Archive for March 2014

Quote of the week

And should Crimea fall into the Russian orbit once more? Swell, says Josh:

“Illegitimate”, huh? Illegitimate my arse. Do you even know the meaning of illegitimate, my dear European leaders? Something that is legitimate is something that is supported by the people. The referendum is supported by the people. Today, the people of Sevastopol, an autonomous town withing the autonomous republic of Crimea, have proposed a similar referendum. There are protests that BBC doesn’t show, of thousands of people waving Russian flags in Crimea, eager not to support, I’m quoting, “The Nazi Bandera government” reigning in Kiev. The referendum, my dear EU leaders, who have addled their minds with “liberal values” and oil, is legitimate. And guess what? Here’s a tenner saying the people of Crimea will vote for reuniting with Russia. Because it has always been Russian. Even after the 60s, up until 1992, it was pretty much Russian. So, after twenty years of being under Kiev’s yoke, Crimea wants back to Russia, to officially speak the Russian language, and pay Russian taxes. (Which are sweet, by the way. Hence my making business here.) The referendum is legitimate, and everyone who thinks otherwise, can unfollow me right now because I don’t have anything to say to you, even if I’ve known you for years. To you, I say, good-bye.

You must have meant, “illegal”, my dear European leaders. Of course, fighting for negro rights in France and gay marriage in the UK is far more important than actually learning how to speak. (No, it’s not.) Was the revolution in Ukraine legal? Nooo. Was the President’s impeachment legal, according to the Constitution? Noooo. Is there a President in the country to sign, or contr-assignate the laws the Parliament has passed? Noooo. Is the current “government” legal? No. But, here’s the thing, it’s only semi-legitimate. No part of Ukraine in the East supports them. The West does. Well, rule the West then. Good riddance. There’s nothing worth investing in there, anyway.

Now, I’m waiting eagerly for the referendum to pass and for Crimea to reunite with Russia once more. Then, I’ll celebrate not only St Paddy’s Day, but also a new open market. Which is very very good. And I swear, if the UK decides to deploy fucking troops in Crimea after its reunion with Russia, and I’m made to choose, I’m applying for Russian citizenship. My country, Scotland, is about to go downhill in September anyway. And Russia is one of the few countries that still holds the conservative values dear to my heart and is not fucking insane or high on liberal shit. After every high, there’s a cold turkey. Just reminding you.

I have every reason to believe he’s serious.

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Time took a faster flight

Did you notice that Dakota Fanning just turned 20 a couple of weeks ago? I didn’t.

Still, it’s not like the poor girl is aging or anything like that:

Dakota Fanning in March 2014 Jalouse

In between things like posing for the French mag Jalouse, she’s still doing film work: Every Secret Thing, based on the Laura Lippman novel, will debut at Tribeca next month. Fanning is billed third (tentatively), behind Diane Lane and Elizabeth Banks.

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The second time across

Yep, this describes me:

Some of you are old enough to remember the Cosmos 1.0 where Carl Sagan fawned at billllions and billlions of stars from the vantage point of what looked, for all the world, like a cathedral without the stained glass.

It was a fascinating series, revealing to the commoner what science had discovered about the greatest WHERE of them all — the universe in which we are embedded and “live and move and have our being.”

The universe, of course, is constantly changing, and the new Cosmos perhaps needs to be different too:

I hope, this time around, the pride of what we know with our science and can do with our technology will be balanced by humility. There is much we don’t know, and some would say much we cannot learn through science — one important way of knowing, but not the only way.

There is much we have failed to do on Earth to the least of our kind (not to mention those other kinds at the margins of our vision and care) even while we’ve sent our surrogate eyes unimaginably far, looking for the physics and chemistry of WHY, WHO and WHAT we are.

Members of this small-c cosmos have certain responsibilities, and while there’s room for debate on what those responsibilities should be, I believe that the moment you decide there are no more questions worth asking is the very moment you give up your soul to whatever lies beyond.

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Toil and trouble

There was a time when people would think to themselves “You know, this job sucks,” but then pushed that thought out of their minds and finished the job, because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

That time was, um, earlier this week.

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Simulated existence

Yours truly in Vent #318, 25 November 2002:

Some day, more likely some night, that “finite number of breaths” will be reached, everything will come to an end, and no one will know until two or three days later because some mundane task wasn’t performed on time, some phone call wasn’t returned, or, most absurdly, because this goddamn Web site wasn’t updated.

Glenn Reynolds, last night:

YEAH, SCHEDULED BLOG POSTS WOULD DO THE SAME FOR ME: Woman’s auto-payments hid her death for six years. But not for six years.

If there should prove to be a way to blog from beyond the grave, I’m in. Or I will be in, anyway.

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Sparkle deficiency

Sequin, n. A gold coin weighing 3.5 grams (0.12 oz) of .986 gold, minted by the Republic of Venice from the 13th century onwards.

That other definition came later, of course. But geez, how the mighty have fallen:

The modern sequin is half the size of the traditional one, is flat not faceted, has more hole than surface, is sparkle-deficient and is randomly glued onto things. I suspect some kind of air-blast method of application. They start out with less than full coverage — the background material is visible between sequins — and then as you use the item or even just touch it, they fall off.

There’s got to be a reason for this:

I blame China.

Remember when “Made In Japan” meant Complete and Utter Crap? The Japanese went to work on that, and in a couple of generations turned the label into very nearly a badge of honor. Beijing, I suspect, feels no such urgency, or at least is given no reason to.

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Fully locked and upright

You’re probably not going to see anything like this on our domestic carriers:

The meaning of “super mini” in this context is 15 cm (six inches) above the knee.

The Japanese government takes no official position on such matters, but:

There is no rule to regulate crew’s uniform under the aviation law, so the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism made a comment that they will keep their eyes on the campaign.

(Via Flight Club. Am I allowed to talk about Flight Club?)

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Overcoming Meekness

The last-place Lakers are still depleted, missing Nash, Young, Crosby, Stills and Kobe, and a snapshot of this game halfway through the second quarter would show them getting themselves thrashed to the tune of 44-28. I imagine the Ghost of Phil Jackson, hovering over the Staples Center, spake an incantation unto them. (Only Phil Jackson could do this while he’s both still alive and considering a position with the Knicks.) By the end of the half, the Lakers were within five; L. A. outscored the Thunder 36-19 in the third quarter and opened up a lead as big as 18 in the fourth. Open looks began to appear for the Thunder. At the :54 mark, OKC had pulled to within three, but Kent Bazemore, on a personal 7-0 run, put the game out of reach, despite a nice 30-footer by Russell Westbrook: the Lakers won it 114-110 and took their first game in the season series, leaving the Thunder to wonder just what went wrong.

Two words: “Jodie Meeks.” Installed in the Kobe Bryant slot, Meeks put up a very Bryantoid 42 points, more than he’d ever scored before in the NBA, and while he wasn’t much of a factor in the fourth quarter (four points), he’d done all the damage he’d needed to do. Five other Lakers hit double figures: Pau Gasol with 20, and a smattering of 11s and 12s. And we must mention starting point guard Kendall Marshall, who didn’t score once — but dished up ten assists and nabbed five boards.

Still, it wasn’t just Jodie Meeks. The Thunder put up 100 shots in 48 minutes: only 42 of them fell. (From three-point distance, they were 12-35; the Lakers were a little better at 13-31.) And the Thunder enjoyed a whopping 59-36 advantage on the boards, 19-1 offensively. But read down the box, and you’ll see 14 made free throws out of 21 attempts. Seven points left at the stripe! (Again, L. A. was a little better, hitting 25 of 30, with two of them, a pair of Marshall bricks, coming very late.) We can point to a Kevin Durant triple-double (27 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds), a 21-point outing by Serge Ibaka (plus 15 rebounds and two blocks), 20 from Westbrook — but of the three, only Serge knocked down as many as half of his shots. (KD and Russ between them were 15-42.)

So the Spurs vault, or crawl, back into the Western lead, and guess who’s waiting for the Thunder when they get back home? The third-place Rockets. When you’ve just lost to #15, #3 looks all the more daunting.

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Let us move you

Does this makes sense to you?

Reacting to criticism from customers that upgrading from Windows XP was “impossible,” Microsoft [last week] announced it would give away a limited migration tool to help people move to a newer operating system.

The tool, PCmover Express for Windows XP, is one of several migration utilities from Laplink, a Bellevue, Wash. company whose offices are near those of Microsoft.

I ask this because Microsoft already has a limited migration tool to help people move to a newer operating system; it’s called Microsoft Easy Transfer, and the price is the same: zilch, if you can find the download page. I used it myself to move 130 GB or so of data off my old home box to my new home box, which runs Win7 Home Premium. Someone wanting to move from 7 to Win8, assuming there exists someone who wants to move from 7 to Win8, doesn’t even need the download: the tool is built into 7.

But maybe there’s something else at work here:

The free PCmover Express transfers files and users’ settings only from an XP PC to one running Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1. It does not migrate any applications, just files and user settings, a ploy to prod people to pony up for PCmover Professional, which will transfer an unlimited number of applications from the old PC to the new machine, as well as migrate files and settings.

Several caveats apply: “Antivirus and Anti-Spyware programs will not be moved to your new PC,” noted Laplink as one.

Apparently people were scared stiff about reinstalling their applications — or perhaps those apps were obtained through, shall we say, non-standard provenance.

The Professional version of PCmover is $60; multiple license packs are available at a discount. Meanwhile, as I write this, Easy Transfer has finished up migrating my work box to the new work box (running Win7 Pro).

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Strange search-engine queries (423)

If you’re new here, and by “new” I mean within the last week, because otherwise you’d certainly have seen this before: this is a weekly compendium of odd search strings, actually used by real Web surfers, which may or may not have been supposed to land here, but did.

nothing up my sleeve striptease:  Eventually, of course, there is no sleeve.

sylvia label blind artest:  They say that if you lack one of the senses, the other four will compensate. People with no sense at all, however, run for political office.

97 ford thunderbird lx v6 67,000 miles o/d light blinking:  This phenomenon is described in your owner’s manual. If you do not have an owner’s manual, you have no business driving.

wheres the fuse for forth gear on a 2003 mazda:  Gears don’t have fuses. You obviously need an owner’s manual.

bread without no meat:  Modern-day equivalent: “We doubled your premium, but now your deductible is three times as high.”

where is “34th and vine” from the old song located:  Just outside the gypsy’s place. You can’t miss it.

bad mlp, no idicator light cd4e:  The only really bad MLP was Equestria Girls, where the girls didn’t seem to be getting much in the way of idication.

should i play mono remixes in mono:  If that’s the way they’re mixed, it’s the only way you can play them.

rape and torture of diana ross and the supremes:  Either somebody is spreading sick rumors, or somebody really, really didn’t like “Reflections.”

bess myerson wore a swim suit that was too small:  This is a hell of a time to start complaining, don’t you think?

sex women next door impugn:  Ha. Not with that impugny thing, Buster.

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Wouldn’t want to lose patients, either

In these grammar-challenged days, it took guts for the Oklahoman to put up a story with a title like this:

Oklahoma City treatment center neighbors lose patience over loose patients

The actual article in question deals with runaways — or, more commonly, walkaways — from a psychiatric treatment center located in a predominantly rural area of the city.

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Time as a Veblen good

Jack Baruth lays down the smack on the ultra-expensive Swiss watch:

If you wear a Swiss “luxury watch”, you’re a douchebag. (Full disclosure: I have a few of them myself.) The bigger the watch is, and the more elaborate/flashy it is, the worse you are. The newer and more quick-bake the brand is, the more horrifying your personal presence is to people who weren’t raised in a trailer prior to the IPO/Goldman bonus/first-round draft pick/real-estate deal/personal-injury settlement. I’ve complained about this before, but wearing a watch that is unnecessarily complex and impossible to fix amounts to a Nero-esque destruction of capital without the attendant flair. This goes double if your watchmaker’s brand was “dormant” for fifty years or more before being pried out of the hands of someone’s step-great-grandchild by a venture-capital firm, triple if Nicholas Hayek imagined your brand while he was having a “speedball” medically administered by a twenty-two-year-old Italian nurse who does figure modeling in the evenings.

I’m pretty sure my watch, the very antithesis of Swiss craftsmanship, isn’t fixable, unless what ails it is a dearth of battery power, which can be replenished for $5. Then again, it only cost me $30 to begin with, thirty-odd years ago, and maintenance — it’s on its fourth band now — has run less than $100.

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Asymmetric intubation

The major obstacle to transparency in the health-care market — apart from the presence of government, which is an obstacle in its own right — is the fact that nobody knows how much anything costs:

One thing that might help is if people knew how much their health insurance company was paying for their drugs. I consume a handful of pills which costs me a dollar or two every day. I don’t really know because it’s always different, depending on whether I have satisfied my deductible or not, or maybe it’s by the phase of the moon. I gave up trying to fathom the workings of the insurance companies a long time ago. So I have to pay some money for these drugs, but I have no idea what the pharmacy is charging my insurance company. I’m pretty sure someone doesn’t want me to know, but they are cloaking this secrecy in the name of “you shouldn’t have to worry about the money when you’re sick, that’s what insurance is for”. Well, that’s BS.

CFI Care [not its real initials] is presumably not paying a whole hell of a lot for my daily dosages, inasmuch as my designated copays start at $15 for the lowest tier, yet most of these drugs run $10 or less for a 30-day supply. The pharmacy does supply an insert with “Retail Value,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything: you might perhaps assume that this is what the uninsured have to pay, but this particular chain offers lots of $4 generics, and nobody will put up with paying, say, $28.67 for a drug advertised at $4 — unless someone else is shelling out the $28.67.

There’s got to be a better way. I’ll continue to push for my single-payer scheme: everybody bundle up your medical bills and send them to George Soros.

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Let’s talk about a Rocket

No, not a Houston Rocket. Think Lansing, Michigan, home of Oldsmobile since Ransom E. Olds himself starting building cars in 1897.

Nineteen fifty-eight had not been a good year for General Motors: it was a down year for Detroit generally, and one brand — Packard — actually perished. (Nash and Hudson had expired after the 1957 model year; Ford had yet to learn the fate of its shiny new Edsel.) The General’s own ’58 models were mocked for their bloat and for their ridiculously overchromed flanks; the ’58 Olds perhaps got it the worst, with stylist Alex Tremulis, then best known for his work for Preston Tucker, satirizing it by drawing musical notes in that rear-panel staff. Worse yet, the daily driver of a Ford designer in the early 60s was a ’58 Olds with its nameplate letters shuffled: the Ford man tossed an I and rendered the name as “SLOBMODEL.”

By then, of course, Oldsmobile had moved on. At the time, the division’s big dealer promotion each year consisted of a small-scale Broadway-style musical, often based upon a large-scale Broadway musical. For 1959, Good News about Olds debuted with a catchy little number that demonstrates that Bill Hayes and Florence Henderson definitely knew the territory. Turned into a TV commercial, it looked like this (after the jump):

Read the rest of this entry »

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There’s been a murder

You may even have seen one:

In a Time Magazine article titled “The Mystery of Animal Grief” by Jeffrey Kluger, scientists explain that animals do grieve — and that they honor and mourn their dead with an intensity some people don’t even display.

For instance, researchers have observed how crows will gather around a departed crow and call and call until hundreds of flock mates arrive. They will then stand surrounding the dead crow and maintain total silence, broken only by occasional approaches to offer odds and ends to the corpse — for instance, pebbles or short sticks. After a period of time, they will depart, never to return.

More turnout than I could ever dare to expect, even allowing for the people who were just wanting to make sure I was dead.

(Plucked from Georganna Hancock’s writing research.)

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Suburbling

Lynn goes to the Tulsa Home and Garden Show, and finds it mostly meh:

There was very little that you couldn’t see any day at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Fifty flooring companies with the exact same hardwood flooring; fifty countertop companies with the exact same granite counter tops; fifty window and siding companies with essentially the same windows and siding; and 500,000,000 tornado shelter companies… Okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit on that last one.

Maybe a little bit. I think there were half a billion roofing companies out here answering the most recent Hailing Frequency.

They also had a few things that don’t have anything to do with “home and garden”, like vehicles, and, because this is Oklahoma, by “vehicles” I mean big-ass pickups that are big enough to live in and you’ll probably have to if you buy one because they cost as much as a decent house, which you won’t be able to afford and make payments on the pickup too.

Not to mention the question of parking the damn truck somewhere near the house — or somebody’s house, anyway.

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Zooeypalooza 20!

It’s about time, right?

Zooeypalooza 20!

Embiggenment via the handy CLICK method.

Paloozas of the past: ZP 1, ZP 2, ZP 3, ZP 4, ZP 5, ZP 6, ZP 7, ZP 8, ZP 9, ZP 10, ZP 11, ZP 12, ZP 13, ZP 14, ZP 15, ZP 16, ZP 17, ZP 18, ZP 19.

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Comfy can be cute

So said San Diego fashion blogger Cyrillynn, who runs Any Second Now, and who let everyone know via Instagram what shoes she’d just bought:

Honiton by Hotter

“Honiton,” by UK shoemaker Hotter, is described as “the all day everyday moccasin”:

You’ll love the pillow soft cushioning of blissfully soft classic moccasin Honiton. Revel in the butter soft leather and ultra lightweight sole for sublime casual comfort.

Black, beige and tan variants are offered as well, at the $115 price point.

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Show fizzle

I think we were all preparing for the worst tonight: Thunder defense has been conspicuous by its absence of late, the Rockets are known for their offensive prowess, and besides, James Harden. The 26-24 OKC lead after the first quarter was, let’s admit it, reassuring; 56-41 at the half was more so. Still, Houston does not take these things lightly, and a one-time 18-point Thunder lead was shaved to five late in the fourth quarter. Patrick Beverley, no friend of Russell Westbrook, had cozied up to Russ in the first in pretty much the same way he’d attacked him many games ago: he got a tech for his trouble. So it’s probably apropos that with 91 seconds left, Beverley fouled Westbrook in the act of shooting a trey, and Westbrook calmly — for Westbrook, anyway — sank all three of the free throws to push the OKC lead back to eight. For Beverley, it was his fifth foul; he finished with two points. And for Houston, it was their third straight loss to Oklahoma City. The final was 106-98, which, now that I think about it, is about what it ought to have been.

Oh, yes, Harden. A dull lump in the first half, he was Mr. Excitement in the second, leading the Houston attack with just shy of a triple-double: 28 points, eight rebounds, nine assists. The Beard played 44 minutes; Chandler Parsons trumped that with a 46-minute enduro collecting 19 points. Dwight Howard, freed from the necessity of having to deal with Kendrick Perkins, turned in a vaguely Dwightish performance: nine points, ten boards, hit one out of six free throws. The threat in the late going, however, proved to be Francisco Garcia, who ratcheted up 11 points, including three treys, in a mere 14 minutes, and who made a futile attempt to rip Kevin Durant’s arm off.

KD, incidentally, went off for 42 tonight on a 12-22 binge. Westbrook, allowed to play for half an hour, finished with 24. Serge Ibaka had a so-so night from the floor, a big one on the backboard: ten points, including the turnaround jumper that finished the Rockets for good, and 16 rebounds. Weirdness from the box score: OKC was 27-34 from the foul line, and that was divided among only three players: Durant (13-16), Westbrook (11-14), and Derek Fisher (3-4). It’s like Kevin McHale pointed to the bench and said “Don’t foul those guys.” Meanwhile, Steven Adams, tasked with keeping Howard at bay, wound up with four fouls, including a Flagrant One. Almost what Perk would have done, come to think of it.

The Lakers will be here Thursday. Payback, as a wise person said, has its byotchitude.

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Where have all the Lortabs gone?

Long time disappearing, it would seem:

The L.A. Times’ David Lazarus reports that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the California Board of Pharmacy are investigating the disappearance of prescription pain meds from four stores in California.

The DEA served the stores with warrants almost a year ago after learning about prescription drugs like Vicodin that were not present and accounted for.

The company now faces up to 2,973 separate violations of the federal Controlled Substances Act because its records don’t match the actual inventory of the drugs in question. CVS could be forced to pay upwards of $29 million in penalties for these possible violations.

Apparently they’re not going out the door a few at a time, either:

The DEA investigation has been going on since 2012, when a DEA investigator learned of missing hydrocodone pills from a store near Sacramento. A pharmacy worker at the store eventually admitted to her employers that she had stolen some 20,000 pills.

Checking the temperature of other stores in the region, the investigator looked through the records of other CVS stores in the area and found 16,000 pills missing from one CVS; 11,000 from another and two additional stores with around 5,000 missing pills each.

The cynic in me goes “Harrumph,” and asks “Where was Walgreens during all this?” In their own little bit of trouble, it seems.

I have to figure that interdiction of drugs is a complete waste of time, if only because supply restrictions have not resulted in higher prices: last time I picked up any of these tabs, I paid something like $2.90 for fourteen of them.

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Now with extra morning darkness!

I didn’t do a DST rant this year, perhaps dimly sensing that this idiotic government scheme, like most idiotic government schemes, will outlive me by many decades.

However, I’m happy to give you someone else’s DST rant:

I dislike these first few weeks of it (that it starts so early, too): I go from driving to work when the sun is up to driving to work in the dark. I was rather frustrated with the Weather Channel the day or two before, when they were talking about how we all got “extra sunlight” after the time change. No. There is no “extra” sunlight, absent the few seconds we gain with each day we get closer to the summer solstice. The only people who get “extra” sunlight are those who sleep in late enough to be up after the dawn during standard time. And, perhaps, the people who can get in a round of golf after work instead of having to grade or attend to life-chores like laundry or marketing. (And really: how many people in today’s America get to sleep through the dawn? And how many have enough free time in the afternoon to go have fun? Probably not most working people; probably not most parents.)

TWC’s absorption into Comcast/NBC killed what few brain cells they had.

Sunrise this week in Oklahoma City has been around 7:50. Pretty much everyone I work with has to drive in the dark to get there by eight. (I show up in the general vicinity of six-thirty, so I seldom see any sunshine on the morning commute: sunrise never comes earlier than about 6:15.)

And besides, laws are not enacted for the benefit of working people and/or parents, unless there’s some way to obtain the requisite quantity of graft and/or egoboo for the elites.

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Meanwhile at the Conversion Bureau

The sysadmin expects to have every last one of us onto Windows 7 in the next four weeks, reasoning that the day after Microsoft pulls support for XP, we can expect a massive attack on any and all XP machines remaining. I’m not so sure — I figure the malware artists will wait forty-eight hours instead of twenty-four, just to lure the suckers into a false sense of security — but there’s no sense asking for trouble, and since most of the XP machines we have online are between four and seven years old, there’d be a reason to replace them even if we had to replace them with Vista.

Or maybe not. Trini, when she was running our hardware support, refused to allow any Vista machines in the building. I keep meaning to call her and ask what she thinks of Windows 8, though I suspect I already know the answer. (There was a time when we were pretty adept at finishing each other’s sentences, a neat trick for two people nearly two generations apart.)

So it’s going to be Win7. I left Microsoft Easy Transfer running over the weekend to move my stuff to a new work box; it took six hours to push files around, but only about an hour or so to restore the functionality to which I am accustomed. I’ll take that. I expect most of the other upgrades will be easier; they’ll certainly be for me, since I won’t have to do them.

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Mulch ado

You gotta give these guys credit for a little bit of enthusiasm:

Excitement is where you find it, after all.

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Life continues to pound

This day, I knew, would not be good.

The Win7 migration continues apace. There is one hyper-complicated piece of software that we’re using to prepare mailings, and last time, it took a full day to install and test. On the new Win7 box, a full day proved to be not enough time to install and test — unless you don’t care whether the test is passed or not.

For reasons other than that, I’m a couple of hours behind. (Short version: this is the price one pays for catering to morons with more money than brains, and they’re not exactly bucks up either.) I couldn’t wait to get out of the shop.

And when I got out of the shop, I discovered a tire with maybe 16 psi pressure. I do carry a pump of sorts, but this was going to require professional attention, which I got on the way home. I pulled into the garage, and I heard water running — though there was no visible evidence of a leak. Turning off both faucets in back of the washing machine quieted the noise, so I figure one of them is shot. I’m not sure which nerve is the last one, but I’m definitely on it.

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Babe magnets, how do they work?

I really hate to dash anyone’s hopes — no, really, I do — but I don’t think this will end well:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: I am a 27 year old black male and drive a 2007 glacier pearl white nissan murano sl. am I going to get ladies?

It’s not entirely stock, either:

It has tints and a mesh grille and a black hood deflector instead

James, my man, I hate to break it to you, but the woman who falls for you because of your wheels won’t last beyond a couple of oil changes. Sorry.

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Don’t forget seat warmers

What was the defining factor in this winter’s auto market? New models? Deep discounts? How about frigid temperatures?

The harsh winter, during which many areas of the United States saw temperatures dip well below zero degrees, changed car shopping preferences, according to a new study from Swapalease.com, with utility vehicles replacing certain other car segments as a popular choice in several locations.

“While it makes sense to see the winter elements encourage a shift to larger utility-type vehicles, the most recent winters did not have this effect on shopping patterns,” said Scot Hall, Executive Vice President of Swapalease.com. “However, a consistent wave of arctic-type conditions may have contributed to this winter’s shift in shopping preferences in many parts of the country.”

Midsize sedans remained the most popular segment for consumers, but utility vehicles saw big spikes in interest over the course of this frosty winter. About fourteen percent of car shoppers preferred midsize crossovers (up from 9.2 percent last winter), 13.2 percent preferred full-size crossovers (up from 7.5 percent) and 11.8 percent preferred midsize SUVs (up from 6.9%).

Now that the roads are (mostly) clear, let’s get out there and burn some hydrocarbons!

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From the As If files

Something styling itself “Facebook Spy” had the temerity to send me this:

chaz, we have detected that your profile was viewed by following user:

Nickname: SquigglyNoodles99
Gender: female
Possible age: 27 years
Last view: 14 minutes ago

There followed a t.co link which of course I refused to click, and come to think of it, why would a “Facebook Spy” send out a link shortened with the Twitter shortener?

Be assured, future spammers, that no 27-year-old woman on the face of the earth is going to be looking in my direction.

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Rather expansive

A little over a decade ago, before I moved into the palatial estate at Surlywood, I lived in a two-bedroom apartment of approximately 925 square feet: it wasn’t huge, but it was enough for my modest needs and maybe a little extra.

I can’t, however, get my mind around the idea of living in a space a hundred times as large:

There are plans to build the country’s largest single family residence in northeast Edmond.

Last year, the Edmond Planning Commission was asked to give approval to a mega mansion on the northwest corner of Sorghum Mill Road and Westminster Road.

“It’s truly a castle,” says Bob Schiermeyer, who saw the first renderings late last year and tells News 9 the plans call for a drawbridge and spires that reach 90 feet.

Schiermeyer says original plans called for a home that was around 75,000 square feet, but the home’s architect says the home has now grown to 92,650 square feet. That architect says, if completed, the castle home will be the largest single family residence in the U.S.

The owner of this Disney-From-Hell place — which will not, I suspect, be on the Architecture Tour anytime soon — made his bazillions off a buy-here-pay-here used-car operation.

And anyway, “largest” is highly arguable: the Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina (see my World Tour ’07 report) checks in at 178,926 square feet, though it’s more museum than actual living space these days.

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Roxanne the Casbah

If you’re pregnant and headed for, or already in, Saudi Arabia, you might need to know this:

Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry has banned 50 given names including “foreign” names, names related to royalty and those it considers to be blasphemous.

Saudis will no longer be able to give their children names such as Amir (prince), Linda or Abdul Nabi (Slave of the Prophet) after the civil affairs department at the ministry issued the list, according to Saudi news sites.

It justified the ban by saying that the names either contradicted the culture or religion of the kingdom, or were foreign, or “inappropriate”.

Inexplicably — at least to yours truly, with little knowledge of Arabic — “Lauren” and “Sandy” are on the proscribed list. Best guess: a traveling prince got dumped by a Lauren once upon a time, and, well, the whole darn country is already Sandy.

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Dredge report

The last game with the Lakers this year — oh, come on, there’s no chance they’ll make the playoffs, even if they’re not mathematically eliminated just yet — was widely seen among Loud City residents as mandatory payback for that debacle this past Sunday at the Staples Center. Certainly the Thunder acted like they wanted it: ten steals and eleven blocks — Serge Ibaka had seven swats — demonstrate some serious desire. Once garbage time ensued and everybody got some minutes (new hire Reggie Williams made his OKC debut, knocking down five points in five minutes), attention, mine anyway, turned to the box score. Would the Lakers get six players into double figures? (They would.) Would the Thunder reach 60 rebounds? (They would.) Can OKC possibly break 130 points in 48 minutes? Yep. 131-102 was the actual final.

If ever you wondered whether Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were spiritually joined at the hip, consider tonight’s lines: KD, 8-17 for 29 points; Westbrook, 9-17 for 29 points. (Russ also served up nine dimes.) Ibaka came up with a double-double (15 points, 13 rebounds) to go with those seven blocks; the bench contributed 46 points, led by birthday boy Caron Butler with 11. (Is it just me, or is Butler gradually displacing Jeremy Lamb in the rotation?)

Still: six Lakers in double figures, topped off once again by Jodie Meeks. I think I speak for everyone here in town when I say that I’d much rather Meeks got 19 than the 42 he got on Sunday. And L. A. got 13 treys in three fewer attempts than OKC did. But their three-point prowess was to some extent undercut by their futility at single points: the Lakers missed 10 of 25 free throws. (OKC put up 30 and missed only two.)

For the rest of the season, “L. A.” denotes the Clippers, whom the Thunder face once more. (The Clips are up 2-1.) But that’s not until April. In the meantime, the Mavs will be here Sunday, and after that it’s a week out East, against Chicago, Cleveland and Toronto.

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I might have known

Every month, it’s a new story, simply because health writers always need something to write about, and because their readers, or a substantial percentage thereof, are just this side of full-bore hypochondria. The current Amazing Revelation is that unless you have an actual deficiency, you probably don’t need to take vitamins.

I was in Target last evening, picking up a couple of prescriptions and, yes, a bottle of a particular vitamin which, says the doctor, I somehow don’t get enough of. Usually I pay cash for such stuff, but today I whipped out the Visa, and as always, I scrutinized the receipt when I got home.

An X in the right column, apparently, indicates a “health item.” Both prescriptions were deemed health items. The vitamin, which was labeled “Health-Beauty-Cosmetics,” was not. Maybe I’m reading too much into this — or maybe I need to put more things on plastic.

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SubQuil

Lileks on Nighttime Pain Relief Fluids:

There were the usual choices: The Real Stuff, and the Store Brand that Tastes like Donkey Sputum. Everyone knows it. They could probably make the store brand taste better, but why? You’re buying it to save money. Suffer. The Nyquil had words printed on the security wrapper: VICKS DOES NOT MAKE STORE BRANDS. A bit defensive, eh? Google VICKS DOES NOT MAKE and it autocompletes “store brands.” It’s been on the wrapping for a few years, I gather. It’s a smart move — inserts the seed of doubt, lest anyone thinks they sold the crown jewels to maximize market share, but everyone knows the store brands are reverse engineered, and possibly use Mexican methoholodyexophine-2 made in shoddy factories where the manager periodically relieves himself in the vat. It’s always the same percentage as the real thing. I’d more impressed if it had the same chemicals but twice as much, and they were proud of it.

I’d even pay brand-name prices if they did that.

I’m still waiting for WeeQuil, which is not a tonic for the youths, but a perhaps-possible NyQuil variant that lasts one full week (or seven days, whichever comes first). I figure it would have to be sold in 750-ml bottles like Two-Buck Chuck, though the price will likely be closer to $30. Maybe $300. And it would be darn well worth it, too.

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Snow is still a four-letter word

The winter of ’14, as seen from Chicago:

Sounds a little funny to my ears. But over these last few months, I have moved several thousand pounds of snow with my shovel and my back, and you don’t soon forget such things. I have also, I discovered yesterday, personally witnessed the five snowiest winters in Chicago history, according to this list. Four of which occurred during my schooling years, including the last two, in 77-78 and 78-79, when I was trudging around college campuses in frozen outposts in Illinois. Gosh, thanks, I just don’t know what to say …

Wait, yes I do. Where is that damn global warming everyone keep yammering on and on about? This is also one of the coldest winters ever — it was below zero on March 3rd, with the first day of Spring just three weeks away.

On the third of March down here in the tropics, we had a nice, toasty six degrees. (Second occurrence of 6° this winter; we got down to 4° in late January, though in classic Oklahoma fashion, the next day we had a high of 67°.)

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Down for the rebound

Tristan Prettyman, mentioned here about as often as I can work up an excuse, was dumped by Capitol Records yesterday.

She blames, um, me:

(Decidedly favorable review of Cedar + Gold — which I did actually buy, admittedly in the quantity of one — here.)

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Pi, schmi

To some of us, Pi is Very Special Indeed:

To others (after the jump), maybe not so much:

Read the rest of this entry »

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In semi-living color

I’m pretty sure this ad came out around 1954; while I wasn’t in a position to notice, really, I don’t remember anyone around this time period wearing this shade of blue — indeed, any shade of blue — on her toes. (Heck, it’s not that common today.) Still, it’s sort of compelling:

Advertisement for Phoenix hosiery

Phoenix, despite its name, was based in Milwaukee, incorporated in 1897 as the Phoenix Knitting Works; their 1917 factory in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward, long since converted to office space, changed hands last year for about $4.5 million.

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Hell has eight pins

Do you lie awake at night, trying to gauge the depth to which we as a species have sunk by not having universal cell-phone chargers? The Eurocrats evidently did:

European Union politicians have vowed to end the “nightmare” of non-compatible phone chargers… “The current incompatibility of chargers is a nightmare and a real inconvenience for consumers. This new directive ends this nightmare and is also good news for the environment as it will result in a reduction of electronic waste,” said European parliament negotiator Barbara Weiler in a statement.

Apple’s Lightning connector is presumably doomed.

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Jerkettes

Freeman Hunt turned up an article from her archives, titled “Frank Advice for a Male Relative on Finding a Mate,” and this is how it leads off:

Never spend even a moment’s time on anyone who treats you badly. As you are courteous, you should expect courtesy in return. A jerk, no matter how beautiful, no matter how intelligent, no matter how accomplished, is still a jerk and is as untrustworthy as she is insufferable.

While this seems inarguable, I note that women of the jerkular persuasion are usually tagged with some epithet considerably worse than “jerk” — even by women, who presumably ought to know better.

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Saturday spottings (cluebat needed)

There is nothing particularly remarkable about the intersection of NW 50th and May: this stretch of May is five lanes — two northbound, two southbound, one center for left turns — just like scores of other arterials through this town. I was northbound on May this afternoon, in the center lane waiting to turn left on 50th, when a chap pulled up on my left. I had no idea what he was planning to do, but I was reasonably certain it was not good.

Which it wasn’t. Seeing what he thought was an opportunity, he vectored across the intersection in front of me, perhaps thinking he could beat the driver on my right who had just ventured into the intersection. He could not. The laws of physics prevailed — specifically, the one about two objects not occupying the same space — and the bending of fenders ensued.

As I made my left turn, I made a point of not thanking the resident deities for not making me that farging stupid, having long since learned that my own capacity for cluelessness is well-nigh boundless. For the past two weeks, I’ve been carrying around winter-weather debris on my car’s lower flanks, and the promise of rain today had stayed my hand at the car wash. With the rain having thus far failed to materialize, I decided that, inasmuch as I was on my way to Homeland, I would go ahead and use their car wash, and since I’d filled up only last Saturday and still had more than half a tank left, I wouldn’t bother to get gas; I’d pay the dollar extra, or whatever it was, and be done with it.

So I got out a $5 bill for the standard $4 wash, punched the button, and only then noticed that there was no slot to insert said bill or even a credit card: all transactions apparently had to be originated with either the cashier or at the pump. Okay, fine, I said, backing out of the car-wash entrance and looking, I presume, extremely foolish. I pulled up to a pump, slid the card, punched Yes when they offered me a wash, and waited about two minutes for the machine to tell me that we’re sorry, the wash is not available at this time, your card will not be charged for it.

And some time between my entry into the full-fledged store and my departure therefrom, an interval of roughly 15 minutes, a table full of Girl Scout Cookies appeared at the exit. I need these like I need a hole in the head, I thought, and wound up buying a box of Trefoils, my fifth (I think) box of the season. If there’s a School of Trepanning nearby, consider this my application to become a test subject.

Oh, and the rain started about an hour and a half later, but not in sufficient quantity to remove two-week-old grime.

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I shan’t vouch for this

As it happens, I ordered some stuff from Amazon earlier this week. (Then again, who didn’t?) So perhaps I wouldn’t have been surprised to see this in my email box:

Fake Amazon voucher graphic

However, it went to an email address not associated with my Amazon dealings. And since I default to good old text-based email, the way God and RFC 822 intended, what I actually saw was a word salad with Amazon Prime-related stuff as the lettuce. Text therefrom:

Amazon claims that a $79 annual membership for Amazon Prime provides free two-day shipping on “millions” of items, but for some products, the company is accused of encouraging sellers to inflate shipping prices, according to two recent lawsuits. “The bottom line is the free shipping that Amazon offered to its Prime members wasn’t free,” said Kim Stephens, attorney for one of the plaintiffs, adding that he was “shocked” by Amazon’s alleged pricing practices. and took little _Pixie_ Marcia Burke of Alabama says she became an Amazon Prime member and used its “free shipping” service at least 18 times in 2010, according to her lawsuit filed Friday in federal court in Seattle. Prime-eligible products are designated on Amazon’s website.

amazon.com

Thank you for recently visiting us. We hope you come back soon.

We would like to thank you…

Get Your $25 Amazon.com Card Voucher

Thank you for visiting Amazon.

the Baron de Breteuil. In what she hopes will be certified as a class-action lawsuit, Burke accuses Amazon of encouraging third-party vendors to include in the price of their items the amount they would have charged for shipping in their items to maximize revenue and profit margins. She also accuses Amazon of encouraging vendors to increase their prices to Prime members by the amount they charged others for shipping, without revealing that a portion of those alleged “inflated” prices was for shipping fees, the lawsuit claims. She would go back gladly

———————————————————————
Bechtold Enterprises |8730 Cross Pointe Loop|Anchorage, AK 99504-2269 – -|-Change-Your-Mail-settings-|-Bechtold Enterprises | Scudder and is warmly encouraged by Dr. These sellers raise their prices to match or top their competitor’s total price, as items are sorted by price on Amazon’s site, Burke alleges in the lawsuit. In the time period that the lawsuit covers, Oct. 24, 2007 to Feb. 22, 2011, the main benefit for Prime members was the free two-day shipping. Starting Feb. 22, 2011, Amazon increased Prime’s appeal by including extras, such as movie and television streaming and Kindle e-book borrowing, the lawsuit states. A spokesman for Amazon, Erik Fairleigh, declined to comment due to the firm’s policy related to active litigation. . aged thirty six. The death scene was indicative of the strength and joy of his faith. Soon after Rev. Thomas F. King came to Portsmouth the Baron de Breteuil and took little _Pixie_

Poor little _Pixie_ is only a pawn in their game, it would appear.

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