Archive for March 2010

Why not?

Hold still for a moment and I’ll tell you why not.

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Maybe they’re trying to tell us something

Or maybe not:

No Headline

I tend to interpret these things as desperate attempts to monetize widgets.

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Among the slower sequels

Some time around the end of 2002, maybe the beginning of 2003, I knocked out a CD-R full of songs with numbers in their titles. It took me another two years to mention it here on the blog, and then only because a friend was looking to do a similar but more extensive project.

Finally I’ve gotten around to doing Volume Two, as it were. I’m assuming that basically I’m just out of ideas.

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There must be a rule about this

The everlasting Phelps explains how to tell the difference between those two generations younger than my own:

Gen X knows that Fight Club is a comedy, and the Millennials think that it is a documentary.

Other than that, I’m not going to talk about it.

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A 28-foot poll

Assuming two to the customer, as one probably should do:

The $1 million Crutcho school bond issue passed Feb. 9 by a vote of 11-3. Turnout for the race was 2 percent.

As it happens, I drove past Crutcho School (NE 23rd and Air Depot) today, and the marquee said simply THANK YOU VOTERS. Heck, they had almost enough room to call them out by name.

Then again, you could say that the bond issue was approved by 78.6 percent of voters.

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Operating at a loss

One of the categories around here is called “Dyssynergy,” which is intended to occupy the opposite pole from actual synergy: the whole is decidedly less than the sum of its parts. While clearly there are plenty of posts in that category that don’t precisely mesh with that definition — you try fitting 14,500 posts into fewer than 60 categories — once in a while something comes up that just seems to fit perfectly.

From the Prada Autumn/Winter line

This particular example comes from Prada’s Autumn 2010/Winter 2011 presentation. I think very highly of this shoe, delightfully insubstantial as it is, and I suspect that the tights (I’m assuming they’re tights and not actual socks, though it’s hard to tell from this picture, or, for that matter, from this one) are quite nice in their own way, but the combination of the two comes off as somewhere between “yawn” and “meh.” It’s the proportioning, I think: you wear a little nothing of a shoe, you need hosiery just this side of gossamer, or none at all, while a serious sock demands a substantial shoe.

Then again, it’s not like Prada is paying me to make these fine judgment calls, so as always, your mileage may vary.

Addendum: “So wrong,” says Lynn.

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A day late and several dollars short

I mentioned earlier that the tax on the palatial estate at Surlywood had jumped up a bit for 2009, mostly due to an increase in the actual millage, since the value on which the tax is based didn’t go up a whole lot. It occurred to me that this might cause a substantial upward adjustment (current euphemism for “frickin’ ginormous increase”) in the monthly outlay, and since the mortgage holder normally calculates these things in March, I figured I’d send in the March house payment with an extra $250 or so to keep the escrow account from looking like a Federal deficit chart.

Score this as a temporary Connivance Fail. The payment duly arrived on the first of March, as it’s supposed to, but they ran the escrow analysis on the 27th of February. Which was a Saturday, and since when do bankers work on a Saturday?

Oh, well. When the property tax goes up for this year, as I assume it must, I’m prepared.

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Not the fortunate ones

“Don’t sort your socks,” suggests Donna:

Keep them in a huge mess in your sock drawer. It becomes a little early morning puzzle to find two that match … and the emptier the drawer becomes, the more rewarding it is when you do finally find two that match.

In the early morning — by which I mean “anything before ten-thirty” — I am quite incapable of making judgment calls on sock colors, and among the ten pairs in the drawer (as of the completion of weekend laundry) there are really only four and a half distinct colors. (The really dark blue and the really faded black are hard to tell apart under a CFL bulb that won’t warm up for several minutes yet.)

And there’s one possible drawback:

I often look like early Cyndi Lauper because I give up rather easily … but it’s still a fun challenge.

I am quite fond of Cyndi Lauper, but I have no urge to look like her at any age.

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Unintended reinforcement

This juxtaposition, snipped from TweetDeck, just struck me as funny:

TweetDeck screen

Got that, old people?

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We’re unJacked

So far, this much is known:

  • KKNG, Tyler’s country outlet at 93.3, has displaced KOJK, which was running Jack FM at 97.3.
  • There’s still something vaguely country going on at 93.3, but it’s clearly a case of stunting, and they’re redirecting people to 97.3.

This would suggest that something other than country will be going in, but so far there are no clues.

I can’t say I’m exactly surprised that Tyler bade farewell to Jack: they’ve never climbed much over a 1 share. The only thing I found in the FCC Daily Digest was a decision to allow KWTV to abandon channel 9 in the name of better local reception: their signal will appear only on channel 39 once the tech stuff is done.

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Spin zone

Try to imagine Johnny Carson saying “I did not know that” as you read this:

When, in the year 1288, after the Battle of Worringen, Düsseldorf received its town charter, the children turned “wheels of joy”. Since then, small Radschläger can be seen here and there in the city, displaying their abilities for a penny. The fastest and best ones in this discipline are crowned during the cart-wheeling tournament, which is held annually on Königsallee.

There’s even a Cartwheel FountainRadschlägerbrunnen — on the Burgplatz.

(Suggested by Frill Seeker Diary.)

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Can templates go too far?

One Fine Jay takes a peek under the hood of Twentyten, the default theme for WordPress 3.0 — which can’t be far away, since the current release is 2.9.2 — and apparently it assumes a hell of a lot:

Twentyten uses conditional logic in loop.php that references Category names such as Asides and Gallery. Not a bad idea, except the installation does not populate those Categories. I’m certain that there can be safeguards to overwriting existing categories when this happens for an upgrade, but if you’re going to take dibs on category names, at least populate those names or have a friendly (yellow) reminder up top that tells users “in order to make the most out of your theme, please create categories with the following names: Asides, Category, YourMomsKnickers.”

I suspect I’m safe, since my existing category names cover a range from inscrutable to indecipherable.

Then again, the theme I’m working with dates back to the Cretaceous period, so I may run into other problems when 3.0 insinuates its way into the Dashboard.

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Big Nissan is watching you

Well, okay, not yet they aren’t. But they’re up to something with that new electric car of theirs:

“From now on, we will market cars based on the value of the information they provide,” said Toru Futami, expert leader at Nissan’s IT & ITS engineering department to the Nikkei.

Details are as shady as the exact location of the data center. The Nikkei could divine that “by connecting the facility and its cars through a high-speed wireless network, Nissan is able to receive driving information in real time. The system enables the driver to easily get information about such things as traffic jams and the location of charging stations.” Hmm. Big deal. Here’s another one:

“Because the data center stores a vast amount of information, including the number of times the car battery has been recharged, drivers will be able to calculate such things as how many more years a battery can be used and what value to place on it when the car is resold.”

Then again, what you really want to know about a used car you’re considering is something they’re not mentioning: whether the previous owner engaged in wholesale hoonage. It seems to me that it wouldn’t be any more difficult to track zero-to-sixty-to-whatever bursts than battery charge cycles.

And I suspect it wouldn’t require rocket science to divert this information to, um, interested third parties.

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Cheese-heating render monkeys

People are allegedly being liquefied in Peru:

Three suspects have confessed to killing five people for their fat, said Col. Jorge Mejía, chief of Peru’s anti-kidnapping police. He said the suspects, two of whom were arrested carrying bottles of liquid fat, told the police it was worth $60,000 a gallon.

Colonel Mejía said the suspects had told the police that the fat had been sold to intermediaries in Lima, the capital. While police officials suspect that the fat was sold to cosmetic companies in Europe, he said he could not confirm any sales.

Which gives Joan an idea:

I see a whole industry utopia here. We have too much fat, and we pay dearly to rid ourselves of it while there in Peru they’re killing people in the most gruesome way for a few gallons. Hello? It’s silly and makes no sense, especially when folks would line up to sell their liposuctioned ass-fat on a free market to offset the expense. Might even solve the trade deficit if we can get China to manufacture these cosmetics and sell them our fat. Then they could sell the cosmetics to Wal-Mart. It’s recycling at an optimal incentive. It would work.

This being spring, beware the Ides of April: I must caution you that any income you receive from selling any precious bodily fluids, even those that weren’t actually fluid at the time you signed the release — you did sign a release, didn’t you? — is taxable.

It occurs to me that I probably should set up a category for “Posts I Wouldn’t Have Made Except For The Stirring Title Potential.”

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Calling all angels

I spotted this at LP Cover Lover, and yes, it’s a 45, but what caught my eye (other than the rather striking art) is the utter absence of performer identification, at least up front:

Bell 147, Trouble in Paradise

Trying to track this down brought me to Both Sides Now Publications, where I found this bit of instruction:

There is little of collectors’ interest on the original Bell records of the ’50s. They generally tended toward cover versions of popular hits of the times, much as the Tops label did, or “generic” non-hit pop.

Number 147 was one of the last of the original Bell 45s, before they mutated into a more-or-less full-service record label. Billy Winter does the Crests cover on the A side, and Ken Wright appears in the Ron Holden role on the flip. And maybe one of this series might be of interest to collectors after all:

The single of real interest is 120 with an A side by “Tom and Jerry” who later became better known by their real names Simon and Garfunkel.

Tom Graph and Jerry Landis, S&G’s noms de disque of the time, actually had a chart item circa 1958, the Everlyesque “Hey, Schoolgirl” (Big Records 613, #49 in Billboard). If it’s the same T&J, I’d definitely like to hear them taking on Jan Berry’s “Baby Talk.”

(Disclosure: I have contributed a few items to the BSN discography list.)

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David West ran up 14 points in the first twelve minutes; he finished with 33. Nobody else could generate any offense for New Orleans, though, and the Thunder flattened the Hornets, 98-83.

Point guard Darren Collison has been pretty effective filling in for Chris Paul, and he did dish up nine assists, but he got only eight points on 3-14 shooting. In the middle, Emeka Okafor was held to two points and three rebounds, though he did block two shots. And Peja Stojakovic was conspicuous by his absence; Julian Wright started in his stead and scored ten, but the Bees missed Peja’s three-point stroke, or indeed anyone’s three-point stroke.

The Thunder wasn’t much better from beyond the arc — two of nine is no improvement over three of 14 — but they shot four percentage points better (47-43) and dominated the boards (47-38). And OKC landed five players in double figures, led as usual by Kevin Durant with 29. Russell Westbrook had another one of those almost-triple-doubles, with 17 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. And previously-missing-in-action D. J. White, just retrieved from the 66ers, rang up five points in five minutes.

So another season series concludes, and the Thunder win this one, 2-1. The homestand continues with New Jersey on Friday and Utah on Sunday, followed by three games on the road against Eastern squads.

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Today’s most burning issue, continued

Socks with sandalsEarlier this week I ventured off into the Fashion Danger Zone by making some semi-inane (which, I guess, is therefore semi-ane) comment about socks with sandals, a combination about which I expressed grave doubts. And I wasn’t alone in so observing: serious socks, the sort that simultaneously keep your feet warm and ward off blisters, aren’t exactly staples of the hautest couture, or so seems to be the consensus of the readership.

That said, I popped open the March InStyle, and this was right there in “yourLook”:

“Loved the socks-with-sandals look on the spring runways. How can I pull it off?”

They did not, alas, say “Pull off the damn socks.” What they did say:

Try legwear in a neutral tone similar to your shoes. Stick to thin (sheer or opaque) fabrics with dainty patterns, like teeny dots, or skinny ribbing.

The next step: to find someone who actually tried it. And this is what I found:

On the one hand, anything that gives me a chance to wear my pretty summer shoe collection more than just a measly 3 months out of the year is a good thing in my book (hey, those things cost money!). And I have to admit, I’ve been a sock fan for a while now but rarely have a chance to wear anything more exciting than the white tennis-shoe variety. So it seems like two rights should make a right, right? (OK, that was confusing.) Plus, on the models, I can’t help but find the look kind of cute in a funky sort of way, so why not give it a try? Warm toes plus cute shoes is a total win!

But when I tried the look on in my bedroom I looked a lot more “five-year-old-who-dressed-herself” than “I-don’t-care-what-you-think-chic” and the BF thought I’d gone insane. So after consulting my mags once again, I realize that while it may look cute on the models, so does the other crazy stuff they have on — stuff that would make me look like I’d just broken out of a mental institution. There’s also the little fact that I live in NYC and socks are probably not going to be nearly enough toe coverage when it comes time for my morning sprint to the subway. And perhaps the greatest deterrent of all to me is that age old fashion rule that socks and sandals are mortal enemies — I know we’re supposed to be breaking the mold, but somehow it just seems blasphemous!

Yeah, I know: the beatings will continue while the equine remains deceased. Now you know the secret to blog longevity.

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On the comeback trail

Marion Jones won five medals at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, which was good; apparently she had a little help from her druggist, which wasn’t so good, and after false testimony to a pair of grand juries, she wound up with no medals and six months in the Hotel Graybar.

What’s a girl to do to make a living? Jones, who played college hoops at North Carolina, worked out for a WNBA team last fall, and now she’s signed with the Tulsa Shock for the 2010 season, presumably for the league minimum (around $35k a year).

The Shock’s season opens on the 15th of May at the BOk Center, against the Minnesota Lynx.

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Evidently his feelings were not repressed

Why college professors despair, Chapter XCVI:

Okay, so in a question about the definition of Darcy’s Law (which governs water movement in saturated systems) on an exam, I had as one of the false choices, “In situations where there is both pride and prejudice.”

Someone actually chose that as their choice. I do not know whether to laugh or to cry.

I’m laughing, though it’s because (1) I was hoping she’d do something like that and (2) I’m not the one who had to take the exam.

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Cute underload

Last week, Princeton held a conference called “Too Cute: American Style and the New Asian Cool,” and Virginia Postrel was on hand to explain the differences between being cute and being glamorous. (Postrel, after all, runs a Web site called “Deep Glamour,” and wrote an excellent book on a related subject: The Substance of Style.) The differences, far from being thoroughly inchoate, as I might have thought, are apparently not particularly difficult to quantify:

Cute vs. Glamorous

Do not, however, peg your future happiness to finding someone with the perfect blend thereof:

The two rarely coexist, since they entail contradictory qualities. Mix them, and the cuteness tends to win out, canceling out the glamour altogether or producing something disturbing or comical.

I console myself with the thought that someday (ten years from now, actually) Zooey Deschanel will be 40.

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Not that I could do better

In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever come close to this:

Last night I managed to wash and dry about 10 loads of laundry in under an hour and half. Serious superwoman abilities here.

She got most of it folded, too. But there’s a downside:

Obviously, I need to get better goals lest this is what it will take to make me feel accomplished.

Damnedest thing about housework: it won’t do itself. The moment they retrain a Roomba to do the dishes and take out the trash, I am there, Visa in hand.

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Formal complaints

File this under “Well, we’ve got to punish her somehow“:

An 18-year-old Mississippi lesbian student whose school district canceled her senior prom rather than allow her to escort her girlfriend and wear a tuxedo said she got some unfriendly looks from classmates when she reluctantly returned to campus Thursday.

The district announced Wednesday it wouldn’t host the April 2 prom. The decision came after the American Civil Liberties Union told officials a policy banning same-sex prom dates violated students’ rights. The ACLU said the district not letting [Constance] McMillen wear a tuxedo violated her free expression rights.

I’ve got to assume that there’s at least one formal-wear establishment in Mississippi that didn’t have any problem with the poor girl coming in and getting fitted for a tux.

Says Jenn:

This was probably the right choice, this way none of the other students will catch the gay and civilization won’t crumble from two girls kissing.

At least she didn’t spell it “teh ghey.”

I remember that my own prom, forty-odd years ago, was subjected to extraneous political and/or cultural concerns, which didn’t get it canceled but did get it rescheduled for maximum inconvenience. To me, anyway, it’s another reason to take her side.

And you know, Ellen’s pretty darn dapper in a tux.

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Thunder and/or lightning

When Thora Birch was a tween, she appeared in typical tween fare like Monkey Trouble, in which she looked something like this:

Thora Birch, 1994

At the time, I was not inclined to extrapolate from the available data. Add a decade and change, though:

Thora Birch, 21st century

She turned twenty-eight on Thursday. And “Thora,” apparently, is the feminine form of “Thor.” Yeah, that Thor. Do not mess with this young woman.

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Hey, vendors, leave them tracks alone

“How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?” To borrow a studied Sinatra-ism, you can’t have one without the other, and that’s exactly the way Pink Floyd wants it:

Pink Floyd won a legal battle Thursday against EMI that prevents the band’s long-time record label from selling individual songs online.

Sir Andrew Morritt, chancellor of Britain’s High Court, ruled that Pink Floyd’s contract forbids EMI from breaking up the band’s albums without its permission, according to a spokeswoman for the British judicial system. EMI had argued that the stipulation only applied to physical albums, not online sales.

The group’s contract reportedly contained a clause to “preserve the artistic integrity” of their albums. The band has traditionally resisted selling individual songs from their “concept albums,” which are meant to be listened to from beginning to end.

As of five minutes ago, the iTunes Store was still vending individual tracks, albeit at the higher $1.29 price, except for stuff from The Division Bell and various live performances, priced at 99 cents a track.

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Acropolis now

The tourists, they love the ruins. They’ll turn out with their cameras, night or day, rain or shine; that’s the main reason they went to Athens. Or to Rome. Or to, um, Detroit?

Detroit has a vast supply of decayed and vacant buildings, many of them architectural treasures. Even if [the Michigan Central Depot] is somehow restored, it will be one of only a handful saved, while so many others will languish for some time. Many, like the Lafayette Building, may become so damaged that they have to be torn down.

What if instead of spending a huge amount of money to try to save one building, the city found a little bit of money to do basic maintenance to preserve the structural integrity of many buildings — and create a safe path through parts of them that tourists could walk through similar to how ancient ruins are displayed in Europe. Heck, don’t even clean the buildings up. That saves money and makes them even more impressive to visitors. This could preserve more structures for the long haul, and create a tourist attraction. The structures can always [be] renovated later when demand warrants.

Actually, the tourists are already coming whether it is authorized or not. Thirty folks a day at MCD is pretty impressive. Imaging putting a string of these sites together — probably including many of the same ones we’ve seen photographed before — and allowing tours. And of course marketing the heck out of it.

I know this mindset better than I probably should admit: the first time I visisted Cleveland, I threaded through some back streets to get a look at an abandoned steel mill. (Two years would elapse before I bothered to drop in at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.)

And when you get right down to it, I’d rather see buildings in some degree of disrepair than an array of shiny new parking lots, as is the practice in some cities I could name.

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Yet another taxing situation

There’s a line in the Temptations’ classic “Ball of Confusion” to the effect that “Politicians say more taxes will solve everything.” Not much has changed in the forty years since, though Stacy McCain observes that a smaller percentage of us seems to be paying them:

In 2008, there were 48 million IRS tax returns with zero federal tax liability, so that more than a third of all Americans are getting a free ride.

Of course, FICA/Medicare aren’t mentioned on the return, unless you overpaid FICA for some reason, so that ride is perhaps a tad less free than it seems.

On the other hand, if you are one of the lucky ones, if that’s the term, it’s good form to regret it:

Uh, including me — because I’ve got six kids and blogging hasn’t yet become the lucrative gold mine of a six-figure income. But maybe if you hit the tip jar, we can get me off Uncle Sam’s tax moochers list.

Eight personal exemptions plus standard deduction (married filing jointly) would equal $40,600, so clearly McCain isn’t making it rain like Scrooge McDuck.

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A case of overconfidence?

Whatever you may think of the New Jersey Nets, one thing seems clear to me: they couldn’t possibly be as bad as their record suggests, and given the startling level of sloppiness exhibited by the Thunder in the waning moments, I have to figure that if the game had run an extra 30 seconds, the Nets would have pulled out the win. As it is, they whittled a double-digit Oklahoma City lead down to two points, 104-102.

Something else you may not have considered: the Nets have depth. (And they’re effective in the middle: 48 points in the paint, versus 46 for the Thunder.) Four Jersey reserves came up with 53 points; Jarvis Hayes (16 points) hit two of his four treys in rapid succession during the Nets’ final push. Devin Harris, according to the box score, set the curve — 19 points, eight assists — but if you ask me, it was the Nets’ bench that kept them in it.

The Thunder led in a couple of statistical categories — shooting, 52 to 46; rebounds 47 to 36 — but ghastly lapses in the fourth quarter nearly undid the Weather Phenomenon, despite 32 from Kevin Durant (and 12 rebounds) and a season-high 27 from Jeff Green. With James Harden sidelined for a few weeks, Kyle Weaver, retrieved from Tulsa, got some minutes; he didn’t accomplish a whole lot, but at least he’s playing again.

And as the pundits will tell you, a W is a W, no matter how it looks. But the Jazz will be here Sunday, and they’re even less forgiving than the Nets.

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But can she sell you a car?

I concede up front, as it were, that Jill Wagner has her charms, but she was never in charge of anything at Mercury, other than calling attention to the brand and drawing admiring blog posts.

Now if you’re looking for a woman who might exercise some actual clout in the motor industry, you might look toward former VW executive Laura Soave, who is joining the Chrysler Group as head of the Fiat brand, just in time for the North American introduction of Fiat’s 500 for (we think) the 2011 model year. How high up? She reports directly to Chrysler (and Fiat) chair Sergio Marchionne.

Presumably owing to business considerations, the picture of Ms Soave being circulated by Chrysler is carefully tuned for maximum blandness. In person, she’s much more striking.

And here’s your Strange Coincidence for the day: when Jill Wagner was flourishing as the Mercury spokesbabe, Laura Soave was marketing manager for Mercury.

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Scary drug yields up a secret

Thalidomide, first sold by the German pharmaceutical house Chemie Grünenthal in 1957, was considered a wonder drug of sorts. A painkiller with anti-emetic qualities? Easy sell to a pregnant woman with morning sickness.

Then the horrible truth came out: the drug passed easily through the placental barrier, and the children were born with severe deformities. The drug was withdrawn.

It’s back now, as a treatment for leprosy, and of course it’s packed with all sorts of warnings. (I wrote about it here.) Until recently, though, we had no idea why it did such severe damage to the fetus.

Now we know:

Research in the journal Science reveals that thalidomide binds to and renders inactive the protein cereblon, which is very important in limb formation.

The research team, led by Takumi Ito from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan, managed to isolate the negative effects of this “potentially useful” drug.

They set out to discover which target molecules thalidomide bound to in the body. They did this using tiny beads that extracted each individual molecule the drug bound to.

The next step, presumably, is to figure out a drug that does the same job but doesn’t kill off that particular protein. Celgene, which sells thalidomide under the name Thalomid, offers a derivative called Revlimid (lenalidomide), as a treatment for multiple myeloma, with essentially the same list of warnings.

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Not insane

The Daily Beast has decided for some reason to rank the 57 largest metro areas on the basis of sheer craziness, and the OKC comes in at a relatively non-drooling 39th, just behind (of course) Dallas.

Criteria: psychiatrists per capita (we ranked 29th), stress (25th), eccentricity (20th), and drinking (55th). Even Salt Lake City outdrinks us. Nashville imbibes the least, which explains absolutely nothing about country music; Milwaukee, Austin and Las Vegas tied for heaviest drinking, which presumably doesn’t need explanation at all, though contrary to popular belief, not everyone in Wisconsin is a lush.

Memphis sports the highest stress level, says the Beast; San Francisco the largest number of shrinks; New Orleans (duh) the highest level of eccentricity.

(Title courtesy of George G. Papoon.)

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Quote of the week

What do we do with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner? Tim Cavanaugh has a recommendation:

Geithner must not only be removed from office but be imprisoned like Magneto in a metals-free environment where there will be no conductivity for his brain waves of pure bamboozlement.

Other nominations for Washington’s version of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants are solicited.

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You just know Congress is taking notes

Three members of Parliament face criminal charges over their allegedly-fraudulent expense accounts, and while they of course maintain their innocence, they argue that their very trials are invalid:

Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Jim Devine, all of whom are charged with false accounting under the Theft Act and face jail terms of up to seven years if found guilty, waited at the back of the court instead of entering the dock.

This was because they are arguing that the case against them should not be heard in court at all. They believe they are protected from prosecution by parliamentary privilege enshrined in the 1689 Bill of Rights and that the House of Commons should decide their fate.

The pertinent passage:

[T]he freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.

See? It’s not a legal matter at all. It’s just part of the routine in Parliament.

Evidently not all Britons are buying this premise:

The MPs were jeered by protestors as they entered court, one man dressed as a pig shouting: “Oink, oink”. And when they climbed into a cab after the brief hearing, a voice in the crowd called: “Don’t forget to get a receipt”.

A spot of tea, anyone?

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Put on a happy face

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A little at a time

The mission statement of Chicago’s Urban Prep:

The mission of Urban Prep is to provide a comprehensive, high-quality college preparatory education to young men that results in graduates succeeding in college.

This mission is a direct response to the urgent need to reverse abysmal graduation and college completion rates among young men in urban centers, particularly African-American males. Urban Prep’s tailored curriculum is based on the developmental stages and learning styles of boys as well as the unique challenges facing urban youth. The Urban Prep motto is “We Believe.” We believe that our students will shatter negative stereotypes and defy low expectations. We believe that our students can be prepared for and will succeed in college. We believe in the long-lasting impact community support and positive role models can have on our students’ lives. In short, we believe in our students’ futures. At Urban Prep, we believe.

Note: “boys.” Not girls. At the moment, female presence is considered a distraction.

Urban Prep’s first graduating class: 107. Number accepted by a four-year college: 107.

This is not a hyper-selective school, either: students are chosen by lottery from the pool of applicants.

So what’s the trick? No excuses accepted for anything:

Each new freshman starting school gets his own wristwatch to keep track of time.

“Kids would be late and say they didn’t know what time it was,” [founder Tim] King said. “Part of our creed reads [that] we make no excuses, so we wanted to remove that excuse.”

Nor do you get to leave early. Classes run 8:30 am to 4:30 pm — just like a real work day. And students dress like it’s a real work day, too:

The young men at the academy wear suit jackets and ties as signs of respect.

“It distinguishes us. We stand out in the crowd,” said student Jerry Hinds. “Freshman year, maybe, people had problems with it at first. But after a while, you see the bigger picture. … These uniforms show that, oh, he’s wearing a tie; oh, he wants to do something with himself.”

More like this, please. And soon.

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Not a frequent-traveler perk

I don’t do coffee, generally, mostly because the amount of caffeine it takes to rouse me from my morning stupor is so immense I’d end up spending the afternoon in the restroom. This holds particularly true on road trips, since spending time looking for said restrooms detracts substantially from the joy of driving.

It did not occur to me, though, that there might be another reason for ignoring the coffeepot in my room at the Generic Inn:

Instead of brewing coffee, coffee pots are sometimes used to brew methamphetamine.

And since meth labs in hotels aren’t anything new, Rick Phillips of the Marshall County [Alabama] Drug Enforcement Unit says there’s definitely a risk.

“The coffee makers that you find in every motel room is an ideal heat source. They mix it up in the coffee pot, put it on a heat source and let it sit there and cook,” said Phillips.

It’s common knowledge to those who fight meth, but a shock to your average citizen.

And I am nothing if not average, right?

Nor is this the only risk, says Dogette:

If a person were to drink coffee from a pot used to re-warm sludge taken from the banks of the L.A. River, it could have negative health effects that might not manifest immediately.

Not that anyone wants cold sludge, but clearly this is a hazard, if perhaps not as common as meth.

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If you’re a game and a half behind the Jazz, beating the Jazz has to be high on your to-do list. This is not necessarily the easiest thing to do: for instance, the Thunder hit 14 of 17 from the floor in the third quarter, but it increased their lead by only a single point. What’s more, putting the lean on Utah’s fearsome points-in-the-paint machine merely induced the Jazz to take outside shots; they went 11-19 from the three-point line. Rookie shooting guard Wesley Matthews got six of those treys, en route to a team high (and career high) 29 points. But Oklahoma City made it three-for-three against Utah, winning 119-111 at the Ford and closing to within half a game of fourth place in the West.

This was billed as a battle of the point guards, and both Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook acquitted themselves admirably: Williams picked up 27 points and served up 14 assists before fouling out late, and Westbrook had 30 points and 11 dimes. (Former Jazzman Eric Maynor, now backing up Westbrook, had six points and five rebounds in ten minutes; Ronnie Price, who usually works behind Williams, was out with a bruised wrist.) Other injuries bedeviled the Jazz: both Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko were forced to sit after being roughed up Friday at Milwaukee.

But what really knocked Utah’s collective hat in the creek was the Thunder offense: OKC shot a startling 60.3 percent from the floor, though treys were few and far between. (Rebounds were sparse: OKC 36, Utah 30.) All five starters hit double digits, and Kevin Durant hit twenty in the first half, finishing with 35. The Thunder were just okay at the stripe, 28 of 35, but the Jazz obligingly missed twelve out of 34.

I think it’s safe to say no one expected this team to win 41 games out of 82, let alone 41 out of 65. A finish of .500 or better is now guaranteed. On the other hand, .500 in the West doesn’t even guarantee you a playoff spot, so it helps that the next three games are against teams from the East; the Thunder is 19-6 against Eastern teams and 19-13 on the road, so let’s hope for a sweep. Besides, the Spurs will be waiting when the Thunder return home.

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Strange search-engine queries (215)

Many people visiting this site are looking for something specific. Once in a great while they’re looking for something amusing, and their queries will show up here. It’s not as dramatic as, say, having Rahm Emanuel show up in your shower, but for now, it will have to do.

“spring forward nonsense”:  You see it every year, about this time.

crossdressers getting enemas:  Now if this had been crossdressers giving enemas, I might have been surprised.

mcdonalds green shamrock shake laxative:  Look on the bright side: you won’t need an enema from a crossdresser.

what does tyra banks do about her flat feet:  Kick your behind for even mentioning the subject.

results of fake smile project:  Initial public offering for SyntheGrin™.

what tire size is good for a dohc 2.0 liter engine:  It doesn’t matter so much: you’re not putting the tire on the engine anyway.

compilation of strange penises:  They’re only strange if you haven’t met them yet.

lost bet “you’re naked”:  Generally, most people can tell if they’re naked or not.

marital “birthday suit”:  Highly recommended whenever possible, but no wagering.

does oklahoma disabled vets tax exemption apply to liquor purchases:  Sales tax, yes; excise tax if any, no.

sin taxes fail: As a veteran, I do my part.

cincinnati woman offers sex for 5 dollars and gumball:  That must have been one hell of a gumball.

how will the economy affect Krispy Kreme:  We’ll know for sure if they start selling gumballs.

Obligatory Rule 34 item: “headless woman” carnival -martel.

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Symphony in plastic

Desperate times call for desperate measures, as any number of auto companies, some of which still exist, could tell you. Kaiser, were they still around, could show you this:

Kaiser-Darrin DKF-161

America’s first fiberglass sports roadster, the 1954 Kaiser-Darrin 161 was the brainchild of Los Angeles-based designer Howard “Dutch” Darrin, who took Kaiser’s odd-duck Henry J sedan and turned it into something distinctly swanlike. Unique, even. The 161 had a three-position top — up, down, or Somewhere In Between — and what Darrin called “pocket doors,” which actually retracted into the front fenders rather than swinging outward. The powerplant was the sturdy Willys F-head straight six, displacing 2.6 liters (161 cubic inches, hence the name) and producing 90 hp; a few cars were equipped with McCulloch superchargers, good for an extra 35 hp or so. At zero-to-sixty in a reported 13 seconds, the 161 was pretty brisk for its day. Production ended after a mere 435 cars were built; Darrin subsequently picked up about a hundred leftover bodyshells and sold them himself.

As for America’s second fiberglass roadster, General Motors, heartened by its reception at the 1953 Motorama, built about 300 Corvettes on a makeshift production line in Flint while a new plant in St. Louis was being readied for the official ’54s. The Kaiser-Darrin was arguably the better sports car — it had a proper manual floor shift, while the first Corvettes had the old two-speed Powerglide — but GM had cash flow, which Kaiser, having just merged with Willys, didn’t.

A lovingly-restored 161 sold at auction a couple of months ago for $220,000.

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OMGNSF (the sequel)

An observation from last year:

I have no idea what would happen if I overdrew my checking account, and I’m not particularly interested in finding out.

I opened a new account this spring, and one of the questions I posed to the New Accounts guy was “What’s the overdraft policy?” They said that they’d cover a small one, albeit with a fee, unless I specifically opted out.

I’m not really worried about this — I’ve bounced only one check in the past three decades, and the only time I’ve ever had a debit-card transaction declined was when I miskeyed my PIN — but I’m wondering if maybe I should be. After all, I was dumb enough not to inquire as to what my debit card’s daily limit would be.

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Brush strokes, indeed

Somehow this seems a trifle, um, unhygienic:

Using the pseudonym “Pricasso”, Tim Patch has become an up-and-coming (no pun intended) artist with a catch. “I dip it in the paint and then apply it to the canvas,” says the 60 year old creative. “…I videotape all my work because sometimes people don’t believe me.”

I wonder if he prefers latex paints.

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