Archive for January 2008

Grading on the demand curve

“We are always very disappointed if we see retailers that are pricing the Wii or any of our products above the MSRP price.”

So said Reggie Fils-Aimé, Nintendo’s American boss, and apparently he was sufficiently disappointed to do something about it. Kotaku reports:

On December 14th, Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aimé held a conference call to address the growing problem of Wii shortages, detailing the company’s plans to get customers matched up with systems by any means necessary. First came the raincheck system, which allowed customers a chance to pre-purchase the machine at GameStop stores across the country, with the understanding that they would be guaranteed a system by the end of January.

Then he announced that seven retail outlets — Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, Sears, Kmart, Toys R Us and Circuit City — would have the coveted consoles in stock that weekend, revealing that stores had been stockpiling the systems for a massive, last-minute flood.

While the rainchecks met with varying success due to limited ability, the flood of systems that weekend had a huge effect on the eBay market.

This is the sound of a bubble bursting:

On December 17th, according to my data …11,016 Nintendo Wii consoles were sold on eBay, for an average price of $368 — the first time the price had dropped below $400 in a month.

There is, however, a practical limit to how much a manufacturer can rein in either retailers or the secondary market, as Nissan is finding out:

Nissan was considering voiding the warranty of any GT-R resold in its first 12 months on the road, but has since abandoned that idea. “We’ve talked about ways to stop eBay sales by restricting the transfer of the new car warranty to the next buyer for at least six months,” said Eric Anderson, Nissan’s North Central Region vice president. “But we gave up on that idea because it would have been unfair to the guy who found he really had to sell his car sooner.”

Anderson continued by saying there is nothing Nissan can do about dealer markups — which are expected to be at least $15,000 — either. “We’ll counsel dealers on why they shouldn’t, but there’s no way we can stop them from doing it,” Anderson said.

Excluding the inevitable “destination charge,” the GT-R will list for $69,850, or about the price of 280 Wiis — at MSRP, anyway.

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No Storm in Oklahoma

The WNBA’s Seattle Storm has been sold and will not be relocating, to Oklahoma City or anywhere else:

A local ownership group has bought the WNBA franchise from Clay Bennett and his Oklahoma City-based group, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Monday night.

League president Donna Orender will be in Seattle on Tuesday for an 11 a.m. news conference, the Storm announced Monday.

Neither Orender nor Storm chief operating officer Karen Bryant could be reached for comment Monday, but the source said the new ownership group includes at least one woman.

From an AP story at the Oklahoman:

Dan Mahoney, spokesman for the organization, would only confirm Monday night that the announcement scheduled Tuesday was not related to the Storm’s current search for a new head coach.

I guess I’m pleased with this, not for any personal lack of interest in the WNBA myself, but for the simple fact that numbered among my circle of online friends are some serious Storm fans in the Seattle area, and I figure they’ll be delighted at the news.

And running down the blogroll, I find that I figure correctly:

We’d all miss the team, the environment, the sense of community we felt going to the games.

Now we don’t have to miss it. I never thought I’d say that, but thank you, Clay Bennett. Thank you for having the sense to see that the Storm belongs in Seattle.

This is, I think, the first time anyone in Seattle has ever accused Clay Bennett of having any sense.

Update, 2 pm: The AP fills in the blanks:

A group of Seattle women, led by former Seattle Deputy Mayor Anne Levinson, is buying the WNBA Seattle Storm from the SuperSonics for $10 million. Two Microsoft Corp. executives and an entrepreneur round out the purchase group named Tuesday.

The group, calling itself Force 10 Hoops, has until the end of February to close the sale and would need approval of the WNBA board of governors for the standalone franchise.

Levinson, who led the negotiations, said the group was doing it for Storm fans and the community.

The others in Force 10 Hoops are Ginny Gilder, who owns an investment business, is president of a family philanthropy and won a silver medal at the L.A. Olympics; Lisa Brummel, senior vice president of human resources at Microsoft and a Yale softball player; and Dawn Trudeau, who heads Microsoft’s database division.

Best of luck to the new owners.

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Max Faster

This has to be a hit:

Wouldn’t it be cool if makeup worked like temporary tattoos? Just pick one that said “Evening”, “First Date”, “Work”, “Casual”… Slap it on your face, wet the back, and peel off the paper.

It would be nice if you could remove it without taking half your face with it, too.

“Oh, you’re always complaining,” piped up the Invisible Girlfriend from the corner.

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Rhymes with “baloney”

I’ve had nothing to say about the DVD Format Wars, except that I was sort of rooting for Sony’s Blu-ray to lose, because, well, it’s Sony’s, and God knows what sort of malfeasance they’ll bake into it in the future.

This has nothing to do with DVDs, but it doesn’t make me feel any better about Sony either:

Sony BMG Music Entertainment on Jan. 15 becomes the last major record company to sell downloads without copy restrictions — but only to buyers who first visit a retail store.

The No. 2 record company (after Universal Music) will sell plastic cards, called Platinum MusicPass, for individual albums for a suggested price of $12.99. Buyers enter a code from the card at new Sony BMG site MusicPass.com to download that card’s album.

Think about that for a moment:

If you want to download uncrippled Sony music, you have to get in your car and drive to [the] store so you can buy a card. Then drive back home and download your music.

But the good news is that you can choose from 37 different albums!

Could this possibly be any more cumbersome? Let’s not give them any ideas.

(Via Laurence Simon.)

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While the writers’ strike goes on

New game shows, of course! Tickle the Angry Scorpion (doesn’t that sound like a band name?) might be a hit, though I’ve got my doubts about Do Calculus While We Poke You.

Then again, what I really want to see is Estonian Idol.

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New doors closing

If for some inexplicable reason you’ve been wanting to cruise on down the road in a Mercury, you might want to do it now while you still can:

[Ford CEO Alan] Mulally is obviously far less beholden to Ford’s old guard than the gentleman that came before him. He’s been there, done that, killed the extraneous bits. And here’s the truth: when Mulally finally gets around to taking a good hard look at Mercury, Mercury will be toast.

For now, Mercury is merely milquetoast. The company adds zero uniqueness to Ford’s product line. Mercury has zero technology, zero differentiation, zero prestige, zero class-leading products and zero long-term priority for the Ford Motor Company. Hundreds of Mercury dealerships, thousands of Ford employees and millions of advertising dollars are wasted trying to counter a counter-clockwise death spiral. Every penny that goes into turning a struggling Ford product into an even less competitive Mercury is a penny wasted.

At a time when Ford is struggling to generate a profit anywhere within its North American product portfolio, what value can be had with Mercury? None. There is but one, obvious solution: kill the brand.

Last year 168,422 Mercury vehicles found homes, along with 131,487 Lincolns. Your local L-M dealer is going to look at these numbers and yell that Ford is taking away 56 percent of his business. If Ford does right by Lincoln, that dealer will be mollified by the fact that he’s getting higher margins, even if he winds up selling fewer units. But at the moment, doing right by Lincoln takes serious money, and any serious money Ford has to spend on Lincoln is money that won’t be spent on what’s left of Mercury.

A solution occasionally proffered is the Saturnization of Mercury: turning it into a conduit for European imports. And Ford has some spiffy Euromodels out there: a Focus a generation ahead of ours, a compact people mover (C-MAX), and the newest Mondeo. But this has been tried before — seen any Merkurs lately? — and the exchange rate right now is ruinous. I figure the 70th Anniversary Mercury, due out in 2009, might be the marque’s swan song.

I admit, though, that I, for one, will miss Jill Wagner.

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Overexposure to scorpions, maybe

Back in the Pleistocene era, I had one of Mattel’s Intellivision consoles with the infamous disc controllers. The discs had good motion but just didn’t compare to real joysticks, and in a week or so I’d scored a couple of plastic joystick tops that epoxied to the discs, killing the system’s presumed resale value but adding serious win to my gameplay.

And one day, feeling full of myself, I connected the gamebox to the Betamax, fired up Activision’s Pitfall!, and twisted and twirled and jumped all the way to the final screen. For a couple of years I showed the tape to anyone who was interested and rather a lot of people who weren’t.

I had, of course, no idea that Pitfall Harry himself was something of a bad egg, or I would never have worked so closely with him.

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It seems almost late

Forms W-2 were distributed today at the shop, about four days later than usual, though this is easily explained by personnel changes in the Lonely Financial Zone.

Of course, other tax-related documents will show up at the last possible moment.

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Fark blurb of the week

Perhaps not safe for reading out loud:

Study demonstrates that primates pay for sex. It’s not like she’d suck macaque for free

If you still care after that, here’s a Time article about the study.

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265

This week’s Carnival of the Vanities is dubbed “Picc” by Andrew Ian Dodge; he doesn’t explain the title, but I hope he’s not referring to one of these, which looks sort of painful.

Oh, about the number 265? It’s what they call a Smith number: the sum of its digits is equal to the sum of the digits in its prime factorization. (It’s 5 x 53; 5 + 5 + 3 = 2 + 6 +5.) I threw this in just so I could mention its origin:

Smith numbers were named by Albert Wilansky of Lehigh University for his brother-in-law Harold Smith whose phone number (4937775) was the first noticed Smith number.

On a landline, anyway, Mr Smith is probably a long-distance call away, and your long-distance carrier (and inevitably, you) will be paying a PICC.

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A size-14 shoe drops

Maybe bigger, depending on your level of cynicism. The NBA’s Hornets (remember them?) have renegotiated their lease at the New Orleans Arena, and the new expiration date is 2014, two years later than the previous lease. But now there’s an early-out clause:

[The lease] allows the Hornets to opt out after next season, albeit with penalties ranging from $50 million to $100 million. The precise cost would depend on inducement reimbursements by the team to the state and a relocation fee imposed by the NBA.

The lease says the Hornets may leave only if average attendance is worse than 14,735 for the final five months of this season and next season. The benchmark is close to the team’s average attendance for the three seasons before Hurricane Katrina. Such an average still would leave the Hornets in the bottom third of NBA attendance, league officials said.

Not counting last night’s game with the Lakers, the Hornets are averaging 11,871, which has to be discouraging for a team that’s tied with the Mavericks and half a game behind the Spurs. And here’s a kick: the Bees are 9-6 at home and 14-5 on the road. (The Mavs, away from Dallas, are a ghastly 7-8.) Not that I’d suggest the Hornets would rather be somewhere else entirely; after all, they just signed an extension of their lease, right?

Update: The Bees drew 15,605 against the Lakers, who won 109-80.

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Quirky Italian beauties

As I’ve mentioned more than once — searching this site for the brand name produces thirteen mentions, in fact — during my younger days I managed to wangle some seat time in a Maserati. Despite the presence of the revered trident midgrille, it really wasn’t a sports car: it had four doors, for Pietro’s sake. But you couldn’t tell me that while I was whipping it around Lake Hefner at, um, slightly above the posted limit.

Still, some aspects of it struck me as goofy. My ride in those days had a five-speed stick; what in the world was this hyperexpensive sled doing with a three-speed autobox? (Answer: about 100 before I looked down at the speedo on the way to the lake.) Eventually, though, I accepted this as part of the experience: la donna, she has her quirks, but she’s so beautiful you don’t notice.

At least, you hope you never notice something like this:

Despite its size and girth, the GT’s trunk is puny; hard luck for hard case schleppers. To make matters worse, there is no spare. Since the trunk is opened via an electrically actuated lock, the battery’s location in the Maser’s micro-compartment seems ill-advised.

This isn’t as insane as, say, front fender skirts on the postwar Nash, which made for a turning circle more appropriate to Kenworths, but it’s still a strange sort of lapse, unless there’s some trick trunk release somewhere.

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Lots and lots of new stationery

Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, founded in 1918 by Konosuke Matsushita, is about to fade into history. The huge Japanese conglomerate is taking the name of its leading brand: Panasonic Corp.

The Japanese do not undertake such changes lightly:

Speaking to reporters at a news conference to present the change, President Fumio Ohtsubo said that he had ensured the company had the backing of members of the Matsushita family still represented within the company.

The change will take place in October. Buyers of Panasonic equipment might not even notice. On the other hand, this may improve the company’s Web profile, in case your ISP or your workplace filters out words like “Matsushita.”

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Lacking bodaciousness

Tata’s new Nano, argues Samir Sayed, is the first step toward truly disposable cars:

How much of a car’s overall expense is due to its mechanical longevity? Remove that requirement and you’re suddenly free to substitute mass produced plastic, wood and other materials for the more expensive metal bits, from engine parts to the body panels. Combine this freedom with the “stripper” mentality (how many disposable cameras have a zoom function?), and your costs, and thus price, sink.

When we get a good look at the 1-lakh car, we’ll see just how much performance, safety and pollution control Tata could provide for $2500. But you can bet the car is not built for the long haul — because price is all. Ironically, even without fundamentally robust mechanicals, the 1-lakh car will probably “last” (i.e. remain in operation) a lot longer than western machines; by necessity, developing countries are endlessly innovative at repairing and recycling consumer goods. But the pattern of commoditization and [relatively] rapid disposability will be set.

One lakh, in Indian parlance, is 100,000 rupees, or around $2500 US.

The Nano seats five if they’re really good friends — you have to figure they’re not spending their rupees on cheeseburgers — and is motivated by a 0.6-liter inline two. (You were expecting a V?) Gas mileage is guesstimated at 54 mpg, though it’s unlikely we’ll ever see one of them undergoing the official EPA test.

Rival automaker Bajaj, in the meantime, has already announced a more upscale car for a whole three grand.

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Debris, or not debris?

That’s no longer the question; the contractor hired by the city picked up the Assorted Tree Segments on my block today, a bit sooner than I’d anticipated despite my comparative proximity to the center of town. (I am, as the phrase goes, out of the loop.)

They didn’t seem to leave a whole lot of crud behind, though one house was skipped entirely; I’m guessing that someone was parked in front of the curb, preventing access to the stuff.

Addendum, 8:15 pm: The CityNews flyer that accompanies the utility bill contains the following revelation:

After the debris contractors finish their rounds, bulk waste collection crews will pick up storm debris on your monthly collection days.

But not until, so don’t mix your regular Big Junk with your tree limbs.

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OMGTXT$

My original cell-phone contract didn’t even mention text messages, and my old phone made the task of sending them unduly difficult, so I never got into the habit. I’d been off contract for a few years, and decided to re-up in order to snag a newer phone, and while I still have the same number of minutes and the same monthly rate, any text messages after the first fifty are billed at 15 cents each.

I didn’t think much about this until I saw some Usenet item to the effect that this was the most expensive bandwidth in the solar system, and then, of course, I had to think about it.

SMS as implemented on GSM maxes out at 160 7-bit characters, the equivalent of 140 8-bit bytes, or 140/1024 = 0.1367 kilobytes. At fifteen cents a whack, this is $1.097 per K; multiply by 1048576 and you get the startling figure of $1.15 million per gigabyte. (By comparison, my Web host offers 5 terabytes for as low as six bucks a month.)

Trini would scoff. “Upgrade to a plan with unlimited texting,” she’d say, reasonably enough, and this wouldn’t cost a ton of money. But what I’m allowed is way more than I anticipate using; typically, I have four or five text messages a month. By contrast, she’s using four or five an hour.

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A triumph for antidisestablishmentarianism

And how often do you get to see that?

A motion calling for the disestablishment of the Church of England appeared on the House of Commons order paper [for 10th January] — bizarrely numbered 666, the number associated with the Antichrist.

Bob Russell, Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, one of the signatories, said: “It is incredible that a motion like this should have, by chance, acquired this significant number. This number is supposed to be the mark of the Devil. It looks as though God or the Devil have been moving in mysterious ways. What is even stranger is that this motion was tabled last night when MPs were debating blasphemy.”

Karl Rove was reportedly nowhere near Parliament at the time.

(Spotted by Emalyse.)

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Retrenching a bit

Oklahoma City, after expanding its list of plastics to be recycled, has pared it back a tad, and they’ve updated the pertinent okc.gov page accordingly. I quote from CityNews:

Some of you may be wondering why take-out containers, egg cartons, meat trays and other Styrofoam items are being left in your Little Blue recycling bins. The expanded recyclable list announced a few months ago included #1-7 plastics. However, the recycling equipment is unable to properly process some #6 plastics. You still may recycle other #6 plastics, including rigid plastic cutlery, plates and cups. Basically, if it’s foamy white stuff that bends easily, it’s not a recyclable even though it has a recycle symbol 6.

Meat trays I’ve seen tend to be foamy black or grey stuff. Then again, I prefer to pass up the prepacks in favor of something from behind the counter — which is generally wrapped in paper.

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And sometimes Y

This would seem to cover most of the pertinent circumstances:

If men vote for a candidate simply because he’s a man, it’s because men are sexist pigs.

If women vote for a candidate simply because she’s a woman, it’s because men are sexist pigs.

(Via Tam.)

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Twilight time

Everyone knows the big problem with solar power: it’s called sunset.

Perhaps it won’t remain a problem much longer:

The technology uses a special manufacturing process to stamp tiny square spirals, or “nanoantennas”, of conduction metal onto a sheet of plastic and the team estimates individual nanoantennas can absorb close to 80 percent of the available energy in comparison to current commercial solar panels which usually transform less that 20 percent of the usable energy that strikes them into electricity — this is even more impressive than the 30% conversion rate offered by the recently discussed development of nano flakes.

Due to their size — each interlocking spiral nanoantenna is as wide as 1/25 the diameter of a human hair — the nanoantennas absorb energy in the infrared part of the spectrum, just outside the range of what is visible to the eye. Since the sun radiates a lot of infrared energy, some of which is soaked up by the earth and later released as radiation for hours after sunset, nanoantennas can take in energy from both sunlight and the earth’s heat, with higher efficiency than conventional solar cells.

They’re still a few years away, though:

While the nanoantennas are easily manufactured, the problem of creating a way to store or transmit the electricity is yet to be solved. Although infrared rays create an alternating current in the nanoantenna, the frequency of the current switches back and forth ten thousand billion times a second — much too fast for electrical appliances, which operate on currents that oscillate only 60 times a second.

If I remember my circuit theory, it’s not the frequency that switches back and forth, but getting things down to 60 Hz doesn’t sound like an insurmountable difficulty.

(Via AutoblogGreen.)

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Quote of the week

I think I’ve seen exactly this in the fine print:

I tried to read my policy once, only to give up in abject failure. I mean, I’m a guy who could, at one time, deliver four schools of literary criticism to one work. Classical, modern, post-modern and what I like to call “reality.”

Insurance policies, though, take bullshit to a whole ‘nother level.

The policy of the appurtenances thereof only will relate to the quid pro quo of the insured, unless the aforementioned debentures are accrued on a day that ends in “Y” in a year that ends in an even number that is not divisible by seven. Unless, of course, said debentures are previously approved under sections XLII, MM, S, M, L or XL by “Frank” who works in accounting and has a concealed carry permit, which kinda creeps us out, because we’re good liberals and these types of things frighten us. Frank is the final arbiter of these decisions, unless he’s been drinking, in which case you’re pretty much screwed because he’s the only one who understands this shit, and we are all scared to contradict him, if the truth be known.

I wonder if Frank was a big Mitt Romney fan.

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But it says “My Documents”!

As anyone who’s ever looked at the lower end of the front-page sidebar will know, I’m a major WordPad fiend, not because it’s a wonderful text editor — it’s okay, but nothing spellbinding, as it were — but because I’ve been using it so long that I’ve managed to pound it into some semblance of submission: ninety-something percent of the time, I can get it to do what I want with no fuss.

A couple of weeks ago, I was working up a Vent, and at some point shy of completion I decided I’d better save my work. Up popped a telltale Microsoft box to the effect that “The document is in use by another application or user and cannot be accessed.” I copied out all the text to another file, canceled the save, rebooted, and later pasted it back. No problems.

A few days later, on a project at work, I got the same message. Trini wondered if maybe this was NTFS telling us that it couldn’t rewrite the file because of bad disk sectors, and we cranked up a long and tedious disk diagnostic, which reported no errors. After a couple of hours, I offered a suggestion, but had no real way to test it — until last night, when it cropped up once more.

Rewind about twelve months, to the point where I installed Copernic Desktop Search, which gets used on a regular basis on both these boxes, mostly because Microsoft’s own search facility, functional in Windows 98, descended to the level of farce in XP. Copernic spends a lot of time indexing your files at first; once it’s done, it sneaks in under the radar to add any new ones when it sees you’re not especially busy.

Reasoning that well, what the hell else could it be, I got the dialog box, canceled my save, and suspended Copernic’s index function. It complained, of course; but once it had been ordered off the premises, the save worked as it was supposed to. Apparently once it’s spotted a file, it puts a lock on it until it’s finished updating the index — which, if your nonbusy periods fall at the wrong time, might not have taken place yet when you’re ready to resave.

Mystery solved. I’d be unbelievably smug were my track record better than 1 for X, where X is a larger integer than I’d care to admit.

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Exercising restraint

The 4:24 AM version of the local Forecast Discussion:

GOOD NEWS IS THAT THERE SHOULD BE ENOUGH COLD AIR TO MAKE MOSTLY SNOW INSTEAD OF ICE. BAD NEWS IS THAT THERE COULD BE A LOT OF IT. NEWLY-ARRIVED 06Z DGEX LAYS A WIDE SWATH OF 10-20 INCHES OF SNOW FROM OK TO IL… WITH A 25-INCH MAX IN NE OK. THAT SURELY LOOKS A BIT EXTREME BUT DOES TEND TO GET ONE’S ATTENTION.

This describes DGEX. A typical DGEX map might look something like this.

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A reason to smile

Once upon a time I zinged poor Chris Muir for some extremely-trivial pop-culture goof, and I suspect he made a solemn vow to himself never to go through that sort of thing again. Anyway, this one was perfect:

Day By Day 1-12-08

Here’s the album in question:

I'll Cry if I Want To

Whole lot of tears on that record, you know?

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An exceedingly-minor version increment

You may not have noticed this, but the sidebar is now two pixels wider.

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Bye, bye, Buzz

For the last 27 hours or so, KHBZ-FM (94.7 / The Buzz) has been playing Metallica nonstop (except for commercials) and warning of something happening Monday morning at 10 am. The rumor machine is running flat-out, and at this moment someone on Wikipedia has floated the possibility of a Spanish format — or of KTOK-FM.

I tend to doubt either of these, but then the format change I predicted for the first of the year — at KQOB-FM (96.9 / Bob FM) — didn’t happen, so I figure I have no reason to think I’m actually correct.

Update, 10 am, Monday morning: Big deal. I don’t remember anyone in town saying “You know, I really like the KATT. In fact, I like them so much I think every station should try to sound like the KATT.”

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Totally new and retro

And now, another case where I knew that something existed, but had no idea what it might be called.

“It,” in this case, is “machinima”, a sort of squoze-down version of “machine cinema,” and it’s just what you think it is: computer-generated video. It’s derived, though, not from the hyperexpensive 3D animation software you see at the movies, but from comparatively-simple desktop-based stuff. And there is an advantage to this: you can do the renderings in real time, rather than have to set up acres of rendering hardware and wait for them to crunch zillions of numbers. So it looks patently artificial, but it’s still massive fun, and when actual artists get hold of it, the results are inspiring.

Dawn Eden put up a remarkable example of machinima, a music video set to the Crests’ “The Angels Listened In,” designed by Charlemange Fezza of Pew Man Fu Studios using the technology of The Sims. I was properly impressed, scanned through more than a dozen more of Charlemange’s works — she has her own YouTube channel — and decided to post her take on B. J. Thomas’s original, ooga-chaka-free version of “Hooked on a Feeling.”


By the time she’s done, she’ll probably have the entire Left Banke catalog animated.

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No radio, soap

I bought three presumably-fresh bars of Dial yesterday, something I hadn’t done in a while, mostly because some time ago I decided I would go ahead and use up all the accumulated hotel soap from the last few World Tours, which took many days.

And I thought I had quite a bit of the stuff, but I am the rankest of amateurs compared to Elisson.

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A trifle gun-shy

At about 10:15 everything went dark, or as dark as it can manage two and a half hours after sunrise, and for some reason I was spooked. I get through an ice storm of epic proportions with no more than flicker, and now, on a sunny morning, the power is down?

I did the perfunctory check of the breaker box, called OG&E, grabbed a snow shovel, and began cleaning up at curbside, mostly because it beat the hell out of just sitting there waiting for something to happen. (This is, incidentally, the best time to hobnob with the neighbors, because they’re always coming outside to see if anybody else has power.)

According to SystemWatch, about 3000 people got knocked off the grid; half have been restored. I doubt that any trees were involved.

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Wegads!

The only clock I bother to set on the living-room entertainment gear is on the VCR/DVD recorder combo, and it’s kind enough not to blink 12:00 after power outages (1:00 after power outages during DST); instead, it picks up where it left off and moves along. The clock was already two minutes behind, so the half-hour it spent without juice knocked it to 32 minutes behind. I groaned, picked up the remote for the TV — this is one of those recorders where everything is done through on-screen menus — and got: nothing.

It’s not like I’d never had a battery die in a remote before, so I swapped out a pair of AAs and started over. Nothing. “Jeebus, Sony, what is it this time?” I grumbled as I dug up the TV set manual. Okay, fine: use the front-panel buttons under the drop-down panel, which conveniently were already dropped down since that’s where the LaserDisc plugs in. I had a picture on channel 61 (the Hitler History Channel), but the channel number in the corner was counting down as fast as it possibly could, and none of the front-panel buttons would work except the power switch. The remote was still deader than Mike Gravel’s Presidential bid.

A search for “sony wega controls unresponsive” turned up this thread:

The only control on my TV that still works is the power button. On my remote the Power button is also the only button that is operational!! I can’t change channels, switch video inputs, or control volume. Behind the control panel I can get the menu to display but the arrow keys don’t work….not sure what happened…thought maybe unplugging TV overnight might reset something….no luck. Just wondering if anyone has ran into a similiar problem with this.

Apparently Sony has never heard of this issue either.

I’d taken the trouble to remove all the other remotes from the area, on the off-chance that they were being read by mistake, so the only conclusion I can reach is that something fooled the infrared sensor into thinking it was getting a crapload of instructions all at once, and eventually it quit doing that.

I note for comparison that every time I’ve had some weird response, or lack of response, from the Vizio in the bedroom, disconnecting it from the power supply for sixty seconds has reset it without screwing with my personal settings.

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Just this side of sleek

Lora by BCBGirls

Fetiche decided that the last pair of shoes I put up here had no redeeming social value — truth be told, I didn’t think much of them myself — so this time around I decided to post some shoes she actually owns. From the BCBGirls line of BCBG Max Azria, this is “Lora,” a higher-than-usual (four inches or so) Mary Jane with a squared-off toe, also available in red. (BCBG, it appears, is an abbreviation for a French idiom: bon chic, bon genre, “good style, good class.” And who would know more about French idioms than a Jewish-American designer of Tunisian extraction?) I took one look at these and thought, “Dillard’s, one-twenty-five.” Actually, Dillard’s doesn’t list them among the 95 pairs of BCBGirls shoes on their Web site, but $125 seems a tad high; they can be had online from other vendors for $110 or so, and for that matter, Dillard’s has all the in-store BCBGirls shoes on sale this week.

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Strange search-engine queries (102)

In this more-or-less weekly feature, we sort through seven days’ worth of referrer logs, separate the wheat from the chaff, and publish the chaff.

hissiest uzis:  Yeah, that’s the lethal aspect of the Uzi: the hiss.

I survived the 2007 Ice storm even though I lost a few limbs in Tulsa t-shirt:  Should we assume it’s just a flesh wound?

Superheroines Itching:  “Sue, honey, you want me to scratch that for you?” Reed shouted from the lab.

required to wear pantyhose to church:  Try new GenuFlex™, designed specifically for kneeling.

what happens if a man falls in love with a transsexual?  If he’s really in love, he probably won’t even use the T-word.

family won’t accept me wearing women’s lingerie:  Suggestion: get your own. They hate it when you borrow things.

driving naked on leather seats:  Don’t. Trust me on this.

Mother-in-law is curious about my penis size:  Let me dissuade you with two words: “divorce lawyer.”

topless bimmer chicks:  Is this topless chicks in Bimmers, or chicks in topless Bimmers?

topless babes in bimmers:  Well, that answers that. [Both were received from the same IP address.]

what’s the plural form of stereo:  Surround.

dog peed on dvd player:  Was it HD or Blu-ray?

What do 43 percent of women do in the driver’s seat:  Demonstrate to the man in the passenger seat the art of asking directions.

sociopath, adulterer or libertine:  Great, a new reality TV show.

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I think they should call it “Sonny”

A passel of Tufts University students have put up a blog to — well, the subtitle says it all:

A select group of America’s most brilliant students who are actually getting academic credit (if not a stellar grade) for goofing off on this blog.

One post so far, from “The Minions,” who advise:

Remember that one of the goals of this project will be to generate traffic from other blogs and from web surfers. Therefore, a name that attracts interest or curiosity is more advantageous than something generic.

As an example, you might find it amusing that one blog that enjoys significant traffic is called “This Blog Is Full of Crap.”

I need hardly point out that Laurence Simon objects to his traffic being called “significant.” Still, the name for this new enterprise is indeed critical, and to show that I have a heart, I offer an even number of half-hearted suggestions:

  • The Huffington Pissed
  • 19-Year-Old Women With Large Breasts
  • Like Glenn Reynolds, But Without Saying “Heh”
  • We Thought They Were Saying “Woo-burn”
  • Carbohydrate Wisdom
  • My36DD
  • Bin Laden, Done That
  • Duncan Hunter Read This Once
  • Panic! At The Bursar’s
  • 20-Year-Old Women With Large Breasts

You’re very welcome.

Update: They’ve tweaked a few things, including the tag line, which now contains the phrase “wait till Dad finds out”, and The Minions have given way to The Perfessor.

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Bank error in your favor, collect $200

That Community Chest card is slightly more likely than this email received yesterday:

The Bank of New York and the World Bank had earlier transferred fund to our Bank (Barclays PLC) last month. They disclosed that this fund was recovered as “Traced Fund” belonging to the (holder of this e-mail address) and we have been directed to contact you in this regard.

I am not in the position to disclose the amount here for security reasons. But I think you will have to make this inquiry for yourself. Please verify the amount in which you were previously expecting and reconfirm your banking coordinate as well. Send your e-mail and the copy of your International Passport to Mr. Pyle Michael Lee — director of Operation.

Unlike most phishing expeditions, this one has no obscured or dubious Web addresses, though I suspect that the email addresses for the sender and for the “director of Operation” don’t go anywhere near Barclays. Bunch of wankers.

Addendum: This afternoon someone from the World Bank dropped by to see who was using their name in vain.

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We are completely aghast

Tesla Motors still can’t sell you an actual electric car, but by gum, they’ve got T-shirts for sale.

As if to demonstrate that high technology doesn’t come cheaply, the “Men’s Zero Emissions Tee” sells for a stiff $38. Frank Williams of The Truth About Cars doesn’t think it will sell:

[W]on’t sell many of those since there aren’t many men who don’t produce emissions.

And to think people are worried about mere carbon dioxide.

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Now this is devotion

In a sidebar to a profile of rapper Lupe Fiasco in Entertainment Weekly (#974, 18 January), two adjacent statistics:

553,713 MySpace friends; 554,000 total album units sold.

He has 287 fans on Facebook, right?

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I’d add a shelf for these

I will, of course, buy anything with Writer Chick’s name on it, and for that matter, here are a baker’s dozen other tomes I would happily buy if someone had the temerity to write them:

  1. Lawn Care for the Lazy
  2. Historical Stock Market Prices, 2020 [2009 edition]
  3. Catch-33: The Saga of President Minderbinder
  4. The In-Sink-Erator Guide to Biodiesel
  5. Let’s Move New Orleans to Minnesota!
  6. Fred Thompson’s Dating Tips
  7. How Tim Blair Beat Cancer
  8. Crush That Libido Once and For All
  9. How to Be Decisive — Or Should You?
  10. Giuliani’s 9/11 Handbook, Volume 12
  11. A Connecticut Yankee in King Solomon’s Mines
  12. How to Get People to Pay You Not to Blog
  13. The Case for Sterilizing Britney Spears

For some reason, I couldn’t add these to my Amazon Wish List.

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Should we open the primary?

This morning, an Oklahoman editorial, noting the relative lack of candidate interest in the state’s Presidential primary, hints that maybe we should:

Interest in the primary among Oklahomans isn’t lacking. The Tulsa World reports a surge of voter registrations in the last two months of 2007, plus a wave of re-registration requests from independents who wish to participate in the Republican or Democratic presidential primary before, presumably, switching back to independent.

Unlike New Hampshire, whose primary allows independent participation, only those registered in a party can vote in a primary here. This is how it should be in most cases; perhaps the presidential primary should be an exception.

I haven’t made up my mind about this yet. On the one hand, I hate to see the Independents and others frozen out of the process. Still, it’s supposed to be an instrument for the use of the actual parties.

Any ideas?

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Powerballsy

The Texas Lottery now has a $50 scratch-off card. Who’s buying the tickets? People who can afford to throw away fifty bucks? Don’t bet on it:

As it turns out, the $50 game, called $130 Million Spectacular, has fared best in middle-income neighborhoods typically not considered affluent, according to six months of sales data analyzed by the Houston Chronicle.

Is anyone actually surprised by this?

While the analysis is imperfect because it does not account for people who may buy lottery tickets in a ZIP code where they don’t live, and whose incomes may differ from the median there, it bolsters numerous other studies indicating that lottery games tend to be most popular among the non-affluent.

Meanwhile, Texas pols are happy:

“The $50 ticket salvaged our entire fiscal year last year,” said Robert Tirloni, projects manager for the Texas Lottery Commission, bringing $137 million to state coffers since the game’s debut in May and helping the commission close a $93 million gap in revenue between 2006 and 2007.

Which means there’s a good chance you’ll see this same sort of thing here before too long, since the Oklahoma Lottery is underachieving at the Bart Simpson level.

(Via Hit & Run.)

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Ninety-four point shabby

The Lost Ogle’s take on the KHBZ format change:

I’d like to thank the powers-at-be at the Buzz for making a completely idiotic decision and (instead of bringing Indie Rock back to Oklahoma City radio) deciding to compete with one of Oklahoma City’s (like it or not) few radio institutions, The KATT. And the reason I’d like to thank them is because I like to see incompetent people get fired, and hopefully these buffoons will get fired pretty soon.

Seriously, imagine how great it would be if instead of throwing out AC/DC, Korn and Atreyu, we were greeted by even mainstream indie rock like The Flaming Lips, The Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, or dear god, even Interpol. Imagine the “Buzz” (eh) that would have created. But no, we get to hear — as an OklahomaRock commenter perfectly labeled it — more MethRock.

(Disclosure: I actually bought a Korn track this week off iTunes.)

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