Abandoned pursuit

Those of us with hermetically-sealed dance cards are pretty much sick and tired of this sort of thing:

Once you’ve been single for a few months years, you start to hear the phrase “when you stop looking for it, it will come” a hundred different times in a hundred different variations. It. gets. old. And besides that, it’s not even realistic. Why, when we’re told to work for everything else in life, do we have this prevailing view as a society that the universe is going to reward our apathy regarding relationships with just that: a relationship? It’s totally ridiculous, and I’m with Katie that it’s awful advice.

No way can I argue with Katie:

[S]ingle people are constantly encouraged to stop being single — whether it’s a friend setting you up, a relative you only see a couple times a year always making sure to ask if you’re seeing anyone, or the sad, simple fact that the most liked comments on Facebook are always about relationship statuses.

But I mean, yeah, I’ll devote myself solely to everything else in my life and stop thinking about romance just so that moment I “least expect” will come and I’ll find my true love.

Seems legit. And, of course, that’s the problem with it.

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Yeah, they do that

Tautological tweet is tautological:

A murder resulting in death? This sounds like a job for the homicide investigators!

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Quote of the week

The political left, somewhat more so than the right, tends to believe in the fundamental mutability of mankind: you can change minds, you can change hearts, you can change murderers into commencement speakers. Baseball owner Bill Veeck was pointing out the futility of this sort of thing before many of them were born:

When I signed Larry Doby, the first Negro player in the American League, we received 20,000 letters, most of them in violent and sometimes obscene protest. Over a period of time I answered all. In each answer, I included a paragraph congratulating them on being wise enough to have chosen parents so obviously to their liking. If everyone knew their precious secret, I told them, I was sure everyone would conform to the majority. Until that happy day, I wrote, I was sure they would agree that any man should be judged on his personal merit and allowed to exploit his talents to the fullest, whether he happened to be black, green, or blue with pink dots.

I am afraid irony is lost on these people, but that’s not the point I want to make here. A year later, I was a collector for what is now called the Combined Jewish Appeal. This time, I got something close to 5,000 violent and sometimes obscene letters. In answering, something interesting happened. The names began to have a familiar ring. I became curious enough to check our files and I found they were to an astonishing degree — about 95 percent — the same people. A year after that, I converted to Catholicism. About 2,000 anti-Catholics were concerned enough about my soul to write me violent and again often obscene letters. All but a handful of them were already in our anti-Negro and anti-Semite files.

So I am one man who has documentary proof that prejudice is indivisible. The jackal, after all, doesn’t care what kind of animal he sinks his teeth into.

Once an asshat, always an asshat.

The kind soul who dug up this Veeck quote added:

So to all those who claim the Internet has led to some degree of courtesy breakdowns, moral decay, and Loss Of Values, I just want to say the following:

It’s always been like this. It’s just a lot faster now.

Note that no one is saying you don’t have a right to your opinion. You don’t, however, have a right to make anyone give a damn about it.

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The weed from hell

Doesn’t this sound wonderful?

A weed strong enough to stop combines and resist many herbicides has been confirmed in South Dakota for the first time, raising concerns it could spread and cut deeply into crop production in the Upper Midwest — one of the few areas it hadn’t yet invaded.

The threat from Palmer amaranth [Amaranthus palmeri] is so great that officials in North Dakota have named it the weed of the year, even though it has yet to be found in the state.

“If you think you find plants — kill it!” North Dakota State University Extension Weed Specialist Rich Zollinger said. “Don’t even think. Just kill it.”

Even glyphosate, Monsanto’s mighty Roundup, is helpless against this stuff:

Weed scientists have performed tests on resistant Palmer pigweed. In this study, glyphosate was sprayed on resistant pigweed three times at 88 ounces per acre. The Palmer pigweed that received 264 ounces of glyphosate was still alive and healthy. The drought-plagued cotton plants were dwarfed by the glyphosate-resistant weed.

And, just our luck, it’s prolific:

The plants can grow as tall as 7 feet, each one producing as much as a million seeds. Its stems can grow as thick as baseball bats.

Which certainly explains how it can stop a combine.

(Via TYWKIWDBI.)

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On the edge of the Everdead Forest

All eyes are turned to Dallas, no thanks to some schmuck who’s been incubating Ebola, and Nightmare Nights, a My Little Pony convention coming up in the area, answers the question “Would it kill you to attend?”:

The patient was been placed in isolation — separate medical staff, separate water supply, and in-room destruction of all materials — at a hospital just over 30 miles from our convention venue, and remains there today. “Dallas” is a metropolitan area encompassing 9,286 square miles. It’s bigger than Rhode Island and Connecticut combined. Trust us, we are well away from this hospital.

The venue is actually in the town of Addison, at the far north end of Dallas County.

Further reassurance:

We are not altering our plans for Nightmare Nights. Nor has school been cancelled, nor has public transit been altered, nor have any area concerts or sporting events been rescheduled. We know news organizations like to get your attention by talking about epidemics — remember when SARS, bird flu, or swine flu were going to bring the country to a standstill? — but everything here is pretty much normal.

And sneaked into the bottom:

TL;DR: There is no Ebola “outbreak.” However, as the patient reported symptoms on September 26th, we will note that Nightmare Nights is exactly 28 Days Later.

Well played, gang.

(Via EqD. Warning: Picture of Ebola Pony.)

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Mars, the bringer of yocks

The Ran-Dells’ original waxing of “The Martian Hop,” from the summer of 1963, was a cheerfully demented slice of space-age doo-wop that Dr. Demento himself was happy to play on his radio show; it’s always been a personal favorite of mine for absolutely no good reason other than sheer silliness.

Still, to hit the true heights of dementia, it takes the French:

I think M. Salvador lifted that opening proto-synthesizer bit, but otherwise this is scarifyingly original.

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Seven the hard way

I am somewhat unathletic, in the sense that a garden snail is somewhat unspeedy, so I tend to be at least slightly awed by competitive athletics, and rather more than that when the competitions are multiple and consecutive.

The women’s heptathlon consists of, yes, seven events, four on one day, three on the next: 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter run; long jump, javelin throw, 800-meter run. There is a scoring system that almost, but not quite, defies description. Here we see Polish heptathlete Karolina Tymińska on her way to a personal-best 6,544 points at the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, South Korea:

Karolina Tyminska in the high jump

She also cleans up nicely after a workout:

Karolina Tyminska seated

It’s her 30th birthday today.

(The all-time record for women’s heptathlon was set by American Jackie Joyner-Kersee in 1988, with 7,291 points; Tymińska just missed the bronze in the 2011 Championships, won by Tatyana Chernova of Russia.)

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Texoma bailing

There are exactly two commercial radio stations in Durant, Oklahoma, population 17,000 or so, and they and a nearby sister are changing hands:

Texoma Broadcasting sells AC “B99.7″ KBBC-FM Tishomingo, Country 106.3 KLBC Durant, and Oldies 750 KSEO/94.1 K231CE Durant, OK to Mid-Continental Communications for $2.45 million.

On the one hand, that’s a fair chunk of change for two FMs and an AM daytimer with a low-power FM translator outside any major metropolitan area. Then again, the buyer, Kinion E. Whittington, is a gynecologist in private practice in Durant, which suggests to me that he’s probably going to be keeping those stations right where they are, rather than apply for relicensing to somewhere across the Red River and then moving into north Dallas, as I might have expected.

As long as I’m mentioning Durant radio, I probably should bring up KSSU Power92FM, actually at 91.9, operated by, and presumably for, students at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Their Web page is, to be charitable, a work in progress.

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A John Deere letter

I’m half hoping this is a trick question:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Does the new 22 horsepower engine on a john deere have as much power as the old 26 horsepower engine?

Perhaps what she wants to say is more like “Is the new line of John Deere implements with 22-hp engines up to the performance standards set by the old line with 26-hp engines?” She didn’t say that, though, so she’s basically earned a “Duh.”

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Or you can wait and pay less

Sprig is a San Francisco eatery that isn’t really an eatery: everything is cooked at HQ and then delivered to your door in (usually) five to ten minutes.

Except, of course, when it can’t be. Their solution to this is elegantly simple:

Previously where you may have seen “out for now,” we will now be testing dynamic delivery fees. Dynamic delivery fees will adjust up or down throughout Sprig’s service based on how busy things get and how far away a delivery is. While delivery fees will go up during the rushes — like at 8pm in the Marina — they will also decrease when things are slower, meaning you may even see free delivery!

Why are we testing dynamic delivery pricing? Because it will enable us to continue to provide fair compensation for our hard-working Sprig Servers as we continue to expand. Furthermore, it makes Sprig more reliable for you — so you can get a Sprig meal right when you want it, straight to your desk or door.

Laura Northrup at Consumerist sees the sense in this:

I know that I tend to tip delivery drivers more when it’s, say, Super Bowl Sunday, or the busiest pizza times on Friday nights. Sprig’s plan is to take that system and make it mandatory. If customers don’t want to pay the higher fees, they can just wait until the sustainable and organic feeding frenzy is over: one option within the mobile ordering app is to receive a notification when delivery fees fall again.

Me, I’m very much the Apple Bloom type: “But I want it NAO!” And I’ll pay to get it.

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And we’re here to help

Constituent service will never be quite as important to politicians as fundraising, but it will never go away either, because it serves the purpose of burnishing the pol’s public image, a definite boon in his eyes.

Of course, what’s going on behind the curtain is perhaps a hair more sinister:

There are approximately half a million elective positions in the United States at this time, from the federal level all the way down to the school and library boards. Every politician who contends for an elective position wants above all else someone or something he can use as his target: an incompetent or a villain he can position himself against. This is because nearly all politicians would prefer not to have to run on their records; that would invite far too much scrutiny for most of them to bear. They’d rather campaign against some vilifiable enemy, and a faceless bureaucracy that can be castigated for its misdeeds, with promises of “reform” to come, is the ideal variety.

“Constituent service” is an integral element in this strategy. Consider a Congressman to whom some constituent appeals for help with something impeded by a regulatory bureaucracy. If the Congressman can “assist” the constituent past his difficulty — perhaps by promising to support the agency’s quest for expanded funding, or perhaps by threatening the relevant bureaucrats with a federal investigation aimed at them personally — he can create a loyalist, a potential campaign donor, and possibly an activist who will help him rally others to his side. Such a loyalist is likely to be much more strongly motivated to support the Congressman than are any of his detractors to unseat him. It’s basic “Public Choice” economics at work, with the “organizer” being the politician himself.

I can testify to the accuracy of this personally, having myself once prevailed upon a Senator to get me out of a potentially uncomfortable situation. (He is no longer in an elective office, so I can no longer support him; but while he was, I did.)

And this is, of course, a major reason why the faceless bureaucracy can never die, so long as a pol needs someone on whom to blame something — and a pol will always need someone on whom to to blame something.

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Peak sand

How could we possibly be running out of sand?

Never before has Earth been graced with the prosperity we are seeing today, with countries like China, India and Brazil booming. But that also means that demand for sand has never been so great. It is used in the production of computer chips, plates and mobile phones. More than anything, though, it is used to make cement. You can find it in the skyscrapers in Shanghai, the artificial islands of Dubai and in Germany’s autobahns.

In 2012, Germany alone mined 235 million tons of sand and gravel, with 95 percent of it going to the construction industry. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimates global consumption at an average of 40 billion tons per year, with close to 30 billion tons of that used in concrete. That would be enough to build a 27-meter by 27-meter (88.5 feet) wall circling the globe. Sands are “now being extracted at a rate far greater than their renewal,” a March 2014 UNEP report found. “Sand is rarer than one thinks,” it reads.

And renewal is a long, tedious process:

Sand is similar to fossil fuels like natural gas, coal or oil: It takes thousands of years to form — for rock to be naturally ground down into sand with rivers washing, grinding and breaking up stone on their long journeys to the sea. But the global population is growing, and since the start of the economic booms in Asia and Africa, sand doesn’t even make it to the oceans anymore in some places. It often gets fished out before getting there.

One perhaps-unexpected source of sand depletion is fracking:

According to the 14Q2 ProppantIQ report, recently published by PacWest Consulting Partners, robust growth in frac sand demand is driving dramatic growth in the North American proppant market. Proppant demand is expected to grow by 23% per annum through 2016, driven primarily by frac sand (+24% per annum). The RCS and Ceramics markets are also expected to grow at 9% and 2% per annum, respectively.

“We forecast strong growth in the North American market for proppant due to increasing horizontal wells and frac stages, in addition to increasing proppant volumes per stage,” says Samir Nangia, PacWest Principal. “However, there is considerable upside in our forecasts, due to the potential for faster-than-expected increases in proppant intensity (i.e. proppant/well and proppant/stage).”

“Proppant” is the stuff you mix with water plus Mystery Additives and send down the tubes to keep the fracture open while drilling. Garden-variety sand is not especially effective, but it’s cheap and cement-ish.

(With thanks to Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Also, it helps to know all the chords

They say that Guitar George of the Sultans of Swing can’t afford a new instrument, so he buys vintage. For the best vintage, this is way beyond George’s budget, but vendors of cheap guitars tend to post those prices due to non-musical considerations:

The complete disregard with which these guitars are treated by eBay sellers, pawnshops, MusicGoRounds, and Guitar Centers helps me understand why so many of the “Burst” Les Pauls from 1958-1959 are still missing despite the fact that any of them would be worth $150,000 in any condition if they could be found today. There’s nothing quite as worthless as an old guitar in the eyes of a lot of people. The fact that none of the Electras I bought lately set me back more than $299 drives that point home.

I bet you that there are still hundreds of extremely valuable Les Pauls sitting in barns and basements, crushed and broken, forgotten and abandoned. They’re out there to be found, but the people who find them won’t like the condition their conditions are in, to quote the old song. Luckily for me, I’m not in that market. I’m just buying guitars from 1981 and 1982, buying them cheap and stacking them deep, building a fortress of rock maple around an idealized version of my childhood, you get the idea.

Yeah, yeah, oh yeah.

I wonder how true this is of pianos. (Then again, who pawns a piano?)

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Ahead of the game

Which is where you want to be at all times, right? A helpful hint from Tam:

You might note that the first three letters of “preparedness” are “PRE”. You know, Latin for “before”, “in front of”, “ahead of”. This is not a coincidence. The whole notion of preparedness is that when unexpected stuff happens, you have already taken steps to deal with it. It’s the opposite of running to the store for bread and milk because the weatherman said it was going to snow; you don’t need to do that, because you already have bread and milk. (Or if you’re really a hardcore prepper, sacks of grain and a cow, I suppose.)

Still, some people gotta have their French toast.

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See Spotify run

Pretty much all of this Bob Lefsetz rumbling about, or orthogonal to, Spotify, is wrong, but some parts of it are wronger than others. For instance:

LPs … 1964, the advent of the Beatles, to 1982, the advent of the CD.

The CD … 1982 to 2000, when usurped by the MP3.

MP3s? By 2018 they’re HISTORY!

Like each of those points represents a major discontinuity. CD players in 1982 were a thousand bucks apiece, and actual CDs, when you could find them, were close to $20; it would be years before they made a serious dent in vinyl.

The LP, incidentally, dates to that year of years, 1948, and while it’s strictly a niche market today, it’s still here, 66 years later. A lot of eighteens have gone by.

The only problem we have today is everyone’s got a voice, and those who don’t win complain, whereas we didn’t used to hear from them. Ignore them. Focus on the winners. Spread the word about them. And know that if your identity is based on liking something no one else does, chances are you’re going to live a very lonely life.

Yeah, it’s a tragedy I’m not lapping up those [name of overblown pop star] tracks. Sucks to be me.

(Via Hit Coffee.)

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Early checkout

This is possibly the most disturbing tweet I’ve ever seen, and as a result it’s going below the jump.

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