Archive for November 2011

To peaceably assemble

Three years before anyone deemed it necessary to Occupy places, Joe Sherlock had already anticipated much of the turmoil:

  • College was a good idea until everyone started matriculating. Universities have dumbed-down their educational programs (“Don’t Flunk The Customer!”) to the point where a sheepskin is meaningless. Too many college grads are morons. Employers know this and discount the value of a degree to the point where the cost of a BA — even from a low-cost state institution — will often never pay off.
  • People in skilled trades — electricians, plumbers, cabinetmakers, machinists, etc. — now make far better wages than most college grads.
  • Most of the unhappy people I’ve met are college graduates. My theory is that they were fed high expectations at the university (You’re special!) which have been largely unmet in the workplace. (No, you’re not.)
  • I’ve met very few depressed carpenters. Why? Because there is something especially fulfilling about creating with your hands. Something physical — more than just a CAD rendering. Getting paid good money for it helps with that happiness thing — someone ‘values’ your accomplishment.
  • While most cars, toasters and other appliances can no longer be repaired at home, there are still opportunities for manual creativity, whether it be modification of ordinary devices, making furniture or building a model train layout.

Handmade protest signs, unless they’re really good, don’t count.

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The thirty-year-old Vehicle Identification Number (you shouldn’t call it a “VIN number” unless you’re off to the ATM machine) is an alphanumeric string of marginal comprehensibility that, we are told, uniquely identifies every single motor vehicle on the planet.

Well, maybe, for vehicles 1981 and later. Before that, manufacturers issued their own serial numbers, which may or may not have made sense.

The serial number on this 1921 Bentley, sold at auction this year, made perfect sense: 3. That’s it: 3. It was the third chassis built by the company. (Coachwork was custom, of course.)

Just to make your eyes bug out, the last few moments of the auction have been posted to YouTube.

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Gael at Pop Culture Junk Mail points to a possible real-life model for the heartbroken Miss Havisham:

Eliza Emily Donnithorne (1827-1886) of Camperdown, Sydney, was jilted by her groom — who had the surname “Cuthbertson” — on her wedding day in 1846 and spent the rest of her life in a darkened house, her rotting wedding cake left as it was on the table, and with her front door kept permanently ajar in case her groom ever returned (although he died in 1852). She was widely considered at the time to be Dickens’ model for Miss Havisham, although this cannot be proven. Although Charles Dickens had a deep-seated interest in Australia, saw it as a place of opportunity and encouraged two of his sons to emigrate there, the writer never visited it himself, but it features in detail in many of his works, notably Great Expectations itself. He obtained his information on colonial life in New South Wales from two Sydney researchers. He also had numerous friends and acquaintances who settled in Australia who sent him letters detailing curious aspects of life in the colonies, knowing he could use it as source material for future novels. They could easily have conveyed the Donnithorne story to him. Australia features prominently in Great Expectations, and New South Wales is where Pip’s benefactor Abel Magwich made his fortune.

(Original source seems to have been here, now 404’ed; it’s been copied to Wikipedia.)

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Crazy, stupid, fonts

For some reason, this strikes me as hilarious:

Ryan Gosling gives advice on kerning

A whole lot more of these at Typographer Ryan Gosling, which, tweets Reuters’ Felix Salmon, is “possibly the greatest website in the history of the internet.”

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None is left to protest

Joss Whedon explains why his low-fi production of Much Ado About Nothing will appeal to teens, quite apart from the fact that hey, it’s from Joss Whedon:

It is the first romantic comedy, in the modern sense. Two people who can’t stand each other who are perfect for each other. All the greats — His Girl Friday, The Cutting Edge — all the great romantic comedies have built off of that premise to some extent. There’s a lot of humor. There’s a lot of romance.

I think Beatrice is one of the great female characters that Shakespeare ever wrote. She is extraordinarily witty. And generally speaking, Benedick — he may get the last word in the play, but not generally around her.

There is an element where everybody behaves like a bunch of teenagers. Status is everything, and everyone’s always forming little cliques and either turning against or trying to help other people, and gossip nearly destroys Hero and tears everything apart. It is a very fraught little world that would be recognizable to anyone who’s ever been in a school.

There’s no formal distribution deal yet, but there is a Web site. Oh, and Nathan Fillion is playing Dogberry, if that matters, and of course it does.

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Where it all goes (’11)

For the last few years, I’ve been breaking down the property tax I pay by recipient. The actual tax rate in my particular district rose by 2.84 percent; it’s the highest ever, or at least the highest since the beginning of the County Assessor’s online list, but not by much. Here’s who’s getting what, with what they got last year in brackets:

  • City of Oklahoma City: $141.26 [$142.27]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $548.87 [$524.90]
  • Metro Tech Center: $136.58 [$138.15]
  • Oklahoma County general: $107.23 [$110.34]
  • Countywide school levy: $36.60 [$37.02]
  • County Health Department: $22.90 [$23.17]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $45.97 [$46.50]
  • Total: $1039.41 [$1022.34]

Note that with one exception, everyone is making do on slightly less than they got last year.

The individual millages for each of these are listed here.

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Not your friends and not your benefits

Bill Quick, in a post from the summertime that bounced back into view, points out the basic structural problem with the current paradigm for so-called “employee benefits”:

Those “free” benefits are paid for by you with your much reduced salary. Is your employer one of those who notes on your paycheck all the “free” benefits they are so graciously bestowing on you? Well, add all that money directly to your own salary, and that’s how much you’d be earning without those “freebies.” Think you could shop around and do better than what your employer, GargantoCorp, is spending your money on for “your” benefits?

Assuming, of course, that GargantoCorp would actually raise salaries to compensate for freebies withdrawn, which in the current corporate climate seems unlikely.

That said, though, were the government’s thumb removed from the scales, I suspect I could find quite a nice package for way less than is being spent now on my ostensible behalf. Then again, when have you ever seen a spoiled child give up a toy willingly?

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Hermie don’t play dat

While Herman Cain vows to tough it out, Pejman Yousefzadeh figures the Cain Train is more or less permanently derailed:

[T]he allegations are succeeding in knocking the Cain campaign off of whatever game it once might have had, and any confidence that Herman Cain will be able to survive the Republican nomination contest — let alone a race against the veteran campaign squad that is bound and determined to get Barack Obama a second term in the White House — ought to be completely dissipated by now. Oh, I am sure that there remain some Cainiacs who hold out the last, desperate vestiges of hope that somehow, someway, their candidate will recover, Lazarus-like, capture the GOP nomination, and win the White House. But why should anyone put anymore stock into their tired, Baghdad Bobesque assurances that everything is all right, that the Cain campaign is walking on water (before turning it into wine), and that the former pizza executive has his opponents right where he wants them?

(Title swiped from Michele Grant; it was funnier when she said it.)

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What a wiki game you play

Brian J. Noggle, who wouldn’t be caught dead participating in a meme, has created a meme:

Go to your browser’s address bar and start typing en.wikipedia and report the five top results.

Deucedly clever, that. Here are mine, as of the time of typing this:

Explanations available on request, not that I expect any — and assuming I can think of any.

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Afternoon delete

About 3 pm every weekday, the yawns come fast and furious. I’ve always considered this a by-product of my screwy circadian rhythms: should I wake at 3 am, I’m likely going to be too hyper to get back to sleep, and left to my own devices, I’ll rapidly adjust to a 26-hour day, which is fine if I’m going to Bajor, but not useful in this part of the Alpha Quadrant.

Not that I’m at all alone with this condition:

I usually get around 6-1/2 to 7 hours each night. Even with a lot of sleep, I still can get drowsy in the afternoon.

After the little research I made on the condition, I realized the suggestion of a nap was missing. Otherwise, doing what the body is demanding is not an option. I’m guessing this is due to the fact it’s taboo in our society to sleep while at work.

Well, of course. Getting a nap might make you smarter, and we certainly can’t have that.

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Where the interaction is

That’s where Will doesn’t want to be. And here’s how he paid the water bill:

Our water bill goes to City Hall. But instead of dropping it off, I put a stamp on an envelope and dropped it off at the nearest drop-box.

Three guesses where the nearest drop-box is.

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Two wheels good, no wheels better?

Last week’s photo of Famke Janssen on a bicycle garnered, shall we say, mixed reviews, so I figured I’d balance things out with a photo of Famke Janssen not on a bicycle, but in a director’s chair.

Famke Janssen at Savannah Film Festival

This shot was taken at last week’s Savannah Film Festival, which screened Bringing Up Bobby, written, directed and co-produced by Janssen. The festival offered this synopsis:

Bringing Up Bobby is the story of a European con-artist, Olive, and her 10 year old American born son, Bobby, who find themselves in Oklahoma in an effort to escape her past and build a better future. Olive and Bobby blithely charm their way from one adventure to another until Olive’s criminal past catches up with her. Consequently, she must make a choice: continue with a life of crime or leave the person she loves most in an effort to give Bobby a proper chance in life.

And what better place to escape your past than in Oklahoma? Olive, you should know, is played by Milla Jovovich.

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Swinus abossiculus

Willy Staley of The Awl is happy to offer several explanations for the McRib phenomenon, and this is the one I think is least unlikely:

[T]he sandwich has a cult following, but it’s not that popular. Like Star Trek, Arrested Development and that show about Jesus Christ returning to San Diego as a surfer, the McRib was short-lived because not enough people were interested in it, even though a small and vocal minority loved it dearly. And unlike these TV shows, which involve real actors and writers with careers to tend to, the McRib needs only hogs, pickles, onions and a vocal enough minority who demand the sandwich’s return, and will even promote it for free with websites, tweets and word-of-sauce-stained-mouth.

Besides, what other reason have I to go to Mickey D’s? McNuggets?

Incidentally, Boston Market’s frozen-foods division is selling a suspiciously McRib-like entree. Better grade, or at least higher recognizability, of mystery meat, but the sauce is downgraded a point for insufficient tang.

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Quality is Service Pack 1

Ford has been booed loudly from several corners for its clunky MyFord Touch in-car software. When the announcement came down that there was going to be a major upgrade to the package, my first thought was “Well, that ought to clog up the dealer service departments for months.”

Maybe, or maybe not:

If you’re one of the 300,000 or so customers out there with MyFord Touch, you’re already on the list to receive a USB flash drive containing the update. You’ll be able to do it yourself or take it to any dealership.

Is it possible to brick an entire car? We’re about to find out.

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Patience, patrons

The new Northwest Library is getting an old, established name: the name of Patience Latting (1918-  ), who served as Mayor of Oklahoma City from 1971 to 1983 after four years on City Council.

The look of the Patience Latting Library, however, is anything but old and established. Metro Library System has put up some renderings and some work-in-progress photos.

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One among many (a repost)

I was standing on a mountaintop at the Edge of Nowhere, or so it seemed, staring into the face of the enemy, and I knew he was staring back.

Not that anything scary was about to happen. There was a rather large body of water between us, and even on the clearest of days I couldn’t see him and he couldn’t see me. Still, I knew he was there, and I assumed he knew I was there, and a few dozen other guys were making a list and checking it twice and delivering it to the commanding officer. They were doing their job, and I was doing mine.

And a few months later, that particular job came to an end; I left this post, a little older, maybe a little wiser, an unexpected medal added to my uniform, and after a few days of R&R — well, maybe some R, but not a whole lot of R, if you know what I mean — I reported back Stateside and was assigned to the Reserves for three more years.

This was before “Be all that you can be,” and I’ve never been sure I was all that I could have been. But we had a mission, and I was part of it, and I’d like to think that I had something to do with the fact that the enemy no longer exists.

That enemy, anyway.

On this day of remembrance, there are millions more with their own stories to tell. You’ve already heard mine.

(Originally posted 11/11/2004.)

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Quote of the week

Andrea Harris, noting our dependence on the movies for conceptualizing occupations other than our own, provides a handy synopsis of Every Movie About Writers, Since Ever:

[T]he old writer hasn’t written anything in years and hates himself and is coasting on his past accomplishments but who cares he’s rich and famous and people call him a Writer and he has that goddamn WASP dream house with the book-lined library and it’s probably out in the woods somewhere on one of those lakes where rich white people live. Anyway, in this movie the Young Writer comes on the scene, and he’s Troubled, but Passionate, and he does a lot of intense frowning at tiny pieces of paper he’s scribbling on in a diner, and he pays for his coffee by writing a poem for the waitress’ son who has leukemia, and he makes Passionate Love to a quirkily beautiful young woman who will be played by Minnie Driver, and he enters the life of the Old Author and Shakes It Up.

I bet we could find a couple dozen books built on this particular template without having to look beyond Brian J. Noggle’s east-facing shelf.

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Bread spread

I got an anguished note yesterday from Oklahomans for Liberty, whose mission is “to let Oklahomans know whether their lawmaker’s proposed legislation benefits the constitution they swore to uphold or if instead benefits the benefactors who have donated thousands to the legislator’s campaign coffers.”

It seems that they were startled to discover that Tulsa billionaire and all-around one-percenter George Kaiser, a known Obama “bundler,” had passed around some sizable sums to “so-called conservative legislators.”

My first reaction was “Geez, guys, lighten up. A lot of your left-wing plutocrats won’t give so much as a dollar to the GOP or anyone associated with it.”

I note that no one has yet called for a boycott — as distinguished from, say, an “occupation” — of Kaiser’s oil company or of his bank, so evidently this is mostly a reaction to Solyndra, a reflection of the Power of Bad Press. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt that George Kaiser has any of these legislators on speed-dial. (Governor Fallin, maybe.)

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I’m (again) thinking R.B.

When Rebecca Black walked into ARK Music Factory, they offered her two songs. One of them, she said, was “about adult love,” and she turned it down because “I haven’t experienced that yet.” The other one, of course, was “Friday.”

Cover art for Person of InterestThe follow-up to “Friday,” “My Moment,” was based almost entirely on her experiences. So what do we make of the third single, “Person of Interest,” due out next week? She’s already spilled the beans — and apparently not refried beans, either — in an English-language interview with a mostly-Spanish TV network:

“It’s a love song but it’s not a love song. It’s about almost teenage crushes — when you’re not in love yet but you really like a guy — which I’m really excited about because I don’t think there are too many out like that.”

We have to assume that she’s been there and done that. Incidentally, there’s already a Wikipedia disambiguation page for the term “person of interest,” though the song isn’t officially listed thereupon; a query to “Person of Interest (Rebecca Black song)” tosses you onto the main Rebecca Black page. Of course, nine months ago nobody could have imagined a main Rebecca Black page on Wikipedia, let alone that some aging goob in the flyover zone would do a weekly news report about her — or that a corporate cousin to Consumer Reports would help solicit lyrics for yet another parody of “Friday.” Household-word status is at hand.

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Has this ever happened to you?

If you’ve written anything more complex than “Hello world!” it probably has:

Fuck Yeah Computer Science Major Penguin

Kind of like discovering a missed yarn over, 300 stitches after the fact.

(Original here: collect the whole set.)

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After which you can discount the ending

This goes back about nine years, but I hadn’t heard the term before, and I figure I can trust Neil Gaiman’s description:

Several people asking what I meant by “Plot Coupons”.

I think Nick Lowe (the Interzone film critic, not the rock star or the Marvel editor) was the first person to coin the term. It’s a very useful way of thinking about a particular type of structure of a story.

It’s the kind of story where the protagonist(s) is told to go and collect a bunch of objects. It’s a very good way into a world, because it takes you all over, looking for things. Often, early on, someone will say something like, “A thousand years ago, Estragon The Dark Clown, for reasons that will never be adequately explained in this book or its many sequels, placed his power in The Funny Hat of Doom, The Big Red Nose of Darkness, the Wig of Desmond, and the Revolving Bow Tie of Light. It has been written, that only when these four objects come together will a Saviour arise to save Clowntown. You, Beppo, you must take this map (helpfully printed in the front of the book for easy reference) and nip around the book obtaining these four things (each the object of veneration by a different culture, each guarded by very different groups of people) at great cost to yourself and to the supporting cast, and then you must bring them back here.”

Or, quoting Liam at Tragic Sans:

Note that “the author” can be substituted for “the Gods” in such a work: “The Gods decreed he would pursue this quest.” Right, mate. The author decreed he would pursue this quest until sufficient pages were filled to procure an advance.

Which sounds cruel, but as Nick Lowe (the rock star, not the Interzone film critic or the Marvel editor) says, you’ve gotta be cruel to be kind.

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Syntax evasion

Whoever writes these top-of-the-front-page blurbs for the Oklahoman must be relying on a Random Phrase Generator of some sort:

Photo of Leonardo DiCaprio from the Oklahoman 11-11-11

A “fact-based person”? The official position of Hollywood, spiritual home of community-based reality, is that J. Edgar was a couple of electrets short of a microphone, IYKWIMAITYD.

Then again, as Ernestine once said, “There’s nothing like a Hoover when you’re dealing with dirt.” Or something like that.

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Sheer exhaustion

Libby Coleman reports that the market for pantyhose apparently has bottomed out, so to speak:

For the last 15 years, sales have been going down, down, down, the victim of leg tanner, open-toed shoes, more casual dress codes, and the general fickleness of fashion. But in recent months, pantyhose makers have sighted just the faintest glimmer of hope. If hosiery sales were previously “hemorrhaging,” in the blunt words of independent retail analyst Marshal Cohen, now they have “kind of stabilized.” Buoyed by the news, the hosiery giant L’eggs has launched its first TV ad in nearly 15 years. The new ad first ran in the spring and is now back as part of an even bigger campaign for autumn, traditionally an important season for hosiery.

Here’s that new ad. Award points for originality or desperation as you wish:

The industry argues that there are good reasons to expect something of a market rebound:

[S]ome news outlets have argued that Kate Middleton, an avid wearer of hose, is helping revive the category by looking so damn good in them. Angela Hawkins, the director and general manager of hosiery at Hanesbrands Inc., which owns L’eggs, told me that pantyhose are coming back because “we are in a very feminine fashion cycle” dominated by dresses and skirts.

Contrariwise, there is the example of the First Lady:

“I stopped wearing pantyhose a long time ago because it was painful,” she said on The View… “Put ’em on, rip ’em — it’s inconvenient.”

Gossamer garments in general don’t have much of a lifespan, especially if there’s someone around who wants to remove them from you in a hurry.

I take no official position on this matter, though I’ll admit to a certain willingness to examine whatever evidence is made available.

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In favor of fewer parts

Tam says up front that this particular bias of hers may not be entirely rational:

Differentials and CV joints are expensive to replace, and so the fewer of them the car has, reasons my hindbrain, the better off my finances will be down the road.

Doesn’t sound irrational to me. I used to argue that an inline engine was preferable to a vee-anything, if only because it had only one head gasket to blow. Then again, anyone who owned a 1980s Ford product with the cast-iron V6 with the aluminum heads might have said the same.

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Dr. Quinn takes care of herself

From last week’s Jack and Jill premiere in Hollywood, we’re happy to present Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg, better known these days as Jane Seymour:

Jane Seymour November 2011

The woman portrayed on the backdrop, I assume, is “Jill,” played by, um, Adam Sandler.

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Debt retirement

Once again seemingly out of step with the rest of the nation, Oklahoma has reduced its unfunded pension liability:

Pension reforms implemented earlier this year have reduced the state’s pension debt by $5.5 billion. This is the largest single-year debt reduction in Oklahoma history, lawmakers were informed [Thursday].

Thanks to recently enacted reforms, the unfunded liability of all the state pension plans has fallen from over $16 billion to $10.6 billion, officials announced.

This works out to an 11-percentage-point gain, from 56 percent funded to 67.

And what might those reforms be?

The reforms enacted this year included House Bill 2132, which requires a funding source before cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) can be granted, and several acts that increased the retirement age for future employees.

It’s probably unreasonable to expect another 11-point gain next year — for one thing, this would require investment results at least as good as the state’s asset managers got this year — but it’s clearly a step in the right direction, and it was done without declaring war on state employees.

(Grabbed from The McCarville Report.)

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Probing analysis

Robert Stacy McCain, having made it to the thriving semi-metropolis of Spartanburg, South Carolina, noted in passing that he’s in an “econo-rental (a black Ford Probe, $86 for the weekend)”.

I must inform you that he didn’t go down there to take advantage of BMW Performance Center Delivery on a brand-spanking-new Bimmer. More’s the pity.

What’s remarkable here, I think, is that someone is still renting Ford Probes, which haven’t been made since 1997. They weren’t wretchedly built or anything — I had a ’93 Mazda 626, which was built off the same platform at the same UAW plant in Michigan — but no one thought of these cars as being exactly heirlooms, if you know what I mean; at the very least, I have to figure that by now the paint has oxidized and the valve-cover gasket has sprung at least one leak.

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With room for shovels and rakes

This is, you’ll remember, a Volkswagen Type 2, referred to by some of us as a Microbus.

A 2012 VW Microbus, mind you.

2012 VW Type 2

We’re not getting them here, of course, but they will be offered for sale in the Netherlands:

[W]hile the buses went out of production a long time ago in Europe and the states, South Americans have been enjoying unfettered access to the Type 2 (currently sold there as the Kombi) for decades. The Type 2s slated for the streets of Holland will be built in Brazil with their South American-market counterparts and then shipped to the Dutch market.

It’s not entirely the same as it ever was — the engine, a whole 1.4 liters in displacement, still has four cylinders, though now it’s water-cooled, and top speed is a whopping 81 mph — but the Brazilians have been building some form of the Type 2 since 1950. An unsourced report claims that new safety regulations in Brazil will make the Kombi unsalable there, so exporting them to Europe may be VW’s only way to keep the production line going.

Inasmuch as I learned to drive in one of these contraptions — a 1969 Type 2 that looked very much like this, minus the camper paraphernalia and the sort-of-grille — I have a certain sentimental fondness for these old Teutonic death traps.

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Scenes from what was a marriage

The story does not begin here:

In the morning she presented her divorce conditions: she didn’t want anything from me, but needed a month’s notice before the divorce. She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our son had his exams in a month’s time and she didn’t want to disrupt him with our broken marriage.

I’m not going to tell you how it ends.

(Via Rebecca Black. Seriously.)

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Think of the monograms

I admit to finding this a bit surprising:

[M]ost women still take their husband’s last name upon marriage. While no national statistics exist, some recent studies suggest that women keeping their own name is actually becoming less popular. And a recent nationally representative survey found that half of Americans support women being legally required to take their husband’s name upon marriage. These traditional attitudes persist even as divorce, remarriage, gay marriage and blended families make naming more complex.

Now when I was dealing with this matter, way back in the last century, the argument was made that keeping one surname, preferably his, was done primarily for the benefit of the children, though if you pressed officials on the matter, they’d tell you that there was a lot to be said for minimizing paperwork, and if everyone just took the defaults it would make life easier for everyone.

But I’m not going to be arbitrary about this. I believe in all that “till-death-us-do-part” business, but I can’t work up any enthusiasm for legally requiring her to adopt his last name. We don’t have coverture anymore; the legal system in general no longer requires all the legal rights of a couple to be vested in the husband, though I suspect there are still some sticky points here and there.

I will note that my ex went on to a second spouse with initials similar to mine, and explained it, somewhat teasingly, as being made necessary by all the existing monogrammed stuff; this way, she said, she didn’t have to change anything. By the time Number Three rolled around, this statement was evidently inoperative.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

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Oh, and by the way, hi-ho

It wasn’t enough to find a real-life Miss Havisham? How would you like a real-life Snow White?

Margarete moved out of Waldeck when she was about 17 years old, headed for Brussels. When she got there, her beauty attracted the attention of Philip II of Spain. Apparently someone didn’t care for the idea of Philip marrying Margarete, and she fell gravely ill. Most people thought she was poisoned.

Or, alternatively:

Maria grew up in a castle in Lohr, Germany. The castle is a museum today, and if you visit, you’ll be able to look into a certain famous mirror. It’s believed that Maria’s father, Prince Philipp Christoph von Erthal, gave the looking glass to his second wife as a gift.

Okay, maybe if you fused the two together. Waldeck, incidentally, was a mining town, and children worked in those mines, and children tend to be, um, not so tall.

(Via the fairest of them all, Miss Cellania.)

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Just back away from the computer

If you recognize more than a handful of these references, you’ve spent too much time at the screen.

As I have, I suppose I should admit.

(Discovered at FAIL Blog’s WIN!)

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Strange search-engine queries (302)

There are those who say that Google has poised itself to take over the world. I’d argue that Google is only as strong as its user base, and the evidence gathered here weekly indicates that some of those users have an awful lot of varnish in their carburetors, if you know what I mean.

buick electra 62 skirts:  Didn’t work worth a darn if you paid extra for the wire wheels.

“cookie fascist”:  Evidently the Occupy Sesame Street movement is getting personal.

involuntary celibacy and castration:  “Name two things preferable to getting involved with the Kardashians.”

Weak point Mazda 626 Transmission:  Usually it’s the owner who never looks at the fluid.

what’s with all this retro cuteness:  We remember younger, happier, sweeter times, before credit default swaps and qualitative easing.

people who must die:  Technically, all of them, though some of them I will not mourn so much.

pluck the dirty birds:  I’d be content just to keep the filthy so-and-sos from crapping on my car.

define: unintended reinforcement:  “So you went back with another stick and poked that wasps’ nest again?”

Part of George Washington’s body replaced with:  Folger’s Crystals, but it was done secretly.

Blecher Blecher and Lowball Attorneys Tulsa:  Inquire discreetly around the corner from Mayor Bartlett’s office.

barely 140 iq:  “What would you get if you combined all the brainpower in the President’s cabinet?”

reality show with a fart meter tnn:  Well, they certainly wouldn’t put it on Lifetime.

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I am he as you are he as you are me and EMI is shattered

Or perhaps shuttered, depending on how this particular story unwinds:

EMI, the venerable music company that is home to the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the Motown song catalog, has been sold for $4.1 billion through a pair of deals that usher in a new wave of consolidation in the music industry.

In a complex sale brokered by Citigroup, the Universal Music Group, a division of the French conglomerate Vivendi, will absorb EMI’s recorded music operations for $1.9 billion, while EMI’s music publishing division will be sold for $2.2 billion to a consortium of investors led by Sony, the companies announced on Friday.

Assuming all the regulatory hurdles are met, this means there are only three “major” labels left — or perhaps two and a half, since number-three Warner Music Group is much smaller than either Universal or Sony. (Think GM/Ford/Chrysler.)


EMI, a British company with roots dating to 1887, has been in financial turmoil since 2007 when Terra Firma, a private equity firm, bought it for $8.4 billion using the $5.5 billion loan from Citi. The bank seized EMI in February after the label defaulted on the loan.

Conventional wisdom holds that the music industry is in dire straits these days, so I have to figure that Citi was happy to get $4.1 billion out of this mess.

The music-publishing deal is not so straightforward as the record-label deal:

Sony’s bid was financed by a hodgepodge of investors including Blackstone’s GSO Capital Partners unit; Mubadala, the investment arm of Abu Dhabi; Jynwel Capital, from Malaysia; and the media mogul David Geffen. The group was corralled by Robert Wiesenthal, chief financial officer of the Sony Corporation of America.

I have to believe Wiesenthal when he says:

“It has been a long process, but something that people have viewed as difficult — the problems in the financial markets — ended up accruing to our benefit. We found long-term investors, who are not just looking at the short-term returns typical of private equity.”

And music publishing is definitely a long-term operation, with copyrights lasting decades and royalties mandated by statute.

The one hypermogul in the bunch, David Geffen, now has history with all three companies: in addition to his unspecified portion of EMI Music Publishing, to be run by Sony, his Asylum imprint belongs to Warner, and the Geffen/DGC labels were sold to Universal.

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Raise the Cain back up

The suggestion that Herman Cain’s Presidential campaign has been temporarily, perhaps permanently, derailed (as mentioned, for instance, here) does not sit well with KingShamus:

Look, if Herman Cain truly is a serial sexual creep, then it’s over for him. But so far what evidence do we have here? His accusers just aren’t credible. Their stories don’t make sense. We’re left with unsubstantiated crap that should be at the bottom of Jonathan Martin’s garbage can instead of on the front page of Politico.

I await the ultimate explanation of the differences, if any, between Politico and Martin’s trash bin.

Meanwhile, says KS, this is not exactly an opportunity for the also-rans to move up:

Nobody is expecting Santorum supporters or Huntsman fans or anybody else to switch sides. If you support another candidate, feel free to continue to do so. But if you think you can build your dude up by using a left-wing hit job to tear Cain down, you’re just the guy feeding your buddies to an alligator in the hopes that the predator eats you last.

Like the gator is gonna forget about you after you gave him all that free food. Fat chance of that.

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Cuoco and marshmallows

Kaley Cuoco on crutchesActress Kaley Cuoco, shown here in a shot from last fall following an actual, um, fall — ’twas a horse-riding accident, in which she broke her leg and missed a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory — gets the 20Q treatment in the December Playboy. (And, yes, there’s a far sexier picture of her in the magazine, though nothing untoward, and nothing so compelling that I need to fire up the scanner for it.) The first question they (“they” being Stephen Rebello, who does a lot of these for Hef) was whether art imitates BBT, in terms of her ability to melt the hearts of geeky guys. What she said was this:

“From what I’ve been told and what I’ve observed, men seem to be intimidated by me. So I have to take the reins. I’m a bitch — like, the boldest person ever — so I’ll go up to anybody and say, ‘You’re absolutely friggin’ adorable. Let’s go out.’ They usually look at me with giant scared Ren and Stimpy eyes. But what’s the worst that can happen if I ask them? I have to be honest. I don’t think they’re going to say no.”

Ren and Stimpy with giant scared eyesI am told that I do this look to perfection, though it will win me no Brownie points, and anyway it doesn’t matter all that much, since I don’t come to within a parsec and a half of “absolutely friggin’ adorable” and I have no reason to expect that I’ll be asked anything more complicated than the time. Still, you have to give the girl credit for going after what she wants, or at least for having gone after what she wanted, since after the magazine went to press, she announced her engagement to Josh Resnik, an “addiction specialist” — I guess he has a staff position at a rehab clinic — who at various times in his life has played bass for Danzig.

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Turn around, bright eyes

Derpy Hooves drawn by crackedvinylWarning: Much heavier-than-usual My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic content to follow. I am not making this up. You have been warned.

We begin here:

I’m almost done crocheting another Pony. This one this time is a grey Pegasus with yellow hair, who goes (alternatively, depending on the show vs. fanfics) by the name of Ditzy Doo, or Derpy, or Bright Eyes.

It’s actually kind of interesting — does it sound too precious to say, “sociologically”? — to see how different fans relate to this pony that has no real backstory in the show, who was really just a one-off joke by an animator (giving a background pony “derpy” eyes — making her look sort of wall-eyed). Some fans see her as “challenged” in some way (there’s actually a very, very sad fanfiction called “Bubbles” that addresses this). Others seem to treat her like she’s a little bit crazy. Still others — and I think this is the camp I fall into — see her as basically “OK,” or at least not messed-up in a clinical sense, but maybe a little scatterbrained and absent-minded and clumsy. (We can all be a little “derpy” at times). It’s funny, there does seem to be much fan love for her — and the writers of the show have put her in the background of a number of episodes and even apparently named her Ditzy Doo.

At this point, I deemed it necessary to read that fanfic. (Warning: “very, very sad” understates the case. And for Equestria’s sake, don’t eat muffins while reading it.)

Of course, fanfic is not canon. (Here’s something closer to the “actual” origins of Derpy.) Still, I find it somehow heartening that she gets so much fan love. Now if only our less-than-perfect humans — which, technically, means every last one of us — could somehow tap into this well of appreciation.

(Derpy picture by “crackedvinyl”; original on deviantArt.)

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Bank shot

Why Ginormous Bank, N.A. (Member FDIC) seems to be acting so funny — not funny ha-ha, but funny indifferent — these days:

[T]imes are tough. Banks are having a hard time finding customers who look like they might actually be able to repay their loans. So they aren’t lending out so much money, which means they don’t need to borrow as much from the Fed, so they don’t need as much collateral in the form of deposits. Banks don’t really want customers. They are a nuisance. They come into the actual building, take up space, and take up teller’s time with their niggling little requests. The only reason they put up with customers is so they can get those deposits. But now they don’t need as much in the way of deposits, so they don’t need so many customers, so they came up with this scheme to drive them away. First by charging fees for things that used to be free, and second by goading / hiring some rabble rousers to make a big stink about it. The whole point is to drive away small, nit-picky customers, the ones who are liable to cost them more money than they are worth.

If you’re in the vaunted 99%, you’re lucky to be getting 0.1% on your bank account these days. (I’m not getting that much.)

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More grunt, fewer gears

Dodge is reviving the fabled Super Bee package on the Charger, with a matching Yellow Jacket Challenger, at the SRT-8 trim level. Unlike their six-cylinder brethren, who get a ZF-built 8-speed automatic, these two buzzbombs come either with a 6-speed stick (to be preferred) or the aging 5-speed automatic from the Daimler days. Jack Baruth offers three possible explanations for the absence of OctoTranny:

a) they don’t have enough of the transmissions available

b) they haven’t had time to complete testing

c) the HEMI 6.4 would turn the 8-speed into a magnesium box full of aluminum dust.

Baruth is betting on c), and there’s plenty of precedent for it. In the mid-70s, Mercedes-Benz decided to issue a sequel to the legendary 300SEL 6.3, and the only slushbox they had that could take the gaff from the 6.9 V8 they shoehorned under the nose of the 450SEL was a three-speed, even though other Benzes at the time routinely sported four. Similarly, the Porsche 911 Turbo of that era, known internally as 930, would apparently grenade the standard Stuttgart five-speed manual, and was duly fitted with four on its floor until its last model year.

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This ain’t no catwalk

Despite my techie-sounding position at 42nd and Treadmill, I spend rather a lot of time vertically. This is probably a good thing, since too sedentary an existence has a definite tendency to allow me to channel my inner Jabba-the-Huttness, but I am also old and decrepit and have a lowish tolerance for discomfort.

Now I am a fan of New Balance shoes, and have been for several years. However, I must note that their idea of an insole seems a bit on the flimsy side, and it contributes little in the way of arch support. Last time I went shoe shopping, I picked up a couple of aftermarket insoles, and yesterday I put them to work in the newer pair of walkers.

Which was not perhaps the greatest idea I ever had. All that wonderfully-inflexible stuff on the back half of the insole pitched me forward about three degrees of arc and relocated my usual Discomfort Zones: my knees didn’t hurt as much, but hip motion seemed to be hampered a bit.

“Yeah, right,” say the women. “Try some high heels sometime.” Thanks, but I’ll pass. If half an inch throws me off this far, I’m not even thinking about elevator shoes.

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