The taxman stayeth

There’s something fundamentally wrong with a tax code that routinely costs ordinary people many hours and dollars every single year, and not just for taxes either.

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Zillaficationary

Something identifying itself as “MatchZilla” wandered into my email box yesterday to advise me of the favorable attention to be given me by one “DaisyChixha3.” This struck me as rather unlikely, since they said “Daisy” was twenty-six years old, and you may be certain that I have no business messing with twentysomethings. (I wasn’t particularly adept at it during the period when I was most likely actually to have business messing with twentysomethings, but that’s another story.) This was followed shortly by a pitch for “PixiePie0t,” twenty-three.

There is, or was, a MatchZilla out there, but it has nothing to do with dating:

MedZilla.com, a leading Internet recruitment and professional community that targets jobseekers and HR professionals in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, healthcare and science, just launched a user-friendly program that eliminates the task of having to enter keywords to search for matching resumes or jobs. “MatchZilla” does the searching with pinpoint accuracy directly from a posted ad or resume, according [to] Frank Heasley, PhD, MedZilla.com President and CEO.

Such an operation would have no reason to want to find me a date.

Curiously, there is a blog using this name which is, if not exactly replete with babes, certainly not keyword-oriented either. A click of the About page brought me to someone labeled as “Alexa Prince,” “passive investor in several private corporations and LLC’s located in New York City, Long Island, N.Y. and also in Washington, D.C.,” definitely older than 26 and better than decently pretty, but still not within my grasp.

And also curiously, the real MatchZilla trademark was evidently abandoned after a couple of years, so it’s not like Ms Prince is just asking for a Cease and Desist order.

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Don’t be afraid of the diarchs

In Oklahoma City, Mick Cornett is the Mayor and gives all the speeches; Jim Couch is the City Manager and does all the scutwork. (Couch is paid about eight times as much, too, which seems only fair.)

Constitutional considerations aside — and hey, isn’t that always the case today? — maybe this would work on the national scale:

Personally, I think a giant empire like modern America would be better off splitting the roles of ceremonial Head of State and utilitarian Head of Government, rather than in getting them all entwined. The Premier or whatever we’d call him would, in today’s culture, typically be some senior black entertainment or athletic figure: James Earl Jones in the past, Morgan Freeman today, Oprah tomorrow, maybe David Robinson after her.

Instead, out of that urge, we elected a part time college lecturer to fill both jobs in a mediocre fashion.

I’d say “We could do worse,” but I fear I might be correct.

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An aphorism for our times

You could wait for it to show up on the “It is written” widget in the sidebar, which eventually it will if the randomizer doesn’t go totally troppo, but you might just as well appreciate it right now. Says Roberta X, with the ring of truth resounding behind her:

[W]hatever a politician takes the loudest stand against, he or she is probably doing in private.

In an era where hypocrisy is deemed a Mortal Sin — well, when in history have we ever run short of sinners?

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Conclusion being jumped to

This perhaps may be unnecessarily alarmist:

CNN screenshot: Boeing 777 will struggle to maintain altitude once the fuel tanks are empty

After all, the plane will still have sufficient momentum to carry it all the way to the eventual crash site.

(Via American Digest.)

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Strange search-engine queries (426)

Monday morning brings a fresh(ish) set of search strings from our very own visitors, lightly mocked, and lovingly frosted with glucose.

Interstate 235 36th street interchange prior to reconstruction OKC flickr:  Not even Flickr remembers back that far.

futility is resistable:  Are you kidding me? Entire nations embrace it as a cause.

2001 mazda 626 transmission problem only with 4 cylinder:  Yeah, just keep telling yourself that, Mister Gottahava VeeSix.

what will make transmission slip on 2002 mazda 626:  Most commonly, it’s due to inadequate maintenance.

loratabs gone:  This surely must be a country song, possibly by George Jones.

shania yummy:  I suppose so. No point in telling George Jones, though.

Are exact coins required to travel the Kilpatrick turnpike in oklahoma?  Inexact coins won’t make it through the collecting machine.

running tolls on creek turnpike:  The least you could do was try some inexact coins.

mention about padama lakshmis stepfather:  What about him? You just can’t go around mentioning people.

parent directory ” /bizarre/ -xxx -html -htm -php -shtml -opendivx -md5 -md5sums”:  And guess what, ladies? He’s single!

“deed for speed”:  Hey, where can I get one of those?

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Depressing milestone

At least, I think it is. From the WordPress admin, just now:

Akismet reports 30,000 spam

That’s a lot of damn spam.

On the upside, at the moment there are 42,242 comments here which are not spam. Surely that’s worth something.

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Tracked all the way to the grave

Yes, I know that those wicked online-ad providers follow me around like a lost puppy, and then toss up stuff on the screen they hope I’ll appreciate, but I am perplexed by this box, which showed up last night on, of all places, Equestria Daily:

Latuda ad

That stuff off to the right is apparently an FDA-required Black Box Warning, and this is what it says in the box in the prescribing information:

WARNINGS: INCREASED MORTALITY IN ELDERLY PATIENTS WITH DEMENTIA-RELATED PSYCHOSIS; AND SUICIDAL THOUGHTS AND BEHAVIORS

See full prescribing information for complete boxed warning.

  • Elderly patients with dementia-related psychosis treated with
    antipsychotic drugs are at an increased risk of death.
  • LATUDA is not approved for the treatment of patients with dementia related psychosis
  • Increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults taking antidepressants
  • Monitor for worsening and emergence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Based on my limited experience with antipsychotics, I’d say this is actually about average for the species, though this one is billed as “atypical,” which essentially translates to “second-generation.”

Still, I’m wondering what the hell I saw that would lead this ad provider to think I wanted to see this — and on a page about pastel-colored ponies, no less.

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One more down

It would have been easy to write off the last-place (in the West, anyway) Utah Jazz, especially twelve minutes into this game, where they were trailing by a ghastly 26-9. For the rest of the afternoon, however, the Jazz played some fairly respectable basketball, knocking down 31 points in the second quarter and 37 in the third. Unfortunately, any Thunder lapses were temporary at best, and OKC was still up 15 points at the start of the fourth; after that, the Thunder reserves and Serge Ibaka — I suppose Serge probably needed an extra block or two for statistical purposes — quietly put the Jazz out of their misery, 116-96, securing the system series 3-1.

And Ibaka turned in a decent line, with 17 points, six rebounds and, yes, four blocks. Kevin Durant departed after a 25-foot trey just ahead of the third-quarter buzzer, having garnered 31 points, his 38th game in a row with at least 25. (Scoring-leader title isn’t even slightly in doubt.) With Reggie Jackson still ailing and Russell Westbrook deemed rested, Russ got the call for starting point guard, and in 25 minutes collected 19 points, nine of which came from nine free throws. Caron Butler led the bench with 15 points on five three-pointers. (Weirdly, Butler made all his treys, but missed all four of his closer-in shots.)

Of the four Jazzmen in double figures, we must mention Eres Kanter, with a team-high 18 and the game’s only double-double (12 rebounds), and reliable Richard Jefferson, who knocked down 17. Derrick Favors retrieved 13 boards, more than anyone else, to go with his eight points.

In a rare example of scheduling kindness, the Thunder get half a week off. But Thursday, the Spurs, three games ahead of OKC in the standings, will arrive at the ‘Peake. Jackson, who is renowned for his ability to torch the Spurs, is expected to be back. And the punchline: the next night, the Thunder go to Houston to face the Rockets. Westbrook will presumably be resting. On the other hand, or knee, there won’t be any antics with Patrick Beverley, either.

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Can your Barbie do this?

The trouble with dolls might be not so much that they give a distorted view of Real Life, but that they don’t:

I didn’t like toys as representations of people. Was I a budding misanthropist? I don’t think so, but I’m sure back then, I probably couldn’t have been able to articulate exactly why I disliked those sorts of toys. In hindsight, it had far more to do with my personality and my priorities for play rather than cultural baggage or any feminist notions.

So what the heck do I mean by “priorities for play”? It means my reasons for playing with toys. I wanted to have fun, of course, but my idea of fun involves imagination and curiosity. Robots and microscopes and, yes, even ponies are toys built for imagination and/or curiosity. Dolls (and to some extent, action figures) don’t fit those two purposes so well. When you’re playing with a doll in the typical way (and not setting fire to it to figure out its combustible properties), you are mimicking real life. And personally, when I play, I look for the extraordinary, the wonderful, the fascinating. Not the mundane.

Setting fire to a doll, incidentally, isn’t necessarily easy. And sooner or later, most of our cultural baggage is going to go up in smoke simply because it’s no longer supportable.

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Pedals to be pushed

You soon could be driving a bit faster on Idaho roads:

Governor Otter signed a bill that lawmakers passed to increase the legal speed limit on highways and interstates.

However, the Idaho Transportation Department did not back the bill.

“There isn’t really direction on where we want to go on this as far as the Transportation Department. This wasn’t a bill that was driven by ITD, this is something that came from the legislatures to push this forward and change the speed limits,” said Nathan Jerke, ITD.

Thanks for nothing, Jerke. Otter will hear of this.

Similar ructions are being heard in Wyoming:

Lawmakers passed the 80 mph law during the budget session that ended earlier this month. Even though legislators have left the Capitol, debate over the bill continues. The discussion centers around safety and has caused many to question what the future will look like on Wyoming’s main thoroughfares. Will there be more accidents? Will the de facto speed limit become 85 mph?

Wyoming Department of Transportation officials are starting work on those answers by conducting speed studies on stretches of interstates 25 and 80 before the law takes effect July 1.

The occasional speed demon aside, people generally won’t exceed their comfort zone except in unusual circumstances. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I get antsy above 85 (formerly 90) or so. And the last time I had a tolerably long drive on a reasonably fast road — Kansas Turnpike south of Emporia, posted 75 — I kept things down around 80 or so, which is about as fast as one dares go without drawing the attention of John Law, and probably faster than one should go with questionable wheel bearings. (These have since been replaced.)

I’ve driven on 80-mph roads in Texas; seldom did I see anyone blasting past me at my sedate 82.

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Songs for a hole in the ground

Something called Dark Asylum Radio is asking:

Today is your funeral - what song is playing as they lower your body?

Given my modest but solid military record, I’m pretty sure that the local detachment of something or other will dispatch a bugler to send me off with “Taps.”

During the ceremony — perhaps as a recessional — I have requested the playing of this. The kids, I think, will honor this request.

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Perennial Elle

“There’s so much discussion surrounding health and fitness,” said Elle Macpherson to the Daily Express on the occasion of her 50th birthday, “but what I really aspire to is wellness.”

Elle Macpherson, highly stylized

Looks pretty well to me.

There is, incidentally, some disagreement over Macpherson’s age: some sources put her date of birth as 29 March 1964, which would make her 50 today, or 29 March 1963, which would make her 51. I submit that it doesn’t matter a whole lot one way or another, at least until she’s eligible for Medicare.

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For those who think dung

I’m sure this book would prove useful to someone in a very specific set of circumstances:

How to Poo on a Date has won the 36th annual Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year.

The book, by Mats & Enzo, published by Prion Press, topped a public vote to find the oddest title, in one of the closest contests in prize history. In the end, How to Poo on a Date: The Lovers’ Guide to Toilet Etiquette, took home the title with 30% of the vote, beating into second place Are Trout South African? by Duncan Brown (Pan South Africa) and The Origin of Feces by David Waltner-Toews (ECW Press), which both captured 23% of voters.

Were I a minion at ECW Press, I’d be bragging right about now: “The Origin of Feces ties for Number Two!”

Regrettably, the founder of the Diagram Prize has just passed on:

Bruce Robertson, who has died aged 79, was managing director of the book design and artwork partnership Diagram and founder of the Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title, an award presented annually by The Bookseller magazine.

Robertson and his business partner Trevor Bounford dreamed up the award in 1978 to avoid boredom at the annual Frankfurt Book Fair. The first award went to Proceedings Of The Second International Workshop On Nude Mice. Other winners over the years have included How to Avoid Huge Ships; Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop; and Managing a Dental Practice the Genghis Khan Way.

Essentials to the modern library, you may be sure.

Incidentally, this is the second crap-related title to win the Diagram this decade: Saiyuud Diwong’s Cooking with Poo won in 2011. And winning the Diagram can do wonders for one’s profile, even if one’s book is out of print: Amazon merchants are asking over $50 for the 2003 winner, The Big Book of Lesbian Horse Stories.

(With thanks to Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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A fool such as I

An operation called Grandiloquent Word of the Day came up with this polysyllabic portmanteau:

tibuloconcupiscent

A Facebook friend was kind enough to paste this on my wall, suggesting that it was right up my alley. I argued that “I’m just as interested in watching her take them off.” And besides, ZZ Top has already described this phenomenon more than adequately.

Morley, a famed British brand since 1795, was rebooted in 2011, though today they manufacture men’s wear only.

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Sexist hardware

It wasn’t planned that way, of course:

In the fall of 1997, my university built a CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) to help scientists, artists, and archeologists embrace 3D immersion to advance the state of those fields. Ecstatic at seeing a real-life instantiation of the Metaverse, the virtual world imagined in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, I donned a set of goggles and jumped inside. And then I promptly vomited.

I never managed to overcome my nausea. I couldn’t last more than a minute in that CAVE and I still can’t watch an IMAX movie. Looking around me, I started to notice something. By and large, my male friends and colleagues had no problem with these systems. My female peers, on the other hand, turned green.

Clearly, further experimentation was called for:

I created scenarios in which motion parallax suggested an object was at one distance, and shape-from-shading suggested it was further away or closer. The idea was to see which of these conflicting depth cues the brain would prioritize. (The brain prioritizes between conflicting cues all the time; for example, if you hold out your finger and stare at it through one eye and then the other, it will appear to be in different positions, but if you look at it through both eyes, it will be on the side of your “dominant” eye.)

What I found was startling [pdf]. Although there was variability across the board, biological men were significantly more likely to prioritize motion parallax. Biological women relied more heavily on shape-from-shading. In other words, men are more likely to use the cues that 3D virtual reality systems relied on.

And that word “biological” is there for a very specific reason:

Scholars in the gender clinic [in Utrecht] were doing fascinating research on tasks like spatial rotation skills. They found that people taking androgens (a steroid hormone similar to testosterone) improved at tasks that required them to rotate Tetris-like shapes in their mind to determine if one shape was simply a rotation of another shape. Meanwhile, male-to-female transsexuals saw a decline in performance during their hormone replacement therapy.

The spiffy new Oculus Rift may compensate for this — or it might not. I’ve never seen one, and for that matter I never was any good at rotating random polygons. I’m thinking, though, that of the various differences between the sexes, this is one of the more easily minimized.

(Swiped from Erica Mauter’s Facebook page.)

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