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It is written
"Science is a lot like sex. Sometimes something useful comes of it, but that's not the reason we're doing it." Richard Feynman
The Vent
#584: Ballad of four dollars
(Posted 9 June 2008)
The complete series (1996-up)
3-Word Commentary
Prince Charles repays royal debt from 1651: Adjusted for inflation?

Preparation H now a popular "club" drug: Intended for assholes.

You can't assume today's students can actually read your handwriting: Cursive foiled again.

Truck hauling Oreo cookies overturns in Illinois: Got no milk.

The manager of a New Zealand bar catches a tagger, paints his face and clothes: Drawing considerable applause.

Houston woman has maximum breast implants allowed by Texas law: Next, back brace.

Robot squirrel deployed: Spurns hex nuts.

Residents of Lesbos seek exclusive rights to word "Lesbian": To include guys.

New jeans are baggy yet still tight: Traveling Sisterhood appalled.

Lawn-mowing robots recalled because one humanoid was dumb enough to pick one up: Gene pool unpurified.

Maureen Dowd once had a bowling trophy: Not a guttersnipe.

Monica Lewinsky shows up with a pearl necklace: This one's strung.

MTV can't bring itself to spell out Devo's song title "Jocko Homo": Obviously not men.

Schlitz Classic to return: Milwaukee's fame unchanged.

Printer manufacturer Lexmark says we print too much: Paper manufacturers snicker.

Sally Kern vs. a-ha: Take on her.

WordPerfect yet lives: New version shipping.

Imax films to be available on mobile phones: More Squint subscribers.

Icahn has lawsuit: O hai, Motorola.

Marriage proposals via Twitter: Short and tweet.

A "virtual vigil for peace": Add a candle.

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12 June 2008
Way out west

Fort Stockton, Texas 1112.9 miles

Actually, the general direction today was East, but that's not the point.

I plunged into downtown El Paso this morning to see about this business of highway terminuses (termini?), and discovered (for future reference, perhaps) that it's probably easier to navigate Sun City without resorting to Interstate 10. That said, I eventually got back on I-10, just to get out of town, and got as far as Van Horn, where US 90 begins.

Old 90 isn't quite dead yet: there's some small amount of traffic, and the Border Patrol has a checkpoint thereupon. (I passed, I think.) As is often the case, there's a rail line running more or less parallel to the road, and it was pretty busy today. I landed in fabled Marfa, Texas a tad after high noon.

As a tourist destination, Marfa makes a pretty fair small Texas town, albeit in better repair than most. As you might expect, there's an ornate courthouse:

Presidio County Courthouse

And outside that courthouse, a list of the town's honored war dead:

Outside Presidio County Courthouse

And various repurposed buildings, including this nicely-redone theater:

Palace, Marfa TX

But if you come in from the west, as I did, the first thing Marfaesque you encounter is this:

Prada Marfa

Thirty miles west of town, in fact: it draws your attention because, well, there's nothing else there. (The white sedan reflected in the glass? Mine.) This is why it's there.

From there, I proceeded to Alpine, the last home town of H. Allen Smith, and an artsy place in its own right, due to the presence of a fair-sized state university. I followed 90 to Marathon, where I picked up US 385, one of the roads I'd always been curious about, ever since I was a kid with a shoe box full of road maps. The road is 1200 miles long, and yet it manages to avoid major cities whenever possible. The segment from Marathon to Fort Stockton runs 58 of those miles, and for about twenty minutes I saw no other vehicles at all.

I did, however, catch a sign, at the Pecos County Line, to the effect that the road tends to flood and I should be careful. And they weren't kidding:

Flood gauge

Although I doubt the water ever got this high:

Flood gauge

Which, incidentally, is right across the road from that flood gauge, near Panther Mesa (elevation 4206 feet).

I pulled into Fort Stockton around 3:10, and reported to the hotel desk, where an implausibly-beautiful woman (the owner of the place, if the signage is to be believed) regretted to inform me that the place had been open only three days, and they were still working on getting the elevator working, and all the available rooms were on the second or third floors. Fine, I said, stairs won't kill me. As is my wont, I checked the room before schlepping up my stuff, and apparently housekeeping hadn't gotten to it yet. I informed Miss Universe, who gave out with a look of genuine anguish. By coincidence, by the time they got the placed cleaned up, the elevator guys were finished, so I and my two and a half bags got to christen the new lift. I suppose I could whine, but I got this room for free by saving my frequent-driver points or whatever, so I may not even mention that none of the electrical outlets on the east wall seem to be connected to actual power.

As usual, you can see these same pix, only different, at Flickr.

5:41 PM | World Tour '08 </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
Foregone conclusion?

The NBA has shuffled the Development League cards a bit, and the Tulsa 66ers, previously associated with the New Orleans Hornets, will now be assigned to what a shock The Team Presently Known As The Seattle SuperSonics.

This is definitely a case of treating the fait as accompli.

4:57 PM | Net Proceeds </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
The great 62 debate

Part of this route, you'll remember, was to get to the west end of US Highway 62. Trouble with that idea is, while the maps say it ends at the Mexican border, signage doesn't reflect that:

According to official TX DoT route designation files, US 54, US 62, and US 85 were all "relocated" in 1974. That basically means their routings were changed, and here's how I interpret that: US 54 was redirected to the 2nd border crossing (known variously as Cordova, Bridge of the Americas, BOTA, and/or "the free bridge". You can view a photo from there on my main US 54 page). US 62 was rerouted along Paisano, then Stanton and/or Santa Fe, to a new endpoint at the original border crossing downtown (the former endpoint of US 54). US 85 was also rerouted onto Paisano, and it joined US 62 to end at the downtown port-of-entry (in other words, this is when US 62 and US 85 were changed to their present routings). Today, traffic from Mexico comes in at the El Paso St. crossing, but doesn't encounter any highway signage for about eight blocks almost to Paisano.

Geez. I may end up a full-fledged roadgeek before all this is over.

8:24 AM | World Tour '08 </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
11 June 2008

The Law of Conservation of Filth provides that to get something clean, you must also get something dirty. Which is why this makes perfect sense:

Scrubbed the shower. In the nude.

A couple of her commenters seemed taken aback for some reason.

I actually did this while I was in the Army, fercryingoutloud; they could have, I supposed, written me up for being out of uniform, but logic prevailed.

9:40 PM | Birthday Suitable </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
Table for six, sir?

Texas picnic table

One of those ubiquitous picnic tables you see along Texas highways. I saw this one on 62/180 in Gaines County (I think), on the way into New Mexico. (More sizes here.)

7:40 PM | World Tour '08 </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Parodies regained

Tom T. Hall, bless him, wasn't too proud to write sappy if he darn well felt like it, and on the evidence of "I Love," from his late-1973 album For the People in the Last Hard Town, there were times when he indeed darn well felt like it. The song topped the country charts and made #12 pop. (Yes, I bought the LP.)

For some reason, hardly anyone bothered to make fun of "I Love": a fellow styled as "Heathen Dan" once put out an "I Like" list of nasty, scabrous things, which got some circulation among fans of the Dr. Demento Show, but that was about it. (Yes, I have that record too.)

But there's never been a really memorable "I Hate" collection, until now. Its author does tender his apologies to the late, great Mr. Hall. I would point out only two things:

  • The scansion seems a little off here and there;
  • Tom T. Hall is not in fact dead.

(Warning: Do not read this north of the 49th Parallel.)

5:24 PM | Political Science Fiction </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
A hundred and something

El Paso, Texas 777.6 miles

After 99 degrees, I figure it doesn't matter. Then again, this is El Paso, where the humidity is practically negative if I need to sweat, I'll have to bring a container of liquid or something and with 99 degrees and a dew point of 26 (!), the heat index is exactly what it would be in Oklahoma City with 90 degrees and a dew point of 66. (Ninety-four, if you care.)

Note to future travelers: There is no gas to be had between Carlsbad, New Mexico and the eastern edge of El Paso, around 150 miles. And you will burn up most of what you have: once you cross back into Texas, the speed limit is mostly 75, and while it's slowed down a bit through the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, there are enough downhill grades to threaten your placid, law-abiding nature. Not that I'd ever admit to doing 95 through there.

Actually, I did find one station, a little cash-only outfit south of Dell City, but (1) they had no premium, or even mid-grade, and (2) they were closed.

Speaking of closed, Rosa's Cantina is apparently open only for lunch today, and I missed the deadline, even allowing for the fact that this part of the world is on Mountain time.

I spotted a billboard in southern New Mexico for a fellow named Greg Sowards, who was running for the 2nd District House seat currently held by Steve Pearce, who hopes to replace Pete Domenici in the Senate. Sowards made two pitches: that he's short, bald and honest, and that he doesn't want your money. As they say in Minnesota, "That's different." It didn't play so well among New Mexico Republicans, who nominated Ed Tinsley, owner of K-BOB's Steakhouses, instead.

And El Paso looks like southern New Mexico, only more so: you get the feeling that the town was built a zillion years ago, volcanoes or plate tectonics or something caused the land to buckle, and they decided to leave everything where it landed.

4:46 PM | World Tour '08 </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Technically, it blows

The wind, I mean. It's a constant presence in west Texas, as it is in Oklahoma, and I wasn't at all surprised to see that the American Wind Power Center and Museum is here in Lubbock. For that matter, I wasn't surprised to see ten big wind turbines along the eastern leg of Loop 289. (Inscrutably, only nine were turning.)

On the way back from dinner last night, I passed by a construction site right when a not-too-huge gust blew up, creating an Instant Dust Storm. Weird to behold on such a small scale.

Oh, in case you haven't seen it yet, Kirk is mapping the Tour, as he did last time around. Here's the link.

8:08 AM | World Tour '08 </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
10 June 2008
All is well on the left bank

Style Spy (rapidly becoming a favorite around here) happens upon a dress from YSL, and muses:

It makes me feel Parisian, this dress. Not for nothing is the house called Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche. Under M. Saint Laurent its clothing always epitomized sexy French chic in a way that few other designers have been able to master. This was always my problem with the clothes when [Tom] Ford was designing them they were too American. Stefano Pilati gets it right (even though he himself is not French), and YSL is back on track. Pilati has managed that extremely difficult trick of embracing the atmosphere and history of a house and still moving the design forward. If you track his last few collections, it's fascinating to watch him working out new shapes & proportions over time. He's a thinking designer, Pilati, he's exploring an idea at length and in depth and seeing where it takes him without it growing stale. I admire that; in some ways I think it must be more difficult than to come up with something entirely new every season.

M. Saint Laurent passed away earlier this month: it is reassuring to know the house he built seems to be in good hands.

And no, she'd didn't mortgage the farm for this one dress either:

[Y]ou would not believe how on sale this thing was. Seriously. It was about 90% off original retail. I couldn't have bought a new dress at Macy's for what I spent on this. So, all the more delicious.


7:36 PM | Rag Trade </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Low acceleration

Lubbock, Texas 397.2 miles

I've been to this town only once, and I can't remember what for: I was married then, and I've blocked out a lot of that time frame. I remember shopping at Sakowitz, which was to Houston what Neiman's was to Dallas, mainly because I couldn't figure out why there was a Sakowitz in Lubbock. (And of course now there isn't even a Sakowitz in Houston, except for the fur salon. Then again, Wikipedia doesn't remember a Lubbock store at all.)

In the middle of Gould, Oklahoma, there was this yacht. Really. It was being hauled by truck, and the truck was parked along the street. "Tiger Woman," Marina del Rey, California. Hope it makes it okay.

The winds have been fierce, and given my direction, they cost me some gas mileage. (First tank: just over 26.) I was baptized into the Church of the Four-Buck Gallon by an Allsups/Fina in Lorenzo, Texas, which was happy to relieve me of $4.199 for each of the fourteen gallons dispensed.

I hadn't eaten out all month, so today was my first encounter with the Great Tomato Scare: Whataburger wouldn't slap one on your burger no matter how much you asked.

And the radio is set to KDAV 1590, because if there's one thing I want from an oldies station, it's an occasional song I can barely remember. They seem to have a lot of them. I did catch them out on Roy Head's "Treat Her Right," though: they were playing the stereo mix, which is missing a horn part. (No, my AM radio isn't stereo.)

More when/if I can coax more than 2.0 mbps out of the Wi-Fi. Tomorrow night: El Paso.

Addendum, 5:45 pm: Were I less of a dumbass, I would probably have seen the CAT5 jack right behind the desk lamp. Sheesh.

5:35 PM | World Tour '08 </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Road to be hit

We're looking at a 9:30 departure from the palatial estate at Surlywood, once all the loose ends are tied up (at least, all the ones I remember to tie up). It's foggy and 62; I can expect absolutely nothing like that once I reach Texas.

Next report this evening.

8:29 AM | World Tour '08 </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
9 June 2008
Queue shortened

Well, there's one person who won't be standing in line for the next iPhone:

I don't think I will be springing for the upgrade. I don't have much use for GPS (even though I am directionally challenged) and I feel like 3G is still pretty hit or miss here in Oklahoma (this is purely an opinion based on current 3G users and not from personal experience). Another reason to not upgrade is the $30 data plan (3G) instead of the current $20 version (EDGE) that I have now I would rather keep the extra $10 in my own pocket. That leaves me with just one reason for the upgrade 16GB. My current iPhone is 8GB and I may need more space once all the cool applications start coming out for it. But I am not sure that the extra 8GB is worth forking out more money.

Then again, she may yet be swayed:

What is worth the extra money is the now included [dramatic pause for effect] SIM ejector tool!

I see what she means.

9:12 PM | PEBKAC </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Route advisory

As long ago as 2004 I was talking about driving the length of US 62 some day. Well, some of that length is about to be driven: I have decided to begin the route by taking 62 from here to El Paso, which looks like around 800 miles and therefore a two-day trip. The obvious stopping point in between would seem to be Lubbock. The highway leaves Texas and slides through southeastern New Mexico before returning to the Lone Star State, which I'm inclined to count as bonus points, since the last time I set foot (or wheel, anyway) in New Mexico was way back in 1988, and besides I get to avoid I-20 altogether. Besides, as Sarah once said, "big, flat, empty, dead" has a lot to recommend it.

As always with these little jaunts, things are subject to change without notice.

5:05 PM | World Tour '08 </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
So there are heroes, after all

Let us now praise Adam Scholl:

Arlan Scholl, 56, runs one of the three gas stations in Holyoke, a town of about 2,000 in Colorado's remote northeast corner. His grandfather started the station, now called Scholl Oil & Transportation Co., in 1932. His father ran it before him. And his nephew is now coming up in the business.

About 15 years ago, Scholl had had enough of the nine-tenths of a penny game his forefathers had played before him. He placed a sheet of metal over the .9 that was permanently embossed on his sign. He's been pricing to the penny ever since.

"This is the fair and square way to do it," Scholl said. "It's straight-up ... You can't pay me .9 cents. You can only pay me a penny ... So it's just easier to plug everything into even numbers."

Incidentally, at four bucks a gallon, nine-tenths of a cent's worth is about 1.75 teaspoons; at 28 mpg (what I expect Gwendolyn to average on the next World Tour), you can drive about 335 feet.

(Via Fark.)

12:17 PM | Entirely Too Cool </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
The official WT08 FAQ

When does the World Tour actually happen?

It begins on 10 June, and continues for about two weeks, though there will be a two-day break near the end.

What makes it a World Tour, exactly, since you're not leaving the States or anything?

Two things: it's awfully damned long, and much of it is through relatively unfamiliar territory.

How long is "awfully damned long"?

I expect somewhere between 3200 and 3600 miles.

You've done this several times before. Why do it again?

Because I can. More to the point, it's good for me to get out of town, and it's good for my car to get a serious workout once in a while.

Will you be blogging every day?

That's the plan, anyway. You can still read the reports from 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007. (The 2006 version ended in semi-tragedy.) I have Wi-Fi capability, I carry a spare CAT 5 cable, and if all else fails, I have a dial-up.

What's the shape of this year's route?

An irregular polygon with a narrow loop sticking out of the top of it. More specifically, a counterclockwise traversal of Texas (vertices include El Paso, Corpus Christi and Austin), after which I come back home and recuperate, then head up to Kansas City to see the young'uns.

How much of this is copied from previous World Tour FAQs?

Rather a lot, actually.

Is there any chance you'll say "Screw it" and not go home?

I would have to be extremely fortunate, in the winning-lotto-ticket sense, or extremely smitten, in the "I've been waiting for you all my life" sense. Don't count on either of these actually taking place.

How come it took so long to post this?

I am the least decisive of persons when it comes to producing an actual itinerary.

Will you be meeting with readers along the way?

If they're so inclined.

9:30 AM | World Tour '08 </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
Strange search-engine queries (123)

Once a week, more or less, we go into the farthest corner of the referrer logs (some people think "referrer" has one too many R's, but what do they know?) and turn up some of the weirder things that people have been looking for and presumably not finding on this very site.

Surrealist, photographer, self-portraiture, conehead:  So Dali had students on Remulak. Who knew?

johnson controls gay website stolen hummers from general motors payment and software:  I hadn't heard that one, though I'm pretty sure that hummers in general involve johnson control.

do you think nancy pelosi has sexy pantyhose legs?  Way better than Harry Reid's.

Fried turkey testicles nutrition facts:  I submit that if you've decided to eat fried turkey testicles, the nutritional value is not a major factor in your decision.

do women care about size of penis at naturalist resorts:  About as much as they do in the workaday world, which is "not as much as you probably think."

mountain dew code red decreases penis size?  Hmmm. I wonder if they sell it at naturalist resorts.

what is the going rate to mow a 6000 square foot lawn:  I have no idea, but it's probably less than it would cost for my 7000-square-foot lawn.

what do most girls want for their sixteenth birthday beside a car:  A 21-year-old boyfriend?

am i allowed to resign effective immediately:  Sure, if you're prepared to be frogmarched to the exit.

can hydrocarbons burn:  Absolutely. In fact, I plan to burn some on my next road trip.

Psychedelic underpants:  Much sought-after by profit-seekers.

busty medusa cartoon:  If she's really the Medusa, you may not have time to see if she's busty or not.

senator john mccain's personality lion otter beaver:  Um, you forgot "weasel."

7:57 AM | You Asked For It </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
8 June 2008
A stitch in time, size nine

Jessica by lillybeeActually, you can get this in sizes five through ten inclusive sorry, no halves if you're so inclined. This is Jessica by lillybee, an interesting black-patent peep-toe pump with decorative stitching here and there and actual wood accents at the heel and toe. Said heel, incidentally, is 3 inches high. This shoe was spotted by a commenter at Style Spy, who suggested that it would be a good match for this Tracy Reese scalloped dress in black. (Disclosure: I am a major, and unrepentant, fan of the classic Little Black Dress, and variations thereupon.) At a hair over $500 for the outfit the shoes are $195 this is not exactly a K mart blue-light special, but you have enough of those already, right?

Aside: If I'm hanging around Texas this month, I'm going to have to make an extra effort to avoid drifting into Neiman Marcus, just on general principle.

7:32 PM | Rag Trade </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
That's one powerful policy

Can your insurance do this?

I'd flipped onto a talk radio station, and there was a commercial for some sort of insurance which stated that apartment renters were something like 10 times more likely to have their homes burgled than single-family dwellings, and that insuring their possessions through the advertised company was a way to even the odds on this "unfair statistic."

Well, if it truly evened the odds, it would reduce an apartment-dweller's chances of being burgled by a factor of ten. (Although I prefer the traditional mix: a standard policy and a sign to the effect that TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT. SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN.)

But "unfair" today has become a buzzword, what "hexachlorophene" was in happier times:

Um, since when is it fair for anyone's home to be burgled? I mean, it's not as though there's some US recommended lifetime requirement that one's home be burgled 1.3 times.

Wisdom, attributed to Charles Synge Christopher Bowen, Baron Bowen, after Matthew 5:45:

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust hath the just's umbrella.

By coincidence, I just sent in the premium for my umbrella policy.

Disclosure: I have been burgled twice, once in 1979, once in 2000.

3:52 PM | Say What? </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
I think Wally counted the votes

The Oklahoman recently ran a Comics Survey, and while there weren't too many shocks to the system everyone loves Blondie, and practically no one knew or cared that Rex Morgan, M.D. was still around the big surprise was Dilbert, which placed third among Favorite Comics and second among Least Favorite Comics.

Half a dozen strips, including Rex Morgan, will be banished from the dead-tree version, though they'll still be on the paper's Web site. I am distressed to see Mary Worth go, since she's earned a niche in contemporary culture. To quote the estimable Philip J. Fry: "There are guys in the background of Mary Worth comics that are more important than me." Fry, I feel your pain.

12:15 PM | Almost Yogurt </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Coming soon to your state

The math has already been done for you:

"We can't cover everything for everyone," said Dr. Walter Shaffer, medical director of the state Division of Medical Assistance Programs, which administers the Oregon Health Plan.

"Taxpayer dollars are limited for publicly funded programs. We try to come up with polices that provide the most good for the most people."

Which is defined thusly:

As of now any treatment that doesn't provide at least a 5 percent chance of survival after 5 years won't be approved.

Last fall the [Oregon Health Services Commission] said coverage of palliative care for patients with advanced cancer would not include chemotherapy or surgical intervention intended primarily to prolong life or alter disease progression.

However, they did advise the patient that they would pay for this:

"The letter said doctor-assisted suicide would be covered. To say to someone, 'we'll pay for you to die, but not pay for you to live,' it's cruel," she said. "I get angry. Who do they think they are?"

Dr. John Sattenspiel, senior medical director for LIPA, said that at some level doctor-assisted suicide could be considered as a palliative or comfort care measure. "We had no intent to upset her, but we do need to point out the options available to her under the Oregon Health Plan," he said.

The survival rate for doctor-assisted suicide is, I would think, something less than 5 percent over 5 years.

And you can take this to the bank: people who want "universal" anything have no idea of the size of the universe.

(From Mark Shea via The Dawn Patrol.)

9:37 AM | Life and/or Death </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Sammy Hagar tunes up

The question is posed: "Is it time to return to the double-nickel?"

The answer: No. In fact, hell, no.

You can always buy more fuel; you can never buy more time. Simple as that.

9:08 AM | Driver's Seat </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
7 June 2008
Nor are they organized

Oklahoma's ghost employees still set the standard, but these guys come close:

According to an official study, Egypt's six million government employees are estimated to spend an average of only 27 minutes per day actually working, reflecting a real problem with productivity.

Then again, there may be problems with the methodology of that study:

But that was an official study. Was it performed by government workers? How much can we trust numbers coming from someone who works 27 minutes a day?

Disclosure: I spent 9 minutes on this post.

10:04 PM | Dyssynergy </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
The incredible shrinking vanilla

The 1.5-quart tub of Breyer's ice cream previously 1.75 quarts, and before that an actual half-gallon has finally shown up in my local store. Actually, I didn't mind the 1.75 so much, since it fit perfectly in my freezer door. But I'm pleased to note that my grocer of choice turned these things loose with an initial price tag of a mere $2.98. How long this will last, I don't know. Of course, if I wanted the Really Good Stuff and didn't want to make a separate run to Braum's, I'd have to shell out nearly $6 for Blue Bell, which won't fit in the door, but which is still a half-gallon.

6:18 PM | Common Cents </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
The fatted calf

"Some man somewhere will take you, baby," claimed Joe Tex, "skinny legs and all."

Of course, that was in 1967, and we'd already seen Twiggy. Before that, well, there was this:

Leg Falsies

Leg falsies for gals with unshapely gams are now being made by Mrs. Dorothy Funk of Burbank, Calif. (Blushing, girls?) Moulded from customer's legs they are concealed by special rubber and nylon stockings.

Today, you're more likely to see the shin feigned.

(Via Jezebel.)

Update, 11 June: Did someone mention torture?

1:57 PM | The Way We Were </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
It's all your ISP's fault

Last month I reeled in a phish which contained the following "explanation":

NOTE: If you received this message in you SPAM/BULK folder, that is because of the large amount of e-mails we are sending out or because of the restrictions implemented by your ISP.

Apparently this bit of verbiage has caught on among net.predators. Jeffro picked up one claiming to be from the NCUA:

Copyright 2008 National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Note:
  • If you received this message in your SPAM/BULK folder, that is because of the restrictions implemented by your ISP
  • For security reasons, we will record your ip address, the date and time.
  • Deliberate wrong imputs are criminally pursued and indicted.

Note the Double Secret Copyright symbols. You may have seen "deliberate wrong inputs" as opposed to "imputs," to which I am indeed opposed here.

If nothing else, this proves that the level of honor among thieves is even lower than you thought: they're stealing from themselves.

11:24 AM | Scams and Spams </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
One star, no waiting

So my next day at work is, um, the 30th.

Obviously this gives me a lot of time to Do Stuff. On the other hand, having just discovered that Gwendolyn doesn't even flinch at $50-plus fillups, I'm in no mood to take off for Saskatchewan: not only is it a heck of a long way away, but it's a whole other country, fercrissake.

And, having said that out loud, I thought of a place that merely is like a whole other country even says so in the brochures and it's just on the far side of the Red River.

I may be biting off more than I can chew here: Ann Richards once said, "I thought I knew Texas pretty well, but I had no notion of its size until I campaigned it." Typical World Tours run two weeks or so and traverse a quarter to a third of the country; I figure it will take me nine or ten days just to get through Texas, and not anywhere near all of it, either. I am still in the data-gathering stage, so suggestions, here or in email, will be welcomed.

I must point out here that my ongoing sleep issues have not been satisfactorily resolved, so I undertake this mission with more than the usual amount of trepidation. However, it seems to me that if I don't go, the terrorists will have won I'll just make matters worse for myself, and Trini seems to think that the limiting factor is my own bedroom: once out of there, the condition might clear up. This is way out of her area of expertise, but I have to admit, I don't have any kind of counterargument other than "Sez you."

9:46 AM | World Tour '08 </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
6 June 2008
Bathtub bling

Fortunately, the price tag makes it easier to resist. But geez, get a load of this:

[T]he $47,000 Red Diamond bathtub from Water Games Technologies is probably a new low high in powder-room decadence. The screaming-red tub features multicolor lighting, a computer-controlled heating system that maintains your desired water temperature, an automatic disinfection system and built-in massager. Of course, that's what any peasant's tub offers the real action is in the two retractable HDTVs, Swarovski-encrusted champagne holder, and built-in GSM module that lets you call your bathtub and get things ready for some splashy time from afar.

You guys with CDMA phones are just out of luck.

(Via Popgadget.)

7:13 PM | Entirely Too Cool </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
Fark blurb of the week

Injured Thai elephant given prosthetic leg. While this is a good thing for pachyderms, for most mammals this would be considered a faux paw.

(Linked to this.)

2:43 PM | QOTW </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Quote of the week

Dr. I. S. Wichman, of the faculty of Michigan State University, dispatches an email to some of the Perpetually Aggrieved:

Dear Muslim Association,

As a professor of Mechanical Engineering here at MSU I intend to protest your protest. I am offended not by cartoons, but by more mundane things like beheadings of civilians, cowardly attacks on public buildings, suicide murders, murders of Catholic priests (the latest in Turkey), burnings of Christian churches, the continued persecution of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the imposition of Sharia law on non-Muslims, the rapes of Scandinavian girls and women (called 'whores' in your culture), the murder of film directors in Holland, and the rioting and looting in Paris, France. This is what offends me, a soft-spoken person and academic, and many, many of my colleagues. I counsel you dissatisfied, aggressive, brutal, and uncivilized slave-trading Muslims to be very aware of this as you proceed with your infantile 'protests.' If you do not like the values of the West see the 1st Amendment you are free to leave. I hope for God's sake that most of you choose that option. Please return to your ancestral homelands and build them up yourselves instead of troubling Americans.

I. S. Wichman
Professor of Mechanical Engineering

I'd hate to run into Professor Wichman on a day he wasn't feeling cordial.

The usual suspects, of course, complained, but then that's what they do.

(Via Kathy Shaidle.)

2:38 PM | QOTW </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)

It's Venomous Kate versus the Woodchucks, and as battles go, it's a real pisser:

I'd read that urine repels woodchucks: coyote, fox, even human (preferably male) urine. Well, since we've got a near endless supply of the latter, I figured it was cheaper to load [the Venomous Hubby] with beer and point him toward the front garden than bother with all those "humane traps" or some other animal's pee.

It worked, too. Or, at least it did until one Saturday when he and a buddy were throwing back a few beers on our deck and got it into their minds that two o'clock in the afternoon was a good time to pull "woodchuck duty". Thus ensued a bit of a row when I realized two grown, mostly inebriated men were urinating in my garden in plain sight of the neighbors. I handed them cans and encouraged them to be more discreet. They tried to comply. Really, they did. But apparently peeing into a large can and then carrying it without spilling is too big of a task for two drunken men. So, rather than shock all the neighbors, I abandoned that plan.

But resistance proved to be futile:

[Y]esterday morning I saw not one, not two or even three but four four baby woodchucks sitting on my front step. Unfortunately, the Big-Eyed Boy saw them, too, and decided they're adorable. So now, despite my repeated admonitions, he keeps sneaking outside to leave fruit and vegetables for them.

You have to admire her restraint, though: at no point did she suggest actually chucking some wood (quantity unspecified) at the varmints.

10:44 AM | Dyssynergy </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Note to Oklahoma Democrats

I figured you didn't like sharing power in the Senate with the GOP a 24-24 tie tends not to be a source of comfort but geez, guys, the Republicans have 13 seats on the ballot in 2008, and you're only going after five of them?

And yes, this works both ways. Michael Bates noted on Wednesday afternoon:

We're now five hours away from the close of Oklahoma's filing period for the 2008 elections, and I'm still seeing way too many seats with unchallenged Democrats.

(First person to ask me why I didn't file to run apart from Trini, who already did ask will be requested to identify what in the world s/he is smoking.)

7:43 AM | Political Science Fiction </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Oh, the reality of it all

I am now in receipt of the final bill for my brief trip to the ER back in April, and I noticed this blurb on the back:

For patients without insurance coverage, we are pleased to offer a 45% discount if the account balance is paid in full within 60 days from the date of service.

This excludes fertility treatments, but I didn't get them, and anyway fertility is just about the last thing I need.

So I did the math, as I often do, and had I been uninsured, they'd have settled my $3183 bill for $1751. As it happens, the actual amount they're getting, insurance plus my check, is $1785.

At least we now have an idea of what the care is really worth. Maybe.

7:15 AM | Common Cents </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
5 June 2008
Of tears and jerks

Lynn tends to resist "chick flicks":

I am about 80 percent with the guys on the topic of chick flicks. Only 80 percent because there are a lot of guys who are real jerks about it, dismissing practically any movie that isn't all about cars and guns as a "chick flick" without considering actual quality. A good movie can be about anything. What I hate about typical "romantic" movies is that the women in most of them are stupid and annoying. I can't identify with them at all. And the dying thing why are movies in which the woman dies so popular? Maybe because death precludes the inevitable. Let's be honest: if the girl in Love Story had lived another two or three years that couple would have ended up as bitter divorcees.

"What can you say about a twenty-eight-year-old girl who sued me for half of everything I own?"

And the perennial emphasis on young pretty people causes its own disconnect:

You know what's really romantic? Two people getting married, living an ordinary life and growing old together. Two ninety+ year olds holding hands that's romantic. But that doesn't play well at the box office.

Occasionally, though, it makes a decent song. Cue the Debster:

Sitting at the table tonight
You look so beautiful in the candlelight
And looking at her, looking at him
After fifty years

I pictured you and I and candlelight
And we would look so beautiful
And two young kids
Would be wishing they were us

I used to be one of those kids. I think. But hope can take only so much dashing.

7:14 PM | Table for One </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
Valets will put your car on blocks

The Hotel Preston is a boutique inn, south of I-40 on Briley Parkway in Nashville, "5 minutes from most everything." As you might expect from a hotel with a bar called the Pink Slip, things are just slightly out of kilter, and, I'd bet, for the better of it.

For this weekend's CMA Music Festival, the Preston is offering a special Redneck Package: your room comes with a complimentary sack of pork rinds and a six-pack of PBR. In-room snacks include local favorites like Goo Goo Clusters, Moon Pies and RC Cola.

Can't make the CMA? The Redneck Package is available by reservation through October.

(Via Fark.)

12:59 PM | Almost Yogurt </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Smart space utilization

A freshly-hatched (still had the paper tag) smart fortwo was parallel-parked at the Gazette office yesterday afternoon. The driver sensibly set the tiny car in the middle of the space, leaving about a quarter of it vacant on either side and making the space look a lot bigger than it does when it's accommodating something like, say, my car.

I went from there to Target, and wondered as I pulled in just how a smart should park in a lot like that. It seems to me that parking as the rest of us do, pulling up to just short of the line that divides this row from the next, is not a good idea, because some schmuck, gleeful at finding an "empty" space, is going to plow right into the poor little boîte's rear end. It seems, therefore, that the driver of the smart should attempt to align her rear bumper with the rear bumpers of adjacent vehicles, leaving no doubt that the space is occupied.

This would also apply, if perhaps with less urgency, to drivers of other wee cars. (I'm thinking specifically of the Mini Cooper that pulled in next to me in the Target lot that day.)

8:05 AM | Driver's Seat </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
Be a good little snowflake

"Dependency," said John Dewey, "denotes a power rather than a weakness. There is always the danger that increased personal independence will decrease the social capacity of an individual."

Got that? That's the baseline. Now mix with pure Marxist contempt for the bourgeoisie, and here's what you get:

Children should no longer be taught traditional subjects at school because they are "middle-class" creations, a Government adviser will claim today.

Professor John White, who contributed to a controversial shake-up of the secondary curriculum, believes lessons should instead cover a series of personal skills.

Pupils would no longer study history, geography and science but learn skills such as energy-saving and civic responsibility through projects and themes.

He will outline his theories at a conference today staged by London's Institute of Education to which he is affiliated to mark the 20th anniversary of the national curriculum.

This being a Daily Mail report, I decided it might be prudent to look for an additional source. Says the Guardian:

The subject-based curriculum stems from 18th century religious communities and academic learning has become the mark of a well-heeled middle class, White will say.

"In 1988 a traditional subject-based curriculum was imposed by the Conservative education secretary with no rationale given for it. This has alienated many youngsters, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds," he will warn.

White will also argue that control of the school curriculum should be taken away from politicians and passed to an independent education commission protected from "government interference".

"We need a way of ensuring that the school curriculum is kept at arm's length from individual politicians' idiosyncratic preferences," he will say.

As though only politicians had idiosyncrasies.

The Guardian interviewed White two years ago, at which time he said this:

"If education is about helping people to lead happy, flourishing lives, then schooling should be focused on enabling children to meet their basic needs of health and food, as well as equipping them to find interesting work and form lasting relationships. The curriculum should flow from this, rather than vice versa."

Pained as I am to say this, "interesting work" is more the exception than the rule, which suggests that it might not be a bad idea to learn those tedious middle-class subjects, in case following one's dreams proves to be not merely uneconomical but downright foolhardy. Then again, I'm one of those old-school types: you want to be happy and flourish, fine, but you're gonna finish your homework first.

I showed the Daily Mail piece to Trini, and she said, "That's it. I'm homeschooling my kids."

7:06 AM | Say What? </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (10) | TrackBack (1)
4 June 2008
Finally a reason to live

You may remember this from last month:

Close to nine in 10 women (88 percent) say they'd rather chat up someone with the latest fuel-efficient car versus the latest sports car.

Fortunately, there's one out of ten:

If I had to choose between a man who drove a Prius and a man who, say, just signed the lease to a brand new, 4.2 liter, V8 2008 Audi R8, I'm going to pick the Audi R8 every time, as is every other woman on the face of the planet, except those crunchy ones that carry around copies of the Little Red Book in their organic hip pouches, and trust me, while those ladies might be a little easier in the long run, you'll like me better. You might be more interesting to talk to a cocktail party, environmentally conscious automobile owners, but you can't do 0 to 60 in 4.2 seconds.

Of course, if I could afford to lease a car that sells for half again as much as I paid for my house well, I'm sure she's worth it, but damn.

7:08 PM | Table for One </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
From the "Who knew?" files

Whataburger World Headquarters is barely a mile and a half from my (brief) childhood home in Corpus Christi, Texas, the only place I lived as a kid that I haven't since revisited.

I think I've finally found an excuse for a road trip.

2:41 PM | World Tour '08 </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
You killed Ted, you medieval dickweed!

United Airlines, in an effort to cut costs, will ground 70 aircraft and shut down the low-fare Ted mini-airline.

One consultant was never impressed by Ted in the first place:

"Ted was never anything other than a different paint job," consultant [Michael] Boyd said yesterday in an interview. The unit didn't have lower fares or costs, and "it has lost tens and tens of millions of dollars."

(Via Consumerist.)

10:40 AM | Dyssynergy </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
We make it easy for squatters

I snagged this ad while looking up a Whois at Network Solutions:

Network Solutions promotion

Do you know when your domain expires? Somebody does.

9:31 AM | PEBKAC </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
Better late than never

You read it here first in September 2004:

Tropos Networks has built a number of Wi-Fi systems for public-safety use, but they've never tried anything this big: a wireless network for the city of Oklahoma City, 600-plus square miles of spectacularly-irregular polygon.

The new network, which should be fully operational by the end of next year, will cost around $5 million. And no, there will be no public-access hot spots, at least at first.

For "by the end of next year," read halfway through 2008:

The City of Oklahoma City unveiled its wireless network the largest city owned and operated municipal Wi-Fi mesh network in the world Tuesday, June 3.

The network is used for public safety and other City operations. At this time it does not provide wireless Internet access to the public.

Tropos Networks president and CEO Tom Ayers presented a plaque to the Mayor and City Council recognizing the City of Oklahoma City for successfully building and implementing the world's largest municipal wireless broadband network. Tropos Networks provides the network infrastructure equipment.

The wireless mesh network covers an unprecedented 555 square-mile area with 95 percent service coverage in the city's core. Wireless Tropos routers are installed on City siren towers, traffic lights, buildings and other places. Tropos' mobile routers are mounted in City vehicles, extending the network coverage area.

I'm impressed nonetheless, especially since the cost reportedly came in right around the projected $5 million.

Public-safety applications of the new network:

Police officers are equipped with a laptop in patrol cars that gives them better access to advance criminal information in real time and allows them to download photos, file reports and even do paperwork in the field. In addition, police officers and fire fighters have access to over 300 video cameras, giving them a real time, around-the-clock, birds-eye view of key locations throughout the city.

Fire battalion chiefs are now able to locate water hydrants, review site maps, building floor plans and hazardous materials information while en route to a fire or accident, enabling them to tell incoming response vehicles how and where to set up.

I'm just wondering where the 50-square-mile (more or less) "dead zone" is.

7:28 AM | City Scene </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
3 June 2008
You've had your last Hummer

The Truth About Cars is reporting that GM has decided to abandon the Hummer brand:

While not "official," GM told its field teams that all corporate investment in HUMMER has ceased. No refreshes. No new models. And no more marketing support. The decision pulls the plug from 171 HUMMER franchisees, including 71 standalone dealers.

Maybe they can sell it to the Indians.

Update, 6 June: And they just might.

8:31 PM | Driver's Seat </$MTEntryCategory$> | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)