1 May 2008
The times call for a 180

During a one-hour period yesterday, someone's botnet planted about 100 bogus TrackBacks here, connected to a whole link farm full of Yahoo! 360 blogs which were probably created by a botnet.

Not that I'd tell you to ban everything incoming that mentions Yahoo! 360, but until such time as they can come up with some semblance of security — don't hold your breath — you might want to think twice about anything that shows up with their domain on it. (I did leave them a nastygram, which so far has garnered only an autoresponse.)

Update, 9:30 am: Yahoo! responds:

Yahoo! has evaluated and taken the appropriate action, as determined in Yahoo!'s sole discretion under our Terms of Service, with regard to the Yahoo! 360 account you have brought to our attention.

Their definition of "appropriate" probably differs from mine — I doubt that broadswords even occurred to them — but I suppose we can consider this matter closed for now.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:56 AM to Scams and Spams )

The May Day edition of Carnival of the Vanities is, as you'd expect, hosted by Dodgeblogium, a well-established WordPress blog which is not using Paul Stamatiou's 281 theme.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Blogorrhea )
Read the label

And be prepared to weep:

While looking for a meal replacement bar, one must be careful. I generally lean towards Kashi or Clif/Luna because they contain better ingredients. For example, the Balance Bar claims it does not contain high fructose corn syrup. However, if you read the label, it contains: fructose, corn syrup. Granted, it wasn't high fructose corn syrup, but it was corn syrup. I don't know if I'd call attention to the lack of high fructose corn syrup with those not-much-better ingredients. That is, unless people don't read the ingredients anymore.

The current state of things: you could probably sell a bar made from feldspar and duck droppings so long as it has zero grams of trans fat.

Seriously. A local paint store once advertised "100% CARB FREE PAINT". Sold like hotcakes. With some form of syrup, I presume.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:40 AM to Worth a Fork )
Tulsa starts here

It's the fifth anniversary of BatesLine, and, courtesy of the Wayback Machine, here's a look at the first month's worth of posts.

And there's no arguing with this:

[F]ive years of fairly consistent and continuous blogging is pretty impressive in a world where blogs start and end at an alarming rate, if I do say so myself.

And he does say so himself, which is why I've read Michael Bates for about 4.95 of those five years: you know where he stands, and he has a pretty good idea where the bodies are buried.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:52 PM to Blogorrhea , Soonerland )
Hey, I know this guy!

Each week I put together a collection of strange search-engine queries, and I discard rather a lot of queries which aren't strange at all but do perplex me somewhat: some folks appear to believe that there exist nude photographs of everyone on earth, and if they word their search strings carefully enough, those photographs will be found.

The Academic Naturist argues that privacy is being sufficiently diminished by technology that those of us who occasionally don't bother to get dressed will eventually be Googlable, or worse. One substantial threat comes from Microsoft Windows Live:

To compete with Google's street view, Microsoft decided to fly planes and capture a "bird's eye view" with pretty good resolution. You can see people, and you can easily identify campers and cars. Plus, this doesn't stop at the street — it's a close view into private property! This view covers a surprising amount of the US.

But it's nothing compared to this:

Polar Rose ... is a Firefox plugin that detects people in pictures. If people know the person in the picture, they can tag a name to them. Then, Polar Rose uses face recognition technology to identify that person in all future photos. For example, someone tags John Smith in their family reunion picture. Later on, someone else cruising Flickr maps sees that picture of four people in the nudist hot tub, and Polar Rose happily points out John Smith. That's not good!

I knew there was a reason I'd never bothered to unpack, let alone connect, my webcam.

2 May 2008
You win some, you lose some

Oklahoma City, says Forbes, is right now the most "recession-proof" town in the land:

Did someone say something about a recession? With falling unemployment, one of the strongest housing markets in the country, and strong growth in agriculture, energy and manufacturing, Oklahoma City might not have received the recession memo, and it looks best positioned of the nation's metropolitan areas to ride out the current crisis. Booming valuations of Oklahoma City's largest companies, like Devon Energy and Chesapeake Energy, suggest the energy sector is the right place to be.

On the other hand, AskMen.com says you might not want to drop by for a visit:

The weather is frighteningly unpredictable, with blizzards often descending on the city and winds that could knock a high rise clean off its feet. It is, after all, located in the direct path of "Tornado Alley." The worst time to visit would be from March to August, when the severe weather season makes Dorothy's Kansas look positively calm. One of the most powerful tornadoes on record — an F5 with wind speeds of 320 mph — devastated much of the city in 1999.

Unpredictable, certainly; frightening, not after you've been here a little while. And I was here for the 1999 twister: do I look devastated? Don't answer that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:03 AM to City Scene )
Squeaking by in Blighty

Emalyse reports on potential problems at the low end of Britain's wage scale:

James Lowman, head of the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) worries that low paid workers in retail will may claw back their losses if the government chooses to reform the minimum wage as a way of making up for the abolition of the 10p tax rate.

There are already plenty of part time and full time workers who need to rely on additional state benefits in order to top up their low wage packets and the rates are already due to increase in October. The hourly rate for 18 to 21-year-olds will increase from 4.60 to 4.77, while the statutory wage for 16 and 17-year-olds will go up from 3.40 to 3.53. The rate for those ages 22 and over will increase by 21p to 5.73 per hour.

I found it interesting that the UK's minimum wage varies with the age of the wage-earner; we used to have a so-called "training wage" in the States, but the primary criterion was lack of experience, not age, and anyway it was allowed to die in 1993.

But what was fascinating about this was the backstory on the "abolition of the 10p tax rate." The Guardian (yes, yes, I know, I know) put out a Q&A page on the matter, and get a load of this:

The 22% tax rate is coming down to 20%, and the 10% tax rate for lower earners is being abolished altogether — forcing more than five million workers up into the 20% tax bracket.

There's only one other bracket: forty percent, which kicks in at £36,000.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:03 AM to Common Cents )
Hail the Pho King

Dr. Weevil's secret to jazzing up ramen:

Add a handful of bean sprouts, some fresh basil and cilantro leaves, and a dash or two each of lime juice and tabasco. In other words, add all the easily-procured ingredients of pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) except the beef. The result is only half as good as the pho at a Vietnamese soup kitchen like Pho Cali in Raleigh, but that's still approximately four times as tasty as plain ramen, and it takes roughly three minutes to put together.

The disadvantage, of course, is that the improvements bring up the price of the meal, from "darn near nothing" to "not a whole lot," which may make a difference to the stereotypical Starving Student who subsists largely on ramen. Still, even real pho isn't that pricey, at least here in the Big Breezy, which has a substantial resident Vietnamese population.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:07 AM to Worth a Fork )
Baba Wawa's booboo

It occurs to me that if she'd boinked, oh, let's say, Jesse Helms, that would be news.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:14 PM to Table for One )
Quotes of the week

It's a tie, and it could have been even more of one.

I had three different excerpts scissored out from this Kathy Shaidle update, and finally narrowed it down to this one:

Listen: if these Muslim students and their puppet masters don't like the imaginary Islamophobia they accuse Maclean's of stirring up by publishing negative reviews of Little Mosque on the Prairie, wait 'till they get a load of the real Muslim-hating they unleash when they de facto shut down Canada's oldest magazine...

A magazine, I'd like to remind them, that was started by Lt. Maclean over 100 years ago, using his own goddamn money without any goddamn taxpayer subsidies and postal breaks and whathaveyou.

That's what intelligent, resourceful people do when they want to "make their voices heard."

Of course, these aren't intelligent, resourceful people we're talking about. These are parasitical victocrats with fifth rate minds, determined to destroy their host nation one magazine, one taxpayer sponsored nuisance suit, one welfare harem, one OHIP-paid-for genital mutilation at a time.

Easier than flying airplanes you could never have invented into buildings you never could have built.

This is the sort of ferocity for which God stops His Yamaha so He can hear it better.

Meanwhile, David Freddoso glances at the current conventional climate wisdom:

So Global Warming will pause for a decade, just in time for the world's economic superpower to debate over what to do about it. A very convenient truth indeed.

This means that the scientific consensus for the next decade will be that Global Warming is not happening, but man is causing it. Ever heard the one about the Yemeni Communist who declared, "There is no God, but Muhammed is his prophet?"

See the Yamaha reference, supra.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:36 PM to QOTW )
Worst keyboard ever?

Someone who had to fight with IBM's PCjr would probably not think so: Junior shipped with some weird plastic slab to which someone had superglued sixty-two pieces of Dentyne.

On the other hand, you can still touch-type, sort of, on Junior, which you can't do on a vintage-2008 Dell Vostro 1310:

The whole of the bottom row of letters (Z, X, C...) is one too far to the right. The Z should be below and between A and S, not S and D ... [The] keys are all there. Shift, \|, Z, X ... it's just that the left shift is too big, forcing everything over too far. The Z has to be between the A and S ... look on ANY other keyboard and that's where it sits.

(Via Megan McArdle.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:55 PM to PEBKAC )
3 May 2008
Preemptive strike

Even if you think you want to convert some YouTube nonsense to QuickTime, trust me: you really don't want to.

I'm just saying.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:12 AM to Fileophile )
Trick or trauma

An incident in Tulsa:

Prosecutors will decide whether charges are warranted against a Tulsa surgeon who is accused of chasing down a carload of teenagers and bashing their vehicle with a baseball bat.

Richard Lee Cooper, 41, was arrested during the weekend on seven counts of assault with a dangerous weapon after the teenagers reportedly knocked on his door several times and then ran Saturday night, Officer Jason Willingham said. Cooper and his wife told police that they thought someone was trying to break into their home.

And so Dr Cooper reportedly defends the perimeter:

According to the investigation, Cooper chased down the carload of teenagers, blocked their Nissan Xterra and then drove his vehicle into theirs. He then reportedly got out of his car with a baseball bat and beat their vehicle, breaking several windows.

You see, Doc, this is why we have guns: so we don't have to go after people with a mere baseball bat.

Dr Cooper lives on Erie south of 101st. I recommend that you stay off his lawn.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:27 AM to Soonerland )
Hauling mass

I suspect the boffins at Chevrolet are pleased with the results of this Popular Mechanics road test, in which a 2008 Malibu with a four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic returned almost 30 mpg over a 500-mile trip.

And I was fairly impressed myself — the best I've done on a World Tour was 30.7 mpg in 2005 — until I got to the very last paragraph:

Remember, our Malibu was a fully loaded 3700-pound, five-passenger sedan with OnStar, satellite radio, all the normal power accessories, heated seats, tilt-and-telescope steering wheel, leather seating and remote starting. And it returned nearly 30 mpg on a brand-new engine with only 473 miles. That's quite good, indeed.

Thirty-seven hundred pounds? Christ on a Krispy Kreme, as Rachel Lucas might say. In 2005 I was driving a Mazda 626, a car in the same size class as the Malibu, admittedly lacking some of the Chevy's features but still with "all the normal power accessories," and it weighed less than 3000 lb. My current ride is replete with electric servants, has ten percent more interior room, and comes in around 3400. Are they putting ballast in these things, or what?

(Via Autoblog Green.)

Selling cardio by the pound

It was another day in the yard, this time to trim back some of the shrubbery, and about thirty gallons of cuttings into the process, I noticed that the ol' ticker was running about 50 percent faster than normal. I wasn't exactly out of breath or anything, but I could feel the beat, which is usually the sort of thing I find alarming.

This spring, though, I've had quite a few incidents like this, and I'm starting to think that this raggedy old body is laboring under the delusion that it's getting some real live exercise. What's more, there's a chance that it actually might be. Consider: I own an electric trimmer, but I did all of today's work with hand tools, and besides the shear motion, there's a fair amount of stretching and bending involved. Even mowing with the electric constitutes a workout of sorts: apart from the acrobatics connected with dodging the cord at every turn, doing the 5500-square-foot back yard in 18-inch strips results in a walk on the far side of half a mile. (The front yard is smaller, but it's also steeper.)

Recovery time has been at most a couple of minutes, and at no point — except, well, now — have I felt that omigod I'm setting myself up for a myocardial infarction or anything like that. Then again, it was only 65 degrees this afternoon, about ten below the seasonal spec. Ask me in August when it's a hundred and four in the shade if I feel just the same.

Uh-oh, better get Mohelco

Matt Stone, in the June '08 Motor Trend:

If we have a problem with [Maserati's] elegant GranTurismo, it's that it may be too gentile.

It's Italian. Duh.

4 May 2008
Jam up and jelly tight

One small bit of serendipity yesterday: I'd earned a 10-percent-off day at Target, due to vigorous use of my Red Card at their pharmacy, and they had my choice of HVAC filter for $8.99, a buck off the usual, so I wound up shelling out $32.36 for a year's worth.

This is a standard-sized filter, nominally 14 x 25 x 1. In practice, it measures more like 13.7 x 24.7 x 1. Also in practice, it's apparently still too wide for its slot: it takes some serious bending and wedging to get the darn thing into place, and it's a good thing I only have to do this every 90 days or so. Curiously, the vents where I work take this same size, and it simply slides into place with no issues.

I should point out that when I arrived here in 2003, I found a so-called "permanent" filter which looked like a giant Scotch-Brite pad; it appeared to have been there since the Devonian period. I duly vacuumed up the crud and returned it to duty, but the first time I had the system serviced, the technician gave me that "How could you?" look and installed what he considered a proper filter, which was indeed labeled 14 x 25 x 1. And he didn't work up a sweat in so doing, either.

The next width down is a nominal 12, which means about 11.6, which will fall through the mounting and into the Phantom Zone, so that's out. Is it just me, or do other people have to wrestle with this minor detail?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:08 AM to Surlywood )
Who killed the Kennedys?

Mick Jagger asked that about forty years ago, and neither he nor we did a very thorough job of it: they crawl out of the woodwork every time some character who imagines himself a man of wealth and taste decides he needs to relive his younger days one last time.

About three years ago, Emilio Estevez started work on a dramatization of RFK's life, which appeared the following year as Bobby. And the new Vanity Fair offers a brand-spanking-new hagiography this month. On the cover: Bobby Kennedy: The Hope, The Tragedy, And Why He Still Matters. Inside, an excerpt from Thurston Clarke's The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America [New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2008]. Inasmuch as nothing really has changed on this front, I have no qualms about reprinting what I said about the Estevez project:

Christ on a crutch! The. Kennedys. Are. Dead. Get over it.

Yes, I know Ted's still there, looking and sounding more like Jabba the Hutt every day, still with his "My Other Car Is Underwater" bumper sticker, way past self-parody and long since descended into blithering irrelevance. Doesn't change a thing: The. Kennedys. Are. Dead. Estevez would have you believe that the killing of RFK was a watershed event in world history; it wasn't even the most important thing that happened in the summer of 1968. (Among other things, James Earl Ray, assassin of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was taken into custody, the French were trying to recover from general strikes that had turned violent, eventually returning Charles de Gaulle to power, and Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae.) "Culturally, we all unraveled after that tragic night on June 5." Yeah, right. Exactly one cultural phenomenon can be attributed to this event: it gave Eric Boucher one hell of a name for a band.

And, well, there's always room for Jello.

Meanwhile, how much does the Real World, the sort of people who couldn't get into Graydon Carter's restaurant, give a damn about this? Not much: they're busy fuming over Hannah Montana's shoulder blades. This was to be expected: when given a choice between two utter trivialities, it's fairly normal to select the newer one, and as Mr Jagger has already noted, all the sinners these days are saints.