An excellent week for my picks in the Ace of Spades HQ fantasy football pool at Yahoo! That’s still a relatively big lead for the player who has been top-of-the-rankings from week 1, though:
December 9, 2013
November 20, 2013
I’m actually doing quite well in the Ace of Spades HQ football pool at Yahoo this year:
October 27, 2013
I’m not actually much of a fan of sweet concoctions, so the cupcake revolution swept past without leaving much of an impression on me, but from what I hear they’re still undeniably popular. In the Guardian, Matt Seaton isn’t impressed:
Cupcakes look absolutely fabulous, of course … in photographs, on e-commerce sites, in shop windows and in expensively beribboned boxes. But have you ever managed to eat one without either getting frosting on your nose or ending up with sticky slime between your fingers? They’re the edible equivalent of ultra-fashiony high heels: great to look at, ridiculously impractical.
And like heels, borderline masochistic. Why? Because cupcakes are very obviously a terrible food choice.
Now, anyone who knows me and my industrial-scale chocolate habit will be ready to yell “hypocrite” here. But I’m not preaching abstinence from treats. What irks me about cupcakes is that, for their implied young female, figure-conscious, on-off dieting customers, they set up this horrible dynamic of enabling indulgence in a forbidden object.
You know what cupcakes really are? — butter-iced snares of self-loathing that sell precisely because they exploit young women’s insecurity about their looks and identity, and offer a completely false and self-defeating solace of temporary gratification, almost certainly followed by remorse and disgust.
H/T to James Lileks for the link.
October 22, 2013
It’s not just a scent … it’s a lifestyle:
When I first told my husband that I was planning on wearing only Axe men’s products for an entire week, his answer was a foreshadowing of things to come: “You’re planning on wearing that stuff to bed every night for a week? Man. Axe really does work. It’s only been a few minutes and look, you’re already single again … ”
Despairing of any kind of social response that wasn’t either threats of a formal legal separation from my husband or subtle nostalgia from mothers of former Axe users, I decided to trot out the stuff at the last night of Slate’s annual retreat in September. Having sprayed it liberally all over my body on the night of the big promlike party, I watched my roommate — Slate’s Dear Prudie — actually flatten herself up against a hotel room wall and slide uneasily down the hallway, in the manner of that poor cat being chased by Pepé Le Pew. Almost immediately upon my arrival at the festivities I was accosted by three female Slate colleagues who spontaneously observed that I smelled completely amazing. I was briefly thrilled at the enthusiastic response, until I realized that I didn’t really want my someday teenaged sons to ever be quite that amazing-smelling to women in their 30s and 40s. One colleague said it brought her right back to whatever it is that happened in the back of a truck when she was herself 14. The silence was slightly less awkward than after the pants-spraying story the week before.
October 19, 2013
You can find the most interesting things on Twitter. Here’s @Amazing_Maps with a map of the United States divided up into units of Canadas:
October 15, 2013
Up to a point (i.e. short of offering your guests one of those Balkan plonks marketed as wine, Cyprus sherry, poteen and the like), go for quantity rather than quality. Most people would rather have two glasses of ordinary decent port than one of a rare vintage. On the same reasoning, give them big drinks rather than small — with exceptions to be noted later. Serious drinkers will be pleased and reassured, unserious ones will not be offended, and you will use up less chatting time going round to recharge glasses.
Kingsley Amis, Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis, 2008.
October 13, 2013
October 3, 2013
Techdirt‘s Tim Cushing talks about an incident in Philadelphia where a transit police officer was losing a fight with a suspect, yet none of the people came to the assistance of the cop or even called 911:
The fact is that a certain number of citizens aren’t going to come to a cop’s defense simply because they’ve seen too much abuse occur at the hands of cops. When law enforcement struggles with an arrestee, they’re not too shy about bringing in several more officers to help out, or just sending an attack dog after them. They’re also in possession of several more weapons than most citizens carry — including pepper spray, batons, tasers and guns.
The odds are stacked in favor of police officers. When one is suddenly unable to avail himself of all the weapons at his disposal, police leadership seems to think the public should jump in and save their “heroes,” or at least call 911.
Over at PINAC’s writeup of the event, the oft-arrested/hassled photographer Carlos Miller points out why that’s a bad idea.
I admit I would be the one video recording, not necessarily because I wouldn’t want to help the cop, but because pulling out my camera and recording is very instinctive for me, while dialing 911 is anything but.
In fact, my instinct is to avoid calling 911 at all costs because I don’t trust police enough not to turn me into a suspect when they arrive, which we have seen happen numerous times in the past.
Beyond the chilly relationship between citizens and cops are further factors, legal and otherwise, that Chief Nestle isn’t considering when he expresses his shock at the public’s inaction.
First, there’s the Bystander Effect. Very basically, the more people present in a situation, the less likely that someone will offer aid. Two factors that came into play during this beatdown are empathy and the “diffusion of responsibility.” Many people simply don’t empathize with cops, even when a citizen has gained the upper hand. This disconnect leads directly to less altruistic behavior. The more someone empathizes with the victim, the more likely they are to respond. Judging from the majority of the comments under the news report, it’s very unlikely that any crowd would be filled with empathetic individuals.
September 20, 2013
Sippican Cottage posted this the other day, and I have to admit I was vastly impressed with the skills of these workers:
That workshop has nothing that I don’t understand going on it it. It’s a very safe place to work, although the State of California would tell you that every single thing in it is known to give you cancer. But they say that about a glass of tapwater. The finish that the woman’s applying is shellac, which you can eat after is dries, and the glue pot is filled with hide glue, which is just horses that came in last, and most of the tools make wood shavings, not sawdust, and the sanding is done by hand, so the sawdust isn’t copious or particularly dangerous. No one in the video is missing a digit, or has any visible scars from working with their hands all day. They all have fans pointed at them, but that’s no doubt because it’s too warm for comfort wherever they are. That place is not full of toxic fumes. You’d pay money to smell the smells in there. Shellac and hide glue and wood shavings smell wonderful. I hear laughter in there, and people smile when a camera is pointed at them. It’s a sheepish smile I understand. They are not used to people being interested in their mundane life. No one is wearing safety glasses or ear protection, and no one needs them, either.
No one is LOVINGLY CRAFTING anything in the video, although the violins they make will be sold for huge money in Europe, and the customers will be told that their violins were… LOVINGLY CRAFTED. But then again, no one I’ve seen in five thousand LOVINGLY CRAFTED videos have one-tenth the hand skills I see demonstrated by everyone in the video. It’s important work to them, so they do it to the best of their ability. People that do things over and over get really good at them. I wish them all well — and hope on my best day, I’m as good as they are on their worst.
September 15, 2013
All I can assume is that my RSS reader needs a good, swift kick every now and again because this post from Labour Day just showed up in my reader now …
I needed a job, bad, in LA, 1980-ish. I moved there with next to no money and no plan. I was only old enough to drink because they hadn’t changed the law yet. I’d had a dozen jobs or more already. No one was hiring nobody for nothing nohow. If I see another person compare today’s economy to the Depression I’m going to show them a picture of 1979. When a mortgage on a house reaches 17%, unemployment is right around 30% in the construction industry, and inflation looks like it’s going to touch 20, you get back to me. Car companies did more than just talk about going bankrupt back then.
I was sleeping on the couch in an apartment shared by two girls, neither of which I knew then or know now. You can distill painful shyness into a kind of brazenness if you try real hard.
The only job opening I could find was a classified for a welder. I had welded under a microscope before, so I was prepared to say I was qualified. A ship in a bottle is still a ship, right?
I drove 66 miles dead east from LA to get there. Outside the place looked like Ingsoc owned it, and inside it looked like Beelzebub was renting it. Medieval. A metal corrugated roof in the desert. The concrete block walls could just barely hold in the amount of crazy required to be a welder in there.
It was a terrible job and the pay was about the same as begging in Calcutta or maybe a dental assistant in England. There were — I remember because they told me — 135 people there that day applying for the job. There was a person sitting on every horizontal surface you could see making out an application. I was the only one wearing a suit and holding a resume. They took me out of the scrum, up the stairs, gave me the man what are you doing here act.
I lied. I lied like a politician. I lied like an infomercial. I lied like four hundred sermons played backwards. You bet I can weld your thermocouples. They sent 135 people away that very minute.
(to be continued)
I switched the Sippican Cottage RSS feed to NewsBlur instead and this story really does continue…
You couldn’t get an apartment in LA without a bank account and a job. You couldn’t get a bank account without a fixed address. I couldn’t get a job without an apartment. I can’t remember who was governor of California at the time. It might have been Jerry Brown or maybe George Deukmejian. At any rate, Franz Kafka was actually running the place. I picked a day, and simultaneously told the apartment landlady I had the job, told the bank I had the apartment, and told the job I could TIG weld thermocouples all the live-long day, baby. The Million Pound Bank Note is just a short story to you; it’s an instruction manual to me. You guys should read less Rand and more Twain if you want to get on in this world. By “less Rand,” I mean “no Rand,” and “all Twain,” actually.
August 5, 2013
Elizabeth sent me this link, saying “this video kind of gives a feel to the whole experience”. I asked her to write a bit about her trip on the Pushkin:
I’ve never visited a communist country but I got a real feel for it while travelling on this ship. I was twenty-two and going to live in England for a year.
Before embarking, I was given labels to put on my baggage. Cabin luggage was to be marked “Cabin” and other stuff was to be marked “Storage”. As I already had my storage stuff delivered earlier in a steamer trunk, the only luggage I had was marked “Cabin”. Imagine my surprise to find no luggage in my cabin. A tiny cabin with a small toilet/shower and handbasin with a porthole blocked by a ruddy great North American car. I went down to the Purser’s Office to enquire on where my luggage was. A grim looking pair were managing the booth and after checking the records the conversation went thus:
Them: “Your luggage is in hold”
Me: “But I had it marked ‘Cabin’”
Them: “No, it marked ‘Storage’”
Me: Can I have it delivered to my cabin?”
Them: “Is impossible”
Them: “Hold cannot be opened when ship is sailing”
Me: “All my clothes are in there”
Me: “What am I going to wear?”
Them: (more shrugs, waves me off)
I spent nine days wearing two sets of clothing and three pairs of underwear. Luckily, a kind young lady at the same dining table lent me a sweater and spare underwear and even more luckily I had a washroom in my cabin to handwash through the clothes I had just worn (most cabins didn’t have attached washrooms).
The ship was full of students going to Europe to study. The crew of the France had gone on strike and had forced many of the students to take the Pushkin instead. The crew hated us. We were a ship full of under-thirties who drank, played cards and liked rock’n'roll music — everything the Russian crew were not allowed to do. Three days out on a nine-day journey, the booze ran out. As the students were not real heavy drinkers and still getting their sea legs (the smell of vomit on the lower decks was awful), I suspect the crew or the senior officers had absconded with the alcohol.
We had a “talent” night where we had to listen to the crew perform Russian dances and folk songs. When it was the students turn, four or five had brought their guitars with them and started playing rock music. The audience was getting right into it singing along, clapping and dancing to the music when the Russians stomped onto the stage with “enough!”, “no more music”, and shut the performance down.
While playing pinochle one day, I met a young Scotsman from Long Niddry. He had just spent the last five years in the lumber camps of B.C. and to prove to his father that he wasn’t a layabout, he was bringing his car back to Scotland as a trophy of his success. Yes, it was his huge North American car strapped to the deck outside my porthole. How he proposed to drive it around the streets of Edinburgh, I have no idea.
And so, we spent nine dreary November days going from Montreal to L’Havre and then to the Tilbury docks in London. If the students had had rotten fruit they would have thrown it because on docking at L’Havre we were berthed alongside the France. The boos and catcalls were loud and I’m sure the people on the pier were wondering what the problem was.
This is my personal recollection of sailing on the Alexandr Pushkin. So much for the “queen of the Russian cruise ships”.
August 2, 2013
Mancow Muller shows us how quickly we forget the classics:
867 people in England dressed as Superman to set a world record. The record…World's Largest Gathering of Sad.
— MancowMuller (@MancowMuller) August 2, 2013
July 27, 2013
An amusing tale in Modern Farmer:
Take a moment to drink in the glory of Shrek the Sheep. Shrek really, really, really did not like getting his hair cut. So for six years, this New Zealand libertarian managed to avoid spring shearings by hiding in a cave.
By the time he was found in 2004, his owners couldn’t even tell he was a sheep. “He looked like some biblical creature,” John Perriam told the BBC. Or, to quote a member of Modern Farmer‘s editorial team, “Someone help that sheep, he is being eaten by some kind of dirty monster.”
When Shrek was eventually sheared (because man always triumphs over sheep), there was enough wool to produce 20 men’s suits. Just an abnormal, excessive, downright insane amount of wool. Which led us to some basic questions: If a sheep is left unshorn, will its wool grow forever? Is that healthy? Is this a glitch in the (wooly) fabric of evolution?
That’s Shrek mid-shearing, and not very happy about it. This is a fairly old story, as Shrek died a couple of years ago.
H/T to Tyler Cowen for the link.
July 16, 2013
Yep, it’s back to the weird news season apparently:
The week has barely begun and already the gods have served us up a fresh piece of crazy. It seems that teachers at the Nashongo and Makaba primary schools in Siavonga, Zambia have threatened to abandon their posts after a rash of indecent incidents involving invisible witches. According to Chief Sinadambwe of the Tonga-speaking people, the saucy sorcerers have been projecting their spirits into the teachers’ bedrooms and molesting them. And they don’t even have the decency to call in the morning.
[. . .]
I could check my privilege and acknowledge that fear of incubi and succubi was also once common in Europe, or else write sensitively about a foreign culture still rooted in cultural tradition. But Zambia is a country on the move (with a growth rate of around 6.5 per cent, it’s outstripping the UK) and it’s not unreasonable to say that invisible sex attacks should not still be happening anywhere in the world in the 21st century — especially when they are reported by teachers, who one hopes would be educated to a point of thinking such things are a Medieval fairy tale.
Alas, it seems that randy psychic witches are still regarded as quite common in modern Zambia. Back in May, the Mbala District Commissioner also felt compelled to ask local “wizards” to stop molesting teachers and pupils at Chipoka Primary School — the second of such incidents in nine years. What’s worrying about these stories is that a) they represent a sort of sexual abuse in themselves, either because they foster mass delusion or else disguise genuine incidents of physical rape, and b) they encourage violence against so-called witches. Just this month, an elderly Zambian couple was accused of black magic, beaten and burned to death. How strange it is that we live in an age of science and light and yet some of the people that we share the planet with still exist in a state of superstitious darkness. If what they believe is preposterous, we should have no shame is stating it — especially if it also potentially dangerous.