The Karen I knew didn’t want to speak to a manager — unless it was the manager of getting high. We shared a school bus stop in 1984. I was a twelve-year-old high-school freshman (excuse me, first-year student) and she was a fifteen-year-old high-school junior… who didn’t even go to high school. It was more than a little disconcerting for me to consider, but Karen rode the bus with me to Dublin High School (now Dublin Coffman, 10/10 GreatSchools for “College Prep” but 4/10 for “Equity”) and then took another bus to the Tolles Technical Center in Plain City, Ohio. Tolles was the vocational-tech school run by the neighboring school district; since only about fifteen of Dublin’s 1200 students were on the “vo-tech” path, they double-bused over there every day.
Information on Karen was hard to get, particularly for a twelve-year-old. She would be there at the bus stop every morning when I arrived, despite the fact that the bus stop was literally in front of her house. She was bleach blonde, five foot six, just a little bit too much Appalachia in her face to be classically beautiful, with what looked like a perfect body covered by JC Penney clothing from ten years ago. She always had a cigarette in hand right up to the moment the bus arrived, at which point she would flick it onto the driveway behind her in a motion that was both careless and completely rehearsed. The rumor in our neighborhood was that she was going to Tolles so she could be a hairdresser. The idea that someone could pick a career at seventeen, and that the career in question could be cutting hair, frightened me in a way I couldn’t articulate.
I don’t recall ever speaking directly to her, nor she to me. The next year they added a bus stop closer to my house, which put paid to our daily coexistence, but in the years to come I would occasionally see Karen on a neighborhood street, behind the wheel of her old Datsun or in the passenger seat with some older, scary-looking dude, never the same one twice. An friend of mine who’d been in a few classes with her during freshman and sophomore years, before she left for Tolles, said she was an easy lay. I nodded knowingly, but we both understood that there was no definition of easy lay in the world that included the possibility of lanky, flat-broke kids on $169 BMX bikes.
What happened to Karen? Turns out she is still in Columbus, Ohio. Not cutting hair, but working an entry-level gig in pharma tech. Her LinkedIn profile photo leaves no doubt it’s the same person. Two marriages, two divorces, a couple of wage garnishments when she failed to pay her state taxes or various bills, a lawsuit from king-of-the-in-store-credit-card Synchrony Financial to which she offered no convincing defense. Still a bleach blonde, still looks a little dangerous to my sedate suburban eyes. Fifty-one years old. Hard to imagine.
It’s become popular lately to use “Karen” in a derogatory fashion. It’s the successor to “Becky”, which was the media’s first shot at creating a slur for white women along the lines of other slur names for women of other races. Why did “Karen” stick when “Becky” didn’t? And why is everyone using it? I doubt you will be surprised by the answer.
This is a bad time to be the Times. The Antifa-otaku crowd cancelled their subscriptions en masse when the newspaper published an editorial by Tom Cotton that rather meekly suggested the non-advisability of burning the entire country down on a whim. When the Times apologized for publishing the op-ed on the grounds that it had hurt peoples’ feelings, another round of subscribers canceled out of disgust. To look at the NYT’s front page is to be transported to an alternate universe where every headline must have “Trump”, “Black”, or “Gender” in it so that our bloody and seemingly perpetual convulsion as a nation may continue without interruption or slacking. Only thirty-nine percent of Americans see the paper as trustworthy, which is astounding given that more than half of the country votes Democrat and the Times is basically the house organ of that particular political organization — when it’s not serving as the blog of a Mexican billionaire, that is.
In the admittedly unlikely event of a Biden presidency, the Times will likely have to file for bankruptcy protection, because it generates the vast bulk of its clicks nowadays with sensationalized headlines regarding President Donald Trump. The National Enquirer spends less time talking about aliens or the Loch Ness Monster, comparatively speaking, than the Times does complaining about Trump. The paper has basically two franchises: equating Trump to Hitler, and the “Modern Love” series which, taken in part or in whole, will utterly destroy your faith in humanity.
This does not mean that the Times cannot be dangerous, because it can. Not to “fascists”, “Nazis”, and “the KKK”; if you put all of the people who legitimately qualify for those descriptions in a college basketball arena, you’d still have room for a “brony” convention, and none of them read the Times anyway. Not to Donald Trump, who is approximately as worried about the NYT as he is about an early return of Halley’s Comet. No, I’m afraid the Times is mostly capable of attacking private individuals — something it’s just proven yet again.
If you’re wearing eyeglasses or sunglasses right now, do you know where they were made? Unless you made specific efforts to ensure otherwise, chances are the answer is “China”. And it’s not just the $5.99 Oakley ripoffs sold at every gas station; the vast majority of high-end glasses are also made in China, largely by the EssilorLuxxotica conglomerate. Even when they’re labeled “Made In Italy”, it often just means “assembled in Italy”, which is why Ray-Ban Wayfarers are “Made In China” when you buy bare frames for prescription lenses and “Made In Italy” when you buy a complete set of sunglasses using the same frames.
Finding non-Chinese glasses is an exhausting task. For more than a decade I wore about a dozen versions of the same basic frame, all made by ProDesign in Japan. That frame shape is out of production so now I have Silhouettes (Austria), Safilo (Italy), and Dillon Optics (Italy with USA lenses) depending on the day and the task. I also have a very good set of ROKA cycling glasses which to my sorrow are Chinese. If ROKAs were made in the USA I’d have ten pairs of them.
If you want a completely USA-made set of glasses, you have very few choices. Shuron makes a variety of vintage-looking frames here at a very competitive price, and… uh, I think that’s it. Until recently. Now there’s Genusee.
The real revolution, it turns out, was in 1774. According to Simon Winchester’s absolutely outstanding book The Perfectionists, that’s when John Wilkinson (briefly) patented a method for boring holes in iron cannon. This, in turn, led to the accurate boring of cylinders for steam engines. In the two hundred years to follow, we became ever more precise as a civilization; Winchester’s book uses LIGO, the facility built to detect gravitational waves, as the apex example. Wikipedia says it can “These can detect a change in the 4 km mirror spacing of less than a ten-thousandth the charge diameter of a proton.” Which is quite precise indeed.
This week, inspired by a section of Winchester’s book, I bought my son an old set of Japanese calibration blocks as a gift for my son. (With one American block in there to make up the set, it turns out; buying cheap on eBay always leads to adventure of one sort or another. In this case, it means having seven Mitsuyos and one Starrett). Think of them as “go/no-go” gauges for measuring devices; if you want to know if your caliper is really reading precisely one inch, you’d have it measure the one-inch block and see what you get. When they were new, the blocks were calibrated to .15 micrometers. That is 1/100th the width of a human hair. I am hoping that these blocks remind my son that precision is a true and valuable thing. Without precision, bridges collapse and airplanes fall out of the sky.
Voluntary, habitual, culture-scale precision is the signature achievement of the Western world, although the Japanese also took to it with extraordinary fervor once they realized its benefits. It is an achievement of engineering rather than of science; that’s hard for many people to understand. And it’s going away, sooner rather than later. What will replace it? You don’t wanna know.
I have written up several Lincoln Continental Mark IVs here over the years. So another one won’t hurt. Ha ha! I’ve always loved the Mark series, due in no small part to my grandfather owning a Mark III, Mark IV and Mark V over the years. But I have an extra fondness for the Designer Series Marks of 1976. It was a brilliant marketing idea by Ford Motor Company, and various designer Lincolns appeared way, way, wayyyy to the final one, the 2003 Town Car Cartier. In 2004, Ford decided they didn’t want to pay to use the upper-crust name on their top of the line Town Car, and the ’04 model was unceremoniously dubbed the Ultimate instead.
Another day, another ’70s cabin cruiser. As is often the case, this one, a ’77 Eldo on Seattle Craigslist (Re: the location? No comment) was posted on Finding Future Classic Cars on FB.
I’ve always loved the 1970s Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorados. They were so huge, so opulent, so unnecessary. And yet, so compelling. While my ultimate Eldo is, depending on the day, a silver-blue ’71 convertible or triple yellow ’78 Biarritz coupe.
So this early evening, ladies and germs, this week’s Klockau Lust Object is coming live from a barstool at Grumpy’s Saloon in the picturesque Village of East Davenport, Iowa.
As is often the case this gorgeous example of late Seventies Broughamage was seen on my preferred cars-for-sale FB group,? Finding Future Classic Cars.
The names of those American military bases memorializing Confederate generals, like Fort Bragg in North Carolina or Fort Hood in Texas, have become fodder for the culture war. Despite the fact that some were capable commanders (many of those, it should be noted, were graduates of the Union’s military academy at West Point), the simultaneous fact that they fought for a cause now thought odious is considered by many to be grounds for erasing their names from those installations. I can personally think of valid arguments on both sides of the issue.
When it comes to renaming things, particularly with a political motivation, I’m reminded of something an Indian fellow who worked for an automotive vendor told me during the big Detroit auto show. Continue Reading →