Ronnie Schreiber, commenting at TTAC, describes something non-automotive he spotted at the North American International Auto Show:

Porsche had their models wearing 6″ stilettos with about an inch and a half platform. It’s the kind of shoe that 10 or 15 years ago you would only see in porn, and not plain vanilla porn either.

The Booth Babe has already noted that she wasn’t going to Detroit this year, so I won’t ask her about that.

And it’s not like Schreiber objects to heels, exactly:

I understand and appreciate the appeal of high heels. A moderate high heel gives the female leg a shape that people find attractive, but my guess is that the vast majority of men don’t actually find extreme footwear attractive.

Then again, my guess is that a man’s concept of “extreme footwear” is defined by the very shoes he doesn’t like.

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Wanting to see Caroline

About a week ago, I did a short piece about Louise Mensch, a British MP who claims that discussion of her appearance had “obscured” her political statements, and I followed up with a look at Home Secretary Theresa May from here down [gestures], suggesting that the press, being obsessed with this sort of thing, would likely provide more blogfodder.

With that in mind, here is Caroline Flint, currently MP for Don Valley (in South Yorkshire) and Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change — I’m guessing she’s for the former, against the latter — as she appeared in Observer Woman in 2009 at the age of forty-seven:

Caroline Flint in 2009

Said Elizabeth Day, who conducted the interview with Flint:

Caroline Flint is undeniably glamorous and, professionally, that posed her a problem: should she ignore her looks and seek to play them down or should she accentuate them and wear clothes that showed her to best advantage?

If she had taken the former route, Flint would no doubt have been mocked for her lack of style in acerbic newspaper opinion pieces asking why our politicians are so dispiritingly dowdy in comparison with the French. By opting for the latter, Flint made herself an easy target for the grey men in government who want to dismiss her as a flibbertigibbet whose pretty little head was not up to the job.

And what does Flint think about it?

She went on to say that she found the attention paid to her looks could be insulting “when it gets in the way of the other things I hope to contribute … It’s a bit of a double-edged sword how you look … I don’t think you can win on it.”

She’s probably right about that.

Caroline Flint was first elected to the Commons in 1997; Labour has held this seat since 1922.

(Title from a Kirsty MacColl tune.)

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All adjective-y

Jason Cammisa writes in the February Automobile:

BMW makes an even-more M3-y version of the M3, the GTS. It’s not available in North America, but it’s even faster, quicker, and more precise than the regular M3. AMG is now making a more AMG-y version of the [Mercedes-Benz] C63 that is even more berserk.

Admittedly, that -y suffix looks a trifle weird, but it does the job. A car described as M3-esque — or worse, M3-ish — sounds like it wouldn’t even approach the standard of comparison, let alone exceed it.

Disclosure: I once described an Ides of March record as “Byrds-y,” which proves — well, nothing, really.

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Take these tunes and shove ’em

The Reg manages to keep a straight face for some of this story:

Police in the Czech Republic have arrested a man who attempted to steal a digital music player by concealing it in his anus.

The thief was caught when the shoplifting alarm rang loud and proud at the supermarket he had entered in the town of Prerov. Nabbed by staff, he was found to have a pair of earphones stashed in his slacks.

Yet the earphones had no alarm-system tag. What had cause the bell to ring? Searching the man more thoroughly, security guards uncovered a tube of lube in his pocket.

To quote Interested-Participant: “Frankly, this story is hard to believe.” Well, maybe. Then again:

Sony MP3 Walkman

Dimensions: 84.9 x 28.8 x 13.9mm. You gotta admit, it’s easier than an iPod.

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Delayed reaction

Some of you are no doubt familiar with this phenomenon: you read something, record a noncommittal “Huh,” and move on — and minutes or hours or days later, it finally dawns on you what was said.

Roberta X dealt me one of those t’other day:

This reminds me — the Hofstadter’s Law T-shirts are still running way behind schedule. Really thought we’d planned for that.

I guffawed, and then I cursed myself for my blindness — and then, of course, I recursed.

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Subordinate claws

By now, everyone has figured it out: the Memphis Grizzlies are fierce, and at the FedEx Forum they’re more so. The Thunder learned this last season, losing three of four, and got a refresher course in the playoffs, where it took seven games to subdue the Don’t Care Bears. The last meeting was 28 December, which OKC somehow won by three points, 98-95, despite Russell Westbrook having the Worst. Night. Ever. Tonight, Westbrook exploded for 30 points, and for good measure blocked a shot with 20 seconds left, and OKC somehow won by five points, 100-95.

We learned one thing: Marreese Speights, acquired from the Sixers, is no Zach Randolph, but he’s no slouch either, coming up with 10 points, one of six Grizzlies in double figures. Mike Conley, who played only a few seconds in that December game, was in good form, and Marc Gasol continues to be Marc Gasol. Rudy Gay, unfortunately for the Griz, wasn’t very Rudy Gay, hitting only 7 of 21 and missing four of five from the line.

With Westbrook running amok, Reggie Jackson saw limited minutes, but he’s probably not complaining, and he had two steals, as many as the rest of the team combined. Both Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Durant had free passes to Rebound City, Perk reeling in 13 and KD snagging 11 to go with 22 points. And then there’s Thabo Sefolosha, offensive machine, who knocked down three treys in three tries. You gotta love the idea of an elite defenseman who can shoot the long ball, right?

The Thunder have to play the Griz twice more this season, but at least they’ll have Loud City on their side. Not that Memphis is going to notice. For now, though, the more immediate issue, and by “immediate” I mean “tomorrow,” there’s a trip to New Orleans, where the Hornets, having taken out their frustrations on the Nuggets last night, should be well rested and anxious to prove a point — though what I want to know is whether Eric Gordon has recovered from that bruised right knee.

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Snow angel alert

Robert Stacy McCain has apparently chosen to wrap himself in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

[T]he past few days in New Hampshire, I’ve begun feeling increasingly glum, and uncharacteristic mood-swing that I at first attributed to being forced to take the Jon Huntsman campaign seriously. Later, I thought maybe I was bummed out by hanging around with those squishy RINOs from National Review during Saturday night’s debate.

It wasn’t until I picked up Sunday’s Boston Globe and saw that story about “arctic hysteria” that I realized I must be suffering from the same problem that affects the Greenlandic Inuit.

Not being in the habit of thumbing through DSM IV, I decided to see what the Wikipedants had to say about this particular syndrome:

Symptoms can include intense hysteria (screaming, uncontrolled wild behavior), depression, coprophagia, insensitivity to extreme cold (such as running around in the snow naked), echolalia (senseless repetition of overheard words) and more.

Coprophagia? Well, that would explain the grin he’s wearing in all those pictures from the road. (Or it wouldn’t. I know I certainly wouldn’t grin under those circumstances.)

Still, there are three words which should be kept in mind under the conditions: “New,” “Hampshire,” and “January.” Perhaps it wouldn’t bother the Inuit, but I must note here that the major New Hampshire nudist facility is closed until mid-May. They’re not crazy.

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Gets her through her busy day

George Carlin used to deride the very concept of pain pills: “I already have pain! I need relief pills!”

Undoubtedly much to the annoyance of the Warriors on Drugs, some of those tabs actually deliver the goods:

My eight-day drug regime has predominately consisted of the generic drugstore variety; Nyquil, decongestants, antihistamines, cough syrup, aspirin, Vicks. Today I kicked it up a notch with a modest amount of vicodin, the modern-day version of mother’s little helper. What a difference a script makes! I spent two hours shopping for birthday gifts and a grand dinner, cleaned the house (no small task after many days of gross neglect), herded boys after school, prepped the meal, wrapped presents and found myself singing as I tucked clean sheets on the bed.

My hair is gorgeous, legs are shaved, the make-up is beautiful and these gorgeous peep-toe stiletto heels feel like they were meant to be worn forever.

“What a drag it is getting old,” sang Sir Mick when he was twenty-three and never imagined anyone would ever refer to him as Sir Mick. Then again, he was probably making reference to Nembutals, the sort found in Mr Murphy’s overalls.

Amusingly, an advisory panel once suggested the FDA take Vicodin and its ilk off the market because the acetaminophen component — not the opioid, mind you, but the stuff like Tylenol — was a threat to the nation’s livers. Eminem and House, you’ll note, are still alive and kicking; and I have to figure that anything that makes stilettos “feel like they were meant to be worn forever” is a genuine boon. Not that you can convince Chuck Schumer of this, of course.

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Quick, build a house!

That damn fire keeps getting closer all the time…

Screen shot from Fox 5: Fire Destroyed by Home

(From LAObserved via this Amy Alkon tweet.)

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