Weekly Roundup: You Can’t Quit You Edition

Few things in life, other than my son (and my new 2022 F-250 Platinum 7.3 4×4) (and my new(ish!) 2019 Radical SR8 Generation 3), have given me as much joy as watching the much-ballyhooed Twitter Quitter movement among automotive journalists (and other completely feckless people) completely implode inside seventy-two hours. Jimmy Page regularly went without heroin during the Seventies for longer periods than these voices-of-a-generation could keep themselves from posting “hot takes” on the Internet. Let’s be real: if you can’t do without something for three days, you’re addicted to it. There’s one exception to that rule, and it’s “water”. Going 72 hours without eating is hard, but it’s not impossible.

I first observed Twitter Addiction firsthand about eleven years ago, during a weekend I would later describe in fictionalized form for TTAC. A relatively well-known female autowriter had agreed to travel with me in under-the-radar fashion for a few days. We had sound reasons for this secrecy: I was living with someone at the time, as was she. Plus she was trying to build a career in autowriting that would have been irreparably damaged were people to realize that she and I were an item. We flipped a coin to see which one of us would stay off social media for the four days we would be together, and she lost.

Two days later, she had a full-fledged mental breakdown in a junkyard because she wasn’t allowed to Tweet.

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Weekly Roundup: The Sexual Pleasure Of The Mask Edition

Warning: this discussion is not for children, people who are incapable of reading at a (pre-21st century) college level, or people who struggle with abstract thought. Thank you for respecting this disclaimer.

When it comes to “idiots with credentials”, I struggle to think of a more egregious example than noted fool Paul Krugman, who has spent his entire life being publicly incorrect about virtually everything, but in this case I think we might have a stopped clock telling the correct time at least once. It’s not that surprising since the OMG VIOLENCE predicted by Krugman is already happening, and has been for some time. A quick Google will show… many such cases. People are attacking other people for not wearing masks as well. There is something about “masking”, both in its presence and in its absence, that elicits strong emotional and physical reactions in human beings.

The science regarding COVID-19 transmission and masks is fairly simple, and easy to understand: nothing short of hospital-standards mask use will do much to keep a “masker” from contracting the virus. Very few people outside the medical specialties understand what’s required to wear the right kind of mask properly. It’s genuinely unpleasant, by the way. But that doesn’t mean that masks are useless. Far from it. They significantly reduce transmission from infected people — and it pretty much doesn’t matter what you use. It can be an N95 or KN95 mask, it can be a cloth mask, it can be a neck gaiter. All of them reduce the “spray” of airborne droplets that contain the virus. It doesn’t matter that the virus is individually capable of entering almost any kind of mask. It needs a “ride” to get there.

There is also quite a bit of evidence concerning the importance of “viral load”. Those of us who are of a certain age remember all the animations of HIV turning an innocent individual cell into an HIV factory — but in the real world, a single HIV particle probably isn’t capable of giving you HIV, and the same is true for COVID-19. You need a “viral load” with enough active particles to overwhelm your local defenses. This is why handling money, which is terrifyingly dirty, doesn’t automatically kill you. The strength of the “viral load” in any individual exposure case is what more or less determines whether or not you will get sick. Masks of all kinds go a long way towards reducing the amount of “viral load” in your immediate vicinity.

The science suggests that you should wear a mask if you might be sick — and forego one if you are not sick, because mask use is not an unalloyed good. It causes a variety of problems, including impaired cognition. Three out of four people who wear masks properly (to medical-professional standards) report headaches, while one in four report difficulty thinking. That’s not good. Of all the people who shouldn’t be suffering from impaired cognition, doctors are right up at the top with pilots and nuclear powerplant operators. Masks are also bad for kids, to the point that prolonged mouth-breathing from mask use can alter the shape of their faces.

That’s the science. But there’s the science, and then there is THE SCIENCE, of course. THE SCIENCE is a modern religion that is no more rational, and often more harmful to society, than any other religion in history has been. It is largely indistinguishable from whatever cherished ideas lead the vanguard of progressive thought, in much the same way that THE LAW nowadays appears to be far more concerned about who is committing a crime than it is about what crime has been committed. THE SCIENCE is obsessed with masks. Masks are a sacrament to THE SCIENCE. But how did we get to this point? And why are masks such a dangerous subject, both on the printed page and in real life?

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Weekly Roundup: When Mayer Met Maren Edition

Here’s the story: Handsome fellow with plenty going for him has cute girl with plenty going for her, and there’s no reason in the world they shouldn’t be happy together, but there’s another fellow involved. A little (or a lot) more famous, a little (or a lot) more adored by the public. There’s some “creative work” involved. Does it go farther than that? We can only guess. But we can guess.

That’s how I got my ticket for John Mayer’s remarkable performance at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville this past Tuesday: a friend of mine has a girlfriend with whom he is squabbling. She’s an artist and she is popular with various D-list celebrities. My friend would be almost any woman’s dream date: tall enough, fit, handsome, articulate, conventionally masculine, thoughtful, and working a high-paid job that actually means something and almost never involves an office. Truth be told, I’m a little attracted to him myself, mostly in an envious way.

Ah, but he’s not famous. Let’s insert the usual The-Current-Year disclaimers about how there is no difference between AMAB (assigned male at birth) citizens and AFAB (absolutely fabulous) citizens, and formally assert their validity in all circumstances… and then click the jump.

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Weekly Roundup: Thank You For Five Million Edition

When I was a contractor for VerticalScope, home of TTAC and many other collapsing websites, one of the senior executives admitted to me that “When it comes to site traffic, we pretty much make the numbers up, and so does everybody else.” The situation hasn’t gotten any better since 2013. Once upon a time, there was a genuine source of truth: the Apache logs on Linux and UNIX webservers. Today, the lizard people use astoundingly stupid and broken tools like SimilarWeb, Adobe Analytics, and Google Analytics to figure out how many people are looking at the advertisements. All of these metrics-collection services can be manipulated, and none of them can say for certain that fifty people using restrictive security settings behind a major corporate firewall are not, in fact, one person. Nor are they sophisticated enough to know that the “three unique users” they just reported to the Lizard-In-Chief are actually one person browsing the site via work laptop, tablet, and phone.

Jetpack, the freemium logging service offered to WordPress users, isn’t any dumber than the Adobe software, and I think it’s more conservative in estimating actual user volumes, which is probably a good thing. It thinks that Riverside Green has a steady audience of about 35,000 readers, and that we have served just over five million pages in the past nine years. I’ve done some sanity checking against my Apache logs and this doesn’t appear to be far from the truth. So… yay!

As I usually do at the million-visit marks, I will answer some general questions after the jump. Since this is a Roundup and not Housekeeping, there will also be a link to stories at the bottom. If you don’t have time to continue, please accept my thanks for being a reader. Most “creative types” like to pretend that they don’t need readers or listeners, that they would be happy just committing their pearls of wisdom to the custody of futurity, secure in the knowledge that they will eventually get a Nick Drake’s worth of critical recognition and respect. Of course, Nick Drake probably killed himself because he couldn’t sell more than five thousand copies of an album, but nobody likes to think about that. I’ll be more forthright. I cherish my readers. If you really hate me, the best way to hurt me is to stop reading. Please don’t do that.

Alright, let’s continue with Q&A.

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Weekly Roundup: I Never Wanted To Get This High Edition

How real is Julia Nilon’s reaction to acapella singer Tim Foust, particularly the thirty or so seconds following the spot at which I’ve set the video to start? I’m thinking it’s not entirely real. YouTube “reaction videos” are a massively popular genre, and Tim Foust reaction videos are a reasonably popular sub-genre. In particular, there are quite a few YouTube videos where women appear to experience some sort of physical ecstasy as a result of hearing Foust hit some very low notes. Still, I suspect there’s at least a kernel of truth in Nilon’s response, because it seems both human and genuine.

One of my readers posted a link earlier this week that led me down a Substack rabbit hole ending in a rant about women and Tim Foust. I wish I could find it; alas, my browser crashed on Adobe Analytics and killed any memory it had of that link. If you recognize what I’m talking about, put it in the comments and I’ll edit, because I hate referring to other writers without proper attribution.

(Aside: I’ve been told that Matt “Fatty” Yglesias is making $770,000 a year on Substack from 9,800 subscribers. I’d be happy with a small fraction of that. Maybe I should go on Substack.)

Anyway, the Substacker in question was trying to make the point that women have always lusted, and will continue to lust, for “real men” who display certain “real man” tendencies, such as an exceptionally low voice. Which got me thinking, because a low voice is something that I don’t have.

Scratch that.

It’s something I got rid of.

Kinda.

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Weekly Roundup: Love Lift Me Up Where I Belong Edition

The story thus far: broke my left wrist at a Spec Racer Ford race in the last weekend of September, rehabbed it, then broke my left thumb in two places at Mike’s Bike Park on December 23rd, along with all sorts of tendon/ligament drama. This past week I took a few tentative hops on my Ordnance dirt-jumper, as seen above. Yesterday I went back to Ray’s MTB in Cleveland, hit the downhill jump line with reasonable success. In neither case was I able to ride for more than about half an hour before the pain in my hand started to affect my grip strength.

I’m going to assume that I’ll be able to make my usual Colorado/West Coast downhill MTB trip this year, assuming that the hand continues to heal. What’s interesting about this process to me is that I had about seven weeks where I felt like I wasn’t making any progress at all. Couldn’t really play guitar, couldn’t even start closing a 100-pound Gripzilla, couldn’t even do lightweight dumbbell exercises. And I wasn’t improving at all on any of these fronts. Then I woke up one day and I could do all of the above. As with the apparent collapse of the United States as a functioning entity, my healing happened gradually, then suddenly.

Oh, and in the middle of all this, I sold my house. Happened in about six hours. So I’ve been moving out. Having lived here for just a few days short of twenty-one years, I expected that the process would be laborious, and it’s proven to be just that. What I didn’t expect: that it would be sorrowful, or that it would put me so much in mind of someone who is long gone.

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(Last) Weekly Roundup: Breaking Vlad Edition

“Has anyone checked Putin’s Twitter feed to see if he made any old racist posts?” This joke, originating in a hundred places and being shared a million times, is a wry comment on how the Uniparty operates… but it’s at least reality-adjacent to what looks like the second attempt to “cancel” a world leader via the same basic tools they use on you and me. The first attempt, of course, was the mostly successful organized campaign to drive Donald Trump from the world stage by attacking him with legal and financial tools.

Trump was always going to be vulnerable to tactics against him (and his family) via banks and corporations for the same reason that most normal people can usually be manipulated into the correct behavior via an attack on their jobs: he’s out there, doing business, exposing himself to the risk of public pressure against that business. By contrast, President Obama was like the college kid who harangues you on Twitter and lives in his parents’ basement; when you don’t own or earn anything, you can’t have that taken away. The Uniparty made Obama rich with a single $65m “book deal” advance that couldn’t be taken away, against ghost-written books that have yet to sell 15 million copies in total; that’s what we call “payment for services rendered to the Cathedral”.

Vladimir Putin, on the other hand, is probably the second-least-cancellable human being on the planet, after Xi Jinping. He runs a near-superpower with an iron fist, subject to neither public pressure nor election results. Russia is close to being a functioning autarky and its primary trading partner, China, is where everything in the world is made. It is energy independent and rich in natural resources of all types. While the Western media is painting Putin’s reasonably surgical movement into Ukraine as an abject failure, that version of events aligns only loosely with events on the ground, which suggest a Blitzkrieg pace of advance towards key objectives despite using a force that appears to be made up largely of reservists and “cherries”.

Of course, if Mr. Zelensky’s forces were doing as well in real life as they’re doing in the media, you wouldn’t be seeing a coordinated global effort to attack Mr. Putin using every tool at the Uniparty’s disposal. Whether you approve of the Ukraine invasion/liberation/?? it’s worth watching this, because if they can break Vlad, they can break anyone.

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Weekly Roundup: A Failing Flip At The End Of The American Dream Edition

Last week my doctor pronounced my thumb mostly healed, and had some encouraging things to say about the previously-detached end of my radius, now migrating into a sort of Anschluss with the bone whence it sprang. This was good, because I had some motorcycles to ride: the all-new Ducati Monster, the wacky $1,807 looks-like-a-Grom-but-is-really-a-scooter Honda Navi, and the frankly wicked Harley-Davidson Sportster S, now sporting about 120 horsepower and visual aggression to match.

We had other bikes in our Winter 2022 group bike test as well, but they didn’t interest me much. And that was good, because while my left flipper is kind of healed, it’s not good for much more than an hour of riding at a time before it becomes too painful to pull in the clutch. So three bikes was about all I could do. I did spend some time on a dealer-provided Live Wire ONE, but due to some industry politeness I’ll wait until I can get a “proper” loaner before I tell you too much about it.

Our motorcycle group tests are fairly ambitious for a digital publication that, prior to my arrival, was perfectly content to publish just four pieces a day, usually reheated freelance stuff about old cars. To head off any criticism that our new direction is not worth the time and effort, we do what we can to save money pretty much everywhere but the dinners. We fly at odd times, carpool from the airport, get meals at the grocery store.

Oh, and we did one other thing to really save some money: we rented a two-million-dollar ocean-view mansion.

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Weekly Roundup: They Stopped Jaggin’ Around Edition

With time and perspective, you often realize one of two things about various episodes in your past. The first is that you were far better looking, far more likely to succeed, at far less risk than you believed at the time. The second is that you were riding the thin edge of disaster and didn’t realize it at all, or chose to ignore it.

The incandescent months I spent as a Jaguar XJ6 Series III owner certainly fall into the latter category, something reinforced to me by a trip my son and I took yesterday.

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