Archive for October 2010

Insignificant other

I don’t know about the rest of you, but were I to stumble across someone who writes like I do, I’d probably be terrified:

Do your partner’s love letters to you sound suspiciously like the ones you pen? Don’t call the plagiarism police: You two may just be very happy together.

A new study finds that people match each other’s language styles more during happier periods of their relationship. Even famous poets who were married exhibited this effect in their poetry, the study found.

Actually, that’s not the scary part. This is:

The researchers are now investigating whether language style matching during everyday conversation can predict the beginning and end of romantic relationships. If the method works, the researchers said, it could be a quick way to judge whether any two people, whether romantically involved or not, are likely to work in harmony.

My most common method of avoiding breakup, of course, is making sure that nothing starts. I’m reasonably competent at that, though not to the extent that I could give advice on the subject. I have, of course, given advice on how to blog this way, but I suspect that’s a lower priority for most people, and if it isn’t, they probably shouldn’t be looking for partners.

(Via the Instant Man.)

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Two Amigos might be enough

The Heat, playing a home game in Kansas City — you gotta love the NBA’s circuitous logic sometimes — were without Dwyane Wade, who pulled a hamstring last time out, but they didn’t seem to be suffering much from his absence, especially in the third quarter, when Miami outscored Oklahoma City 32-19. In the fourth, the Heat ran the lead to as much as 19, but Miami’s second unit was no match for the Thunder bench, which came back to within five before succumbing 103-96.

It appears that what we need to know before each game is whether we’re going to see the Good Jeff Green or the Bad Jeff Green. Good Jeff, last time out at Charlotte (actually Fayetteville, NC), was good for 25 points; Bad Jeff had more fouls than points tonight. Cole Aldrich started in the middle tonight, and happily blocked three shots. The Thunder got to shoot 37 free throws, and hit 36 of them; this almost makes up for a horrid 35.6 percent from the floor.

Oh, yeah, the Big Names. Chris Bosh (23) outscored everyone including LeBron (22). Kevin Durant wound up with 21, Russell Westbrook with 18. Both of these teams showed signs of brilliance; this being the preseason, both of them also generated moments of sheerest WTF. They’ll meet twice in the regular season, and I suspect that those games will be so fierce the terrified Kraken will beg to be confined.

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Fark blurb of the week

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The verse that could happen

Having committed all manner of indignities against the good name of poetry, I am not about to mock Little Miss Attila for this act of omission:

I once wrote a sonnet that came out to only ten lines because I forgot a quatrain. I mean, it was just like a sonnet in every way — ending couplet and all — but it was a faster read than those of Shakespeare or Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

I should reintroduce the mini-sonnet; it’s perfect for the digital age.

I myself once knocked out an imperfectly-lovely sonnet. The scansion was exact, the imagery was colorful, and the rhyme scheme was intricate. And the line count, somehow, was thirteen.

I didn’t believe it. “Count them yourself.”

I didn’t have to count them myself; I wrote the damn thing, didn’t I? And then, when nobody was looking, I counted them myself.

It was twenty years before I dared try another one.

And if we’re going to have ten-line mini-sonnets, we probably ought to have kei-class haiku, with maybe thirteen syllables.

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From the Enough, Already files

This month Consumer Reports is reviewing mid-sized luxury cars, a segment of no small interest to me, and Infiniti’s revised M37 takes the top spot, though not by a lot. As usual, there are Highs and Lows for each tested vehicle, and one of the Lows for the M jumped out at me: “overbearing optional safety aids”.

Some of the commercial motor-noters have made similar remarks — “Will Big Brother please stand up?” asked Car and Driver — but I have to figure, if Consumer Reports thinks your safety features are “overbearing,” they must be miles beyond merely obtrusive: they have to be just this side of the Hand of God slapping you back into your lane.

If this is the way of the future, I offer a suggestion: a gizmo which detects your presence on an onramp, checks your speed, and if it’s under 30 mph, automatically turns the seat heater up to Stir-Fry. Barely a day goes by in this town when I don’t see the need for such a device.

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How did these germs get here?

The biofilm is an aggregate of microorganisms that live on a surface rather than inside another structure; the biofilm’s own structure tends to protect it from outside invasion.

How the organisms get to the surface in the first place is not always clear. Free-floating individuals may land in place purely by chance, but apparently some of the bacteria just walked right on in:

[Gerard] Wong and his research group describe the new surface adaptation — the “walking” motility mechanism, which was observed in Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a biofilm-forming pathogen partly responsible for the lethal infections in cystic fibrosis.

What enables this upright walking are appendages called type IV pili, which function as the analog of legs. What’s more, walking allows P. aeruginosa to move with trajectories optimized for surface exploration, so that they can forage more effectively. The upright orientation is also the first step in surface detachment for bacteria.

Being part of a biofilm apparently has its advantages: if the organism is already vertically oriented, then putting this capability to work requires little additional effort.

On the other hand, if you’re already having bizarre nightmares, I apologize for even suggesting that bacteria are marching up and down your tissues.

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Your slightly-pricier water

The city hasn’t posted the new water rates yet, but they have sent out bills, one of which is now in my hot little hands, so I get to do the math.

The residential base rate, previously $7.37, rises to $9.75. (This is itemized as CUSTOMER CHG on the bill.) The usage rate, formerly $2.26 per thousand gallons, is now $2.35.

Sewer charges are also up, though there’s this additional factor, which I quote from Citynews:

Use water wisely October through March and save on monthly sewer charges for a whole year, beginning in April 2011. The City averages four consecutive winter months of water use to calculate residential customers’ monthly flat-rate sewer charges. Winter is typically when we use the least amount of water.

For the moment, I’m paying $2.78 base plus $3.37 per thousand gallons, up $1.16 and thirteen cents respectively, from last time around.

Other components of the city utility bill remain unchanged. Last month’s bill, which was $50.84 under the old rates, would have been $54.65 under the new ones. This month’s bill is actually under $50, since my consumption was down a tad.

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Be careful how you put these on

It’s a shoe called “Mobius”:

Mobius Wedge by United Nude

United Nude (!) issues this not-really-a-wedge in several heights and colors, at prices generally $100-200. Women I know with a grounding in mathematics will spurn this shoe because (1) it’s pricey for something so minimal and (2) it’s not really a Möbius strip, now is it? Well, no, it’s not. However, this is.

(Via ShoeBlog, which features several current designs by United Nude.)

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Okay, this guy’s allowed on my lawn

Bobby Cleveland has driven 96 mph over the Bonneville Salt Flats.

On a freaking lawn mower, fercryingoutloud:

[Y]es, it will still cut grass, though we have doubts about its efficiency at that task. The team behind this beast had hoped to hit 104 mph to correspond with a sponsoring octane booster of the same name, but didn’t quite manage to crest the century mark. Still, 96 was more than enough to break the existing record of 87.833 mph. Why engage in such frivolous behaviors? If you have to ask you’ll never understand.

I must point out that from the standpoint of Actual Lawn Maintenance, a mower this speedy confers no benefits, unless of course your lawn is ten feet wide and several miles long.

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Lateral buckpass

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Point of no contact

Occasionally you may see an example of what would otherwise be a high-heeled shoe, except for one minor detail: there is no heel. I reported on a blatant example of same in early 2008, and based on the response thereto, I figure there may not be all that many takers for a how-to page describing exactly how to produce the same look at home for less money. Which of course isn’t going to keep me from posting the link, since I figure by now I’ve pushed your curiosity, if not to 11, at least to seven and a half.

(With thanks to MissElle.)

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That increasy kid stuff

Dick Stanley doesn’t think “embiggen” is all that cromulent:

Seems the lexicographers are all aflutter that “embiggen” is seeping into mainstream usage. It should be “biggerize,” I tell you.

And there is one distinct advantage to “biggerize”:

[It’s] the natural opposite of “minimize.” “Embiggen” is completely out of left field.

I would have thought the natural opposite of “minimize” would be “Maximize,” as in “Dania Ramirez Maximized her visibility in the August 2010 issue.”

I detect a lexicographical debate of prodigious largeosity on the horizon. In the meantime, here’s a gratuitous photo of Dania Ramirez:

Dania Ramirez

Click to, um, biggerize.

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King Solomon

Growing up as I did in a musical milieu steeped in rhythm and blues, I of course had to deal with Solomon Burke, though it took longer to grasp what he was about than it would have with, say, Sam and Dave.

Burke’s spot in the R&B hierarchy — respected by all, but why didn’t he ever get a break on the pop chart? — meant that he’d likely be the top of the bill over the likes of Garnet Mimms, rather than the underside of a Wilson Pickett card, so eventually I started thinking of Burke as primarily a touring act rather than a hit machine; and though he continued to make records — through 1969 he charted twenty-nine singles — his reputation as a performer always seemed to exceed his stature as a recording artist. Which on the James Brown scale, I suppose, made Solomon Burke the second-hardest-working man in show business.

Part of that hard work, inevitably, meant going beyond recycling The Hits and recording new stuff of the same quality, which brings us to “Don’t Give Up on Me,” a song by Southern-soul stalwarts Dan Penn and Carson Whitsett, which Burke recorded in 2002. As with almost everything Solomon Burke recorded, you’re probably better off hearing him sing it live:

Which he might well have sung on Tuesday in Amsterdam, had he survived the flight from L.A.

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Strange search-engine queries (245)

What we do here, if you’re new around these parts, is to sort through a week’s worth of server logs, take note of the search strings used by Googlers and Bingers and such, and then make an effort to squeeze a few cheap laffs out of them. It’s a nasty job, but somebody’s got to do it.

bosomyactresses:  “There you go, honey. Push ’em together and make one good one.”

priority club credit card ripping screwing bank one chase:  Bank One, of course, has disappeared due to merger: it takes a really large bank to do both ripping and screwing.

barberousness:  “So, Conan, who does your hair?”

what is the prison time for mailing lortabs by usps:  Depends. If you’re Aetna or Blue Cross, probably nothing. If you’re some guy with a meth lab, expect the book to be thrown at you. (A “book,” for you guys with meth labs, is a collection of pieces of paper with words on them.)

She can purchase 20 pounds of chemicals for $95.  Great. Now let’s see her mail them.

“haughty yacht”:  It occurs to me that I seldom see any really humble yachts.

“I wear Fruit of the Looms”:  May they serve you well, next time you’re invited aboard a humble yacht.

we learn that rephrasing a statement as a question, a command, or even an exclamation can improve the variety of a paragraph:  After which we immediately forget the whole idea and fall back into routine copy-and-paste.

Why are engagements less formal than in previous generations?  Because previous generations did not have Facebook, and therefore there was at least a reasonable possibility of the wedding actually coming to pass.

spendophobia:  What we’re looking for in our political candidates this year.

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Keeping the shadows close at hand

Not even in my own household am I a household word, which bothers me hardly at all; I would hate to be one of those pathetic characters on [insert name of any of a hundred television shows these days] whose sense of self-worth is entirely dependent upon achieving the canonical Warholian quarter of an hour.

How I got to this presumed point of stability is not entirely clear to me, though I suspect Jenny Davidson has happened on a Great Truth here:

When I was little, I too wanted to be famous, partly because I knew I wanted to be a writer and it seemed to me that good writers should be famous (!?!) but also because of an unwarranted assumption that life would only be interesting if I were famous.

“You’ve had such an interesting life,” people tell me, and my eyes do a synchronized roll: Say what? It must be one of the Great American Default Assumptions: that everyone else’s life must be more interesting than yours. I’ve never thought of my life as being particularly interesting, perhaps because my own perspective, that of the Bewildered Insider, isn’t easily available to everyone else. (It might also explain why I’ve been at this soapbox for most of a decade and a half: perhaps it’s an effort to prove that I’m really as dull as I think I am.)

But being comfortable with my obscurity is not something I was born with. It could be simple fatigue, after wave after wave of loud, self-important attention whores, or it could be a manifestation of actual maturity. The case for the latter, again from Jenny Davidson:

In adulthood I realize that it is much more important to me that life should be interesting than anything else (i.e. interestingness and intellectual and artistic stimulation rank considerably higher than fame or fortune); fame or fortune are only incidentally valuable insofar as they increase the opportunity to do interesting things, but in fact fame may undercut that possibility, because many or most people find it hard to converse normally with famous people.

Fame may have a further drawback in my case, since I suspect that what I perceive as humility is somehow hinged to my lack of fame, and I would be extremely displeased to discover that a famous version of me, presented with some trivial cock-up on a vacation trip, might resort to the unforgivable tactic of pulling rank: “Don’t you know who I am?”

So I content myself with my position on the D-list. If the rewards seem few, they still outnumber the disappointments.

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Tax the greenies

John Marshall wonders why we’re not taxing the living daylights out of these alternative-whachamacallit vehicles:

[G]overnments and big business have missed out on one particularly easy green revenue scheme, I mean revenue stream — green drivers. Eco-minded drivers will pay pretty much anything (they pay more to get less horsepower than the comparable dinoblood model). And odds are, hybrid and EV drivers are the folks among us who are least averse to taxation.

Then again, it’s anybody’s guess how many Volts Chevrolet would be able to unload were it not for a $7500 taxpayer contribution sitting on the hood. (The other big debut for this year, Nissan’s Leaf, is ostensibly sold out, but it costs several thousand dollars less and comes with similar Federal incentives.)

As they say in the carbon biz, though, there are offsets. There hasn’t been a tax credit for any of the Toyota/Lexus hybrids for three years. (Law says: credits start getting phased out after a manufacturer has moved 60,000 units.) Prius sales are down a smidgen lately, but this is due to the unexpected failure of gas prices to soar into the stratosphere, not to the absence of incentives.

If you really want to guilt-trip alternative-vehicle buyers into paying more taxes, you’re going to have to give them a reason for it. Like, for instance, compensation for externalities:

Driver A buys a V6 Ford Fusion sedan — a sensible daily driver with a bit of an added kick over the base model. The car burns gas and gas alone, much like 97%+ of the other vehicles on the road today. Driver B pays $5000 more than Driver A to get the Fusion Hybrid, which runs on gas and electricity generated from the brakes and from the main internal combustion powerplant. Driver B’s car weighs considerably more due to the inclusion of 800 pounds of NIMH batteries, and so uses more energy per mile to move its mass than Driver A’s car (not all of that energy comes from burning fuel, true, but seriously, it’s physics!), thus hastening the inevitable heat death of the universe. The fact that hybrid owners are trying to kill us all and bring about Ragnarok aside, Driver B probably got a tax credit, despite the fact that those batteries had to be produced somewhere. That somewhere is almost certainly a toxic mine run by brown people in some godforsaken hellhole where Driver B will never visit.

Mass is also the enemy of fuel consumption, so perhaps the most sensible way to do this is to impose a Mass Tax, something like 10 cents per pound of curb weight, proceeds to go to anything over which Congress has no jurisdiction. Maybe a fund for remediation of toxic mines in godforsaken hellholes.

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Roll model

Maggie found this in Japan last fall:

Hello Kitty toilet paper

“It has a slight chestnut scent,” she says. If that seems odd, well, it could have been a whole lot worse.

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They don’t make them like they used to

Some of these modern-day vacuum cleaners really suck, and not in a good way either:

If you felt the earth rumble a little bit, that was me voicing my displeasure at the Universe. Not now, not now, NOT NOW! And then I shook my fist at the sky. Real hard. Yeah, I should have figured it was coming, you know, since the plastic attachment braces had begun falling off. Not breaking, really, just … disintegrating and falling off. The Hoover, cleverly, had a lifespan that outlived its warranty by six months to the very day. But compared to not having a vacuum at all, the Hoover was pretty dreamy, even if you did have to empty the canister two or three times per floor just to maintain suction.

To hear Consumer Reports tell it, the closest thing to an indestructible vacuum is the Kirby, but it costs as much as a Caribbean cruise, and not one with an inside stateroom either.

Then again, my own Hoover, which admittedly doesn’t get much of a workout these days, is still functional after thirty-three years. I have no idea when the warranty ran out.

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Let’s hash this over

You or I might be on Twitter to swap a couple of one-liners and kvetch. However, the dreaded Serious Analysis is going on behind our backs, and I suppose we had better learn the terminology:

There are two types of trending topics on Twitter: endogenous and exogenous. Endogenous TTs happen when a topic has a viral spread. Once it becomes a TT, everyone jumps onto it to spread it even further. So when we see a hashtag like #intenyears we know it didn’t happen naturally. It spread by a group of people until it became a TT and then off it went. Most highly visible teen participation centers on endogenous TTs. Sure, there are lots of tweens who like Justin Bieber but he trends on Twitter because people actively work to make that topic (or a related hashtag) trend. Exogenous TTs happen when everyone is talking about the same thing simultaneously, not really responding to each other or to the trending topic per say but responding to a cultural moment. This often happens when there are major new events or TV shows that are broadcasting something of great interest.

“I did not know that,” @johnnycarson might have said.

And if we’re a little hard on the Bieber night after night, well, he seems to generate something like 3 percent of all Twitter volume, so it’s not like we have the opportunity to pretend he doesn’t exist.

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Conspiracy Theories R Us

Way back in April, I came out against State Question 744, which is supposed to force state education spending up to the regional average. (The money quote, from Vent #671: “[T]here’s also nothing in the ballot measure that explains how all of this is supposed to be paid for, which is precisely the reason why I’d like to see it fail, and fail spectacularly.”)

It never occurred to me, though, that SQ 744 was actually a Republican plot:

The big lie is that you can keep taxes at the same level (or less for the wealthy and big business) and fund critical services at the same or greater level. SQ 744 is a Republican strategy to shrink the size of state government, including critical public services that are also needed by students and their families.

Who knew that Oklahoma Republicans had strategy? Or even strategery?

The Oklahoma Education Association, primary sponsor of the initiative, must be wondering what the hell it has to do to get credit for something around here.

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Get this thing off my desk

Not getting any work done? Neil Kramer proposes a solution:

I think someone could develop a whole service out of this. You give access to your social media passwords to some bond-trusted customer service representative in, say India, and when you get too distracted from your work, you text this service, writing, “Cut me off from Twitter and Facebook for three hours, and don’t let me back on, even if I call you crying.”

Actually, that’s rather a long text: presumably you’d send a code word to Mumbai or wherever, with a string of digits appended to indicate the duration of the ban.

Of course, you could save some money by informing your sysadmin directly. He can keep you off for three years if need be.

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I’ve already figured that I’m not a likely early-adopter of electric-car technology, but I know my driving patterns. On the assumption that you may not know yours, Treehugger has been offering what they call a Virtual Electric Car Test Drive:

You just have to use your car’s trip computer. Every time your car is parked long enough in a spot where it could be recharged if it was electric, you note the number on a piece of paper along with the date and you reset the trip computer to zero.

After a while, it should give you a good idea of how often you would need a longer range than what current electric cars offer. So for example, if after a month you realize that on most days you drive less than 20 miles, and your longest trips between “charges” are 50 miles, a car like the Nissan LEAF might work perfectly for you (the LEAF has a range of 100 miles).

Most days I drive 20-25 miles. If I never went anywhere else, this would actually work for me. This is, as you all know, not the case. Still:

This could mean that an electric car fits your needs as long as you have a second vehicle with a longer range.

And actually, that’s what I see as the usual garage complement for owners of Leafs (Leaves?) and whatnot: a conventional vehicle for the occasional road trip, and an EV for grocery-getting and other around-town errands. My single-car garage, however, is not exactly what you’d call expandable.

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Meanwhile in Ravenswood castle

In memory of Dame Joan Sutherland, here’s the “Mad Scene” from Act III of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, staged in Barcelona with husband Richard Bonynge conducting. Arguably Sutherland’s signature piece, this was reportedly the last time she sang it in public, in the fall of 1988. She was sixty-two at the time, and supposedly had lost some of her vocal prowess. Repeat: “supposedly.”

(Note: About three minutes of ovation at the end.)

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We’re allowed one of these, right?

I hesitate to call the Grizzlies “awesome,” but they shot better than 60 percent all night, all five of their starters finished in double figures, and they haven’t lost once in the preseason. And, let’s admit it up front, they pounded the crap out of the Thunder, 116-96, a score which really doesn’t reflect how bad a pounding it was. (Twelve minutes earlier, it was 94-57, which does.)

I have no idea what happened. Maybe somebody parked a retrograde Mercury in the loading zone at the BOk Center. The bigs rolled up lots of fouls: both Byron Mullens and Cole Aldrich fouled out. (Aldrich, in fact, fouled out in nine minutes and nine seconds; that’s a foul every minute and a half.) None of the OKC starters scored in double figures. And Longar Longar got to play.

Still, there’s no denying the reality here. The Griz, if they play like this in the regular season, are going to scare everyone. Meanwhile, Scott Brooks is asking: “How do you guys expect to beat the Russians day after tomorrow?”

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A cruel and heartless society

Well, actually, no, not so much, if you think about it:

In earlier ages it was a lot more dangerous to be different in any way from the mainstream — you could be put in prison for acts which are now celebrated on television — and yet many of the odd and the deviant went on to do whatever they wanted anyway and even attained fame and fortune. The problem with society today isn’t that we are so gosh-darned mean, it’s that we no longer feel it necessary to instill people with strong characters so they can deal with life’s shit. Instead we told them that shit had been outlawed. But you can’t outlaw shit.

Well, maybe a couple of us are gosh-darned mean.

Still, outlawing shit was the desired solution: it didn’t actually do anything, but it met the basic standard for Making A Statement. In the best of all possible worlds, we wouldn’t have to deal with shit, and everybody loves the best of all possible worlds, because (1) well, it’s the best, dummy, and (2) everything you hate automagically has ceased to exist. You can hear evocations of this sort of utopia from both sides of the political spectrum, and if you’re wise, you believe none of them, because no one has the slightest clue how to make such a place exist. Never had, never will. “I dream things that never were, and ask why not,” said Bobby Kennedy, and shortly thereafter was given an explanation in .22 caliber.

There will always be frail, weak people who can’t take it. There’s not much that we can do about that either, except to not make things even worse by telling them lies and giving them false expectations of a perfect, kindly world where nothing bad will ever happen.

This does not mean, of course, that we are licensed to behave like assholes — but we are, as a matter of intellectual honesty, compelled to point out that the sphincter is pretty damned universal, and that no one is entirely free from its influence.

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Recursion potential

As of MAD #506, the first item in the Table of Contents (page 1) is the Table of Contents (page 1).

Hey, at least it’s somewhere you can find it. Don’t even think of trying that with Harper’s Bazaar.

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Picture of the Century

Well, actually, this is probably not a Century. The original Buick Century followed a classic GM pattern: shove a big V8 into a smallish bodyshell. For some reason, this didn’t sell well in the 1930s and early 1940s, and when civilian car production resumed after World War II, Buick left the Century badge in the vault, only to revive it for 1954 by shoving a big V8 into a smallish bodyshell. This is, I think, a ’52.

Jacqueline Obradors in front of a Buick

In front of the Buick is a ’66 model: Jacqueline Obradors, an American actress of Argentine ancestry.

What? You want to see more of the car?

Jacqueline Obradors not in front of a Buick

This particular GM exhibition dates to, I believe, 2004.

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Phase 2 inaction

That last item roused my curiosity as to what the Booth Babe was up to, and she’s offering what should be considered useful advice:

If you are going to take off your panties at the auto show, please keep them in your purse until you get home.

It is unfortunately necessary to specify this, because someone thought it was appropriate to leave a pair of panties in the door pocket today. Nice ones, too — a black satin thong.

She offers several possible explanations, though this is my favorite: “There is some sort of panty geocaching event going on of which we were not made aware”.

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Three weeks away

On the networks, and in the papers, the lying peaks tonight.

(And remains constant for the next twenty days, I suspect.)

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God’s Fort Dix

There’s no way you can feel anything but useless in a hospital room. The tech is simultaneously amazingly high (monitoring devices beyond anything we ever had on a moon shot) and disturbingly low (think “bedpan”). And you don’t feel competent to function at either end of the spectrum, either: you sit, and you watch, and you fidget, and you watch some more.

Not that the patient is having such a wonderful time, either, of course. It’s as though he’s awaiting his next assignment, but in the meantime, he’s got to do this stretch of time in a tiny little room with a panoply of gadgets and a cold, antiseptic atmosphere.

We will not, for the moment, entertain the idea of a feeling of relief. (I believe this is the part of the process commonly referred to as “denial.”)

I just hope that when my time comes, as it must, someone might spend a few minutes in the chair, sitting, watching, and maybe even fidgeting.

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And suddenly it was over

The phone call came at about ten.

The last time I saw him, he was pretty much out of it; he didn’t so much as flinch when I barked out the command to drop and give me twenty.

But dammit, he was still breathing.

I pass along to you the advice he passed along to me yesterday, the words of the Welshman, words you already know, but words he took to heart:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

His last act, I must report, qualified as “rage, rage”: he ripped the mouthpiece off the ventilator. (Not fixable.) This is how I know I’ll miss him: he always walked the walk.

Paul Dudley Hill
31 October 1957 — 13 October 2010
Requiescat in pace

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When the very ground shakes

Yesterday’s earthquake rattled my office a bit, though I assumed it was someone doing the Heavy Machinery Hokey-Pokey one or two doors down; the eventual news alert contained the truth of the matter, along with the number everyone wanted to hear: 4.5. For Oklahoma, that’s one heck of a temblor.

And then it wasn’t 4.5 anymore, but 5.1. I opined at the shop that maybe this was due to folks emigrating from California; like Tom Joad in reverse, they brought everything they could, including a fault line or two.

But I couldn’t remember a five-point-anything here in Soonerland, and apparently I was right: the majorest major quake in the state struck in 1952, a time at which I hadn’t even been thought of. (Amateur grammarians are welcome to reword that in such a way as to avoid ending the sentence with a preposition.) I remember a larger quake from a brief stay in California, mostly because of where I was when it started: standing next to a two-story plate-glass window. Such things tend to stick in the mind.

Update: Back to a 4.7.

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Your friendly neighborhood gumshoe

The gum appears to be similar to Dubble Bubble:

Chewing Gum heels by Kobi Levi

Perhaps frighteningly, this is not the weirdest shoe ever designed by Kobi Levi.

(Via Gizmodo; tip of the sombrero to Rob O’Hara.)

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Good heavens, Andrew Ian Dodge is “CoTVing into a Nor’easter”, a scary prospect for the 395th edition of the Carnival of the Vanities.

Nor'easter by Ferro WeathervanesI’ve seldom had to deal with the Nor’easter — in my life I’ve spent less than four years in the areas generally affected by these fearsome storms — but I can appreciate the value of an experienced weather eye, like this guy here. Ferro Weathervanes by David Ferro, based in Rhode Island, will render that fellow’s image for you in copper on top of a traditional wind indicator for a mere $395 plus shipping; other metals (and lots more designs) are available.

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Red Army conquered

CSKA Moscow came to the Deforded Center tonight, the second of three games the perennial Russian contenders are playing in the States this year, and the Thunder gave them a fair, if not exactly severe, thrashing, 97-89, while radio guy Matt Pinto struggled with names like Dmitri Sokolov and, um, Jamont Gordon.

The Russians definitely know how to play this game; FIBA rules are a little different, but not that different. Patience seems to be a virtue to them, which makes sense for a team that can deploy the seven-foot-three (maybe 7’4″) Boban Marjanović at center, where all he has to do is swat away shots. (Sokolov, the backup big, was actually their leading scorer; the Russian bench outscored their starters. Again, patience.)

Scott Brooks decided to give the starting five a few more minutes tonight: Kevin Durant was actually out there for 34 minutes. Still, there was time to look at the guys invited to training camp, with both Elijah Millsap and Tweety Carter getting a chance to show off. Poor shooting, a problem for OKC earlier in the preseason, subsided a bit, with the Thunder hitting 60.7 percent from the floor. Now if they could quit missing the freebies, they could rule the world, or at least the Northwest Division.

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Party like it’s 18.99

When we say “one for you, nineteen for me,” we mean it, dammit:

We have a tax profession in the UK that in far too many cases is deeply antagonistic to the state, to HM Revenue & Customs and to society at large. That profession seems utterly unable to comprehend the benefits that tax provides, and instead sets out to undermine society at every opportunity. Through its promotion of tax avoidance (and yes, it does openly promote that abuse) it seeks to undermine the mandate of democratically elected governments and their mandate to deliver services the public wants. But most of all, the perverse logic of economic maximisation has been interpreted, on the basis of very little knowledge by many in the profession as equating to tax minimisation — which they do, yet again, on the basis of very little knowledge and no small amount of risk to reduce tax bills whether or not it is legally appropriate to do so, with the consequence the [National Audit Office] have seen.

Apparently those dastardly tax professionals in the UK are coming up with schemes which enable their customers to — of all the nerve! — pay less tax. Not that there’s anything wrong with that:

Legal tax avoidance is not an abuse, and never has been. In the United States (and this holds true for the U.K. as well). What any taxpayer is required to pay is the legal minimum he owes in taxes and nothing more. Legal tax avoidance — tax minimization — is just that: Legal. What is not legal is tax evasion. Tax evasion is illegal tax avoidance. That’s Tax 101 stuff.

Apparently the New Guard has forgotten the thousands of tax exiles created as a result of the actions of the Old Guard: there’s a reason the Rolling Stones’ post-Decca recordings are owned by a holding company in the Netherlands. No one in his right mind will argue that a British subject — or, for that matter, an American citizen — is required to arrange his finances in such a manner as to maximize his contributions to the national treasury. And you can be absolutely certain that Tim Geithner doesn’t file the short form.

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You may have worked at a place like that

The NewsOK guys probably didn’t think this Oklahoman headline was all that funny, so they fixed it in the Web version, meaning I had to dust off the scanner. Then again, I’m of the opinion that knowing what a word means doesn’t kill the joke:

Chesapeake exec takes job at fracking company

Especially, you know, if you read it out loud.

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Writing off

When I was back there in secondary school, there were several persons who put forth the proposition that the student needs to write, and write a lot. (Lucky me, I got a typewriter when I was 14.) Apparently, though, all those persons have retired:

The National Association of Scholars (NAS) has published a long-buried study on the state of the history research paper in American high schools. The 2002 study sponsored by The Concord Review went unpublished when its benefactor, the Albert Shanker Institute, found the results unflattering to high school teachers.

I’m not entirely sure why the Shankeroids would believe so, unless they thought the general public would object to the idea of teachers having spare time.

95 percent of teachers surveyed believed that research papers are important, but 62 percent never assigned extended-length essays.

According to the report, the biggest barriers to teachers are time and class size. Most teachers said that grading papers took too much personal time, and that not enough time was provided for this in the school day. Teachers surveyed taught an average of 80 students each. Assigning a 20-page paper then means having 1,600 pages to grade.

Although it’s not mentioned in the executive summary, teachers also seemed to be frustrated with the level of plagiarism:

Unfortunately, teachers view plagiarism as a problem when it comes to history papers. More than one-third (35%) say that plagiarism occurs very often and nearly half (47%) say that plagiarism occurs sometimes. Only thirteen percent say that it doesn’t occur very often or at all.

One thing I learned in high school was how to rewrite a source. Nowadays, of course, I just blockquote.

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Recoup de grace

Last fall, faced with a 35-percent increase in the insurance premium for the house, I decided to take my business elsewhere.

Then came the spring, and suddenly every insurance company from Mangum to Miami was paying out bazillions of dollars in claims; my new insurer forked over $7500 or so to replace my roof.

So I figure that I may as well eat this year’s 35-percent increase, because all those guys are going to have to reprice their policies, presumably making shopping around a waste of time. Besides, Current Insurer did a creditable job of handling my claim, and more than a few people in this state were sent cancellation notices instead of renewals. And if I’ve figured correctly, I have about a $200 surplus in the escrow account, which will cover almost all of the increase anyway.

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Quote of the week

Farker “Knarf,” from a thread involving penalties against CVS for insufficient attention to the War On Drugs:

Meth is the key to getting America out of its curent economic funk. We just need to get hundreds of thousands of tweakers working on public works projects and green initiatives. Those people get stuff done super quick. How do we pay them? With government manufactured meth. Of course many workers shall die of fatigue and drug overdose. So in fifty years not only will there be no more tweakers, but we’ll also be riding solar powered bullet trains to work.

The very definition of win/win.

(WaPo report on the action against CVS.)

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